Most students come to law school without any prior legal experience. While many have worked, their experiences range from positions in retail and restaurants to the military or general administrative work. This leaves their résumés looking rather light on the type of experience legal employers are looking for. If only your desire to be a lawyer since you were a kid could be a worthy bullet point in times like this!
Don’t fret. When you’re looking for internships and other hands-on positions in law school, you can still impress employers with your résumé, even if you don't have any legal experience yet. Here’s how…
7 professional skills employers are looking for
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), there are a handful of professional skills that are in demand across all majors and degrees:
- Ability to work in a team structure
- Ability to make decisions
- Ability to solve problems
- Ability to communicate with people inside and outside an organization
- Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work
- Ability to obtain and process information
- Ability to influence others
So while you must gain core legal skills in law school, such as conducting legal research, drafting memoranda, reviewing contracts, preparing trial materials, and so on, you can also highlight your non-legal work experience by framing it in the context of these seven professional skills.
Frame your work experience using these professional skills
Use the following format to write your work experience on your résumé:
Action verb + responsibility or duty + explanation of how, why, or result
You never want to just list your general responsibilities in your job because that is not enough information to make your résumé stand out. You want to tell people what you did and why. You might even look at the official job description from your last job to help you get started.
Job descriptions can be incredibly helpful in putting together your résumé because they’re written in a way that makes it easy to translate your experiences into a language that employers are used to reading. From there you will have to add your own details about how you tended to your responsibilities, why you did them, and what results you achieved.
Example: If you worked as an administrative assistant for a real estate company and you helped manage their apartment listings, rather than list on your résumé:
- Helped manage apartment listings
You could write:
- Managed apartment listings by collecting and organizing new listings from agents and posting them to company website to increase website traffic.
Example: If you were the lead counselor at a summer camp, rather than list on your résumé:
- Responsible for thirty campers and organized daily activities.
You could break it up into several lines providing a more detailed and impressive picture of your job experience:
- Managed a team of six counselors who oversaw the well-being and safety of 30 daily campers.
- Organized educational and athletic activities on camp grounds as well as day trips to museums and farms.
- Communicated effectively with parents regarding sensitive issues such as disruptive behavior.
The possibilities are endless based on how you frame your work experience. You can now effectively communicate your valuable work experience to employers in the legal field. All you have to do is highlight the right skills in the right way!
Mo Chanmugham is the Senior Associate Director of Career Services at New England Law | Boston. He ensures students and alumni have the necessary training and tools to find fulfilling postgraduate employment.
Explore the experiential learning opportunities at New England Law | Boston.