How to Make a Law School Résumé

Organize your achievements differently than if you were applying for a job.

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Resume with focus on experience section

If you have applied for internships or jobs throughout and since college, you may already have a well-refined résumé. However, the type of résumé that worked well in your job search will not necessarily be as successful in your law school applications.

Here are five ways a résumé for law school should differ from an employment résumé:

1. Jargon: In a résumé for a job, you may include industry jargon when describing previous positions. Future employers will appreciate this language because it shows you understand the industry.

However, this type of language will only confuse law school admissions committees, who want simple explanations of your accomplishments that they can understand. If you need to use any special acronyms or other unique terminology, be sure to include a short explanation or definition.

[Get application tips from law school deans.]

2. Education: When you apply for a job, you want to highlight your most relevant professional experience, whereas in a law school application, your education is equally, if not more, important.

While employers may be less concerned with your college honors and activities, especially a few years after graduation, law school admissions committees want to see what you studied, how you performed academically, what school activities you were involved in, what leadership positions you held, and so forth.

You should include your grade point average and any honors like Dean's List, as well as the title of your thesis or most significant research project, if you completed one.

3. Length: Résumés for jobs should typically not be more than one page because, generally, you only include relevant experience. You have more flexibility in the length of your law school résumé, as the purpose of this résumé is to display how you have spent your time since graduating from high school.

You should still try to keep your law school résumé to one page, if possible, but some law schools actually specify that they allow, and more even prefer, longer résumés, giving you more space to elaborate on your experience. For example, University of Chicago Law School writes on their admissions website, "Your résumé may be more than one page. We do not want you to leave out anything important and you can go into more detail than you would in a typical résumé for employment (use your judgment though; very rarely does one need more than 2-3 pages)."

[Explore the U.S. News Best Law Schools rankings.]

4. Relevance: In a résumé for a job, you only include work experience, activities, and leadership positions that are relevant to the specific position for which you are applying. Law schools, on the other hand, are looking for a more comprehensive picture of who you are.

In your law school application résumé, you should include all your professional jobs and internships, activities you were involved in during college—even if you graduated a few years ago, any special honors or awards you have received, and even interests and hobbies as these help the school understand who you are as a person.

For jobs, internships, and leadership positions, law schools will want to know your level of responsibility, your accomplishments, and in some cases even how many hours you spent per week on each activity. You can also include any study abroad or volunteer abroad programs in which you participated, as well as any foreign languages you speak. Do not make the mistake of only including law-related activities, like participating on a mock trial team or interning at a law firm.

[Find out why you should get involved in college before applying to law school.]

5. Design: For certain jobs, such as in graphic design, you can benefit from having a more colorful résumé with a unique layout and font. However, law schools are looking for a clear, straightforward, modern, and professional résumé. They have thousands of applications to sift through, so they do not want to spend time trying to decipher your résumé and do not want to be distracted by innovative formatting. Use classic fonts like Times or Arial, and keep your résumé organized with simple, bold headlines and bullet points. Do not use a font smaller than 10 point, and preferably use a font size between 11 and 12 point.

What questions do you have about your law school applications and résumé? Let me know in the comments, E-mail me at shawn.oconnor@stratusprep.com, or contact me via Twitter at @StratusPrep.