Showcasing your Skills. CV Advice for Newly Qualified Lawyers.
At Aquis Search we see a lot of CVs. We are often asked what makes a good CV, especially by newly qualified lawyers who are making that all important move into a position that is likely to define their career path. CVs come in many shapes and sizes, but they all aim to paint the best possible picture of the skills and attributes of a candidate. A CV needs to make an employer want to meet a candidate in person. We always spend time with candidates to help them refine their CV. However, putting some thought into the layout and the information that needs to be included will ensure we everything we need to make a good CV stand out.
There is no specific limit on the length of a CV, but we would expect no more than two or three pages for a newly qualified Lawyer. Importantly, the CV needs to contain all of the necessary information about you, your qualifications and your experience that it is relevant to the job that is being applied for. It should be written succinctly and always in the third person. Using bullet points can sometimes be helpful, with short explanatory sentences where needed. Most importantly it must be 100% accurate. Most employers have a rigorous vetting process and it will take a skilful interviewer very little time to uncover any untruths or exaggerations.
Sometimes the one thing that is easy to forget is the basic information. Your CV may look great but if there isn’t a contact telephone number then your CV will be relegated to the bottom of the pile. It is important to include your name, address and contact details clearly at the top of the page. If you require, or hold, a visa for the country you are applying to work in, or speak additional languages, then you need to also mention this here. All other personal information such as age, sex, ethnicity and marital status doesn’t need to be included as it will not be relevant to the role.
Next you need to write a summary of your education and grades, starting with the most recent, usually the highest level attained, and working back to formal qualifications achieved at school. Include all grades for school qualifications and the overall grades for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, diplomas and professional qualifications. With university qualifications it is not necessary to include a breakdown of all undergraduate courses attended, but if it is relevant to the role that is being applied for, it can be useful to mention any areas of specialism.
Like the section on education, your employment history should start with the most recent and work backwards. It maybe tempting to list every job you have ever held, but it is better to concentrate on the experience gained through the seats you spent time in during your training contract rather than the casual work you did on your gap year!
You need to focus on interesting cases or deals that you worked on and include caseloads, the clients you had personal contact with, the deadlines that you worked to and the value of the case. It is also a good idea to tailor your CV for a specific role. If you are looking to go into Litigation, outline a case or scenario you have worked on including any experience of taking witness statements, drafting or specific laws involved. Whatever your role was, providing detail will demonstrate understanding and enthusiasm for the work you will be undertaking in the future.
Your CV should conclude with any personal achievements and interests. This section should be short. Including some of your more pastimes show you are a well-rounded and interesting person, but they are not the crux of your application. Let’s face it - you need to leave time to put in the hours that are demanded from a newly qualified lawyer.