Your resume will be the primary tool you use in your job search to introduce, define, and market yourself to potential employers.
An effective resume does more than just list the schools you have attended and the jobs you have held; it explains to the reader how these experiences have both demonstrated and honed the skills you possess that are crucial to the specific job for which you are applying.
In additional to our high-level overview below, please refer to the Career Manual distributed at Orientation for a detailed discussion of resume writing. It provides additional information on preparing a resume, style guidelines, and examples of different resumes. It is highly recommended that LL.M. students consult the relevant chapter of the Career Manual when writing, editing, and formatting their resume. For additional guidance in drafting your resume, we recommend you review our sample LL.M. resumes.
For federal resumes specifically, the National Archives and Records Administration has a guide on preparing a federal resume.
Purpose of a Resume
Conservative, succinct, accurate and relevant are the key words for preparing your legal resume. Do not allow your busy schedule to justify presenting anything less than perfect. It is imperative that your resume highlights the qualifications you bring to the table for each individual employer.
Your resume should:
- Highlight the academic and work experiences that make you a qualified applicant for that particular employer or job announcement;
- Demonstrate relevant additional skills and achievements;
- Present substantive information in an organized, succinct and eye-catching manner; and
- Represent your ability to write well and to pay close attention to detail.
Your resume should not:
- Include a detailed biography;
- Be a document for all occasions, all jobs and all employers; or
- Be a compilation of all previous job descriptions.
Format and Appearance of a Resume
An LL.M. student resume follows a fairly standard format. Review our LL.M. resume templates and select the template that matches your situation most closely.
Legal resumes should always be printed on 8½” x 11” paper. Use heavy bond paper that is white or off-white. Do not use dark-colored paper, because many employers will make copies of your resume to distribute to others and dark-colored paper does not copy well. Your resume does not need to be professionally printed, but it should be done on a quality printer. Georgetown’s Law Library has laser printers available for student use.
Consider using different methods (fonts, underline, bold, italics and caps) to highlight certain items in your resume. Doing so will often guide employers more quickly to relevant information. Be judicious, however, because too many font changes can make a resume look cluttered or distracting. Your ultimate objective is to make your resume easily readable, because most employers do not spend a lot of time on first reviews of resumes.
Note: Do not use resume templates that are available in some word-processing programs. They are not formatted with a legal resume in mind. Please use one of our resume templates tailored for LL.M. students instead.
Length of a Resume
It is generally preferable to restrict your resume to one page. If the essential information can be presented on page one, it is unlikely that any additional information you put on page two would improve your chances for an interview. However, do not sacrifice relevant content (e.g., published work, significant life/work experience) to adhere to this recommendation. If you have been practicing for a while or gained substantial relevant professional experience prior to law school, then a second page may be warranted. If your resume does go to a second page, be sure to include your name and “Page 2” in the upper right hand corner of the second sheet and staple the two pages together. It is absolutely recommended that your resume not exceed two pages.
Resumes for public interest employers should also be longer if your experience and activities warrant more than one page. These employers will want to see that your commitment to public service is genuine, and you can show that most effectively by recounting a thorough history of your work experiences and/or volunteer activities. In all cases, be sure that the most relevant information appears on the first page.
Content of a Resume
Put your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address at the top of your resume (we recommend that you use your Georgetown Law e-mail account). Include your work (if applicable) and your home telephone numbers. If you are applying to employers in your home state or country, you may wish to include both your school and permanent addresses.
Note: You should include all identifying information required in the posting. For example, some government employers will require that you include your Social Security Number (SSN) or at least the last four digits. Follow the guidelines provided by the employer in the posting but otherwise stick to only your name and contact information in the heading.
Job Objective or References
Legal resumes do not include job objectives or references.
List your current (Georgetown Law) education first and proceed in reverse chronological order (e.g., legal education, graduate institution, and undergraduate institution). For each institution, indicate the month and year of graduation or expected graduation (not years in attendance) and the degree obtained or expected. Only include degree-granted institutions after high school or the equivalent degree.
Under law school education, indicate grades if appropriate (see below), honors and relevant activities, journal, clinic and research projects.
For other educational subheadings, include information about your academic achievements, organizational memberships and any other information closely related to your educational background. If relevant, briefly describe research projects or theses.
Describe any honors you received if not self-explanatory. If you attended a summer abroad program, you can describe it directly under the undergraduate or graduate listing instead of as a separate listing.
The level of importance placed on law school grades can vary greatly among employers. For example, grades are often a significant consideration for large law firms, and at least one consideration for small and medium firms and federal government agencies. Conversely, public interest employers, whether or not they are interested in grades, are usually more interested in activities and experience that demonstrate a commitment to public interest.
Should you include your law school grades on your resume?
The answer depends on:
- The type of employer; and
- What your grades are.
For most private sector employers and government agencies, your Grade Point Average (GPA) should be stated if it is a 3.0 or above. If it is below a 3.0, consult with a Graduate Career and Professional Development advisor about whether to include it and how to respond to questions about grades during interviews.
For public interest employers, the decision about including your GPA probably will depend on what it is and how much a particular employer values academic performance.
List your GPA as it appears on your transcript — DO NOT round up or down. If your grades improve over time, you might consider breaking down your GPA by semester or year to reflect the improvement. If you are seeking in a specialized practice area and your GPA in relevant courses is significant higher than your cumulative overall GPA, you can consider adding that separate GPA calculation to your resume.
Law school honors (Dean’s List, scholarships, etc.) should be listed. For class rank, you should indicate if you are in the top third, top 15% or top 10%, but only if you have received confirmation that you fall within the particular category.
If you include your grades for one degree, you should include your grades/GPA for all degrees.
By using the term “experience” as opposed to “employment,” you may include volunteer work, clinic experience, and internships in this category.
List your experience in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most recent position. It is not necessary to include every part-time job you have held but you should include every past position that would be relevant to the job you are seeking. For each position, include the name of the employer, the location of the position, your job title and the dates of employment, including months and year.
Include significant and/or relevant part-time or summer employment. Write a brief statement using action verbs to describe your responsibilities and accomplishments.
Resist the temptation to begin every position description with “responsibilities included.”
Do not leave big time gaps on your resume.
Specialty Categories (Languages, Community Service, Interests, Bar Memberships)
The purpose of these categories is to highlight particular skills, relevant activities, personal interests or other unique items. Fluency or proficiency in a language should always be included in your resume, preferably in a separate “Language Skills” category.
Volunteer activities indicate community involvement and commitment, and they are particularly useful if directly relevant to positions for which you are applying.
Personal interests are usually included to spark conversation or “break the ice” during interviews. Whether or not you should include a personal interest section generally depends on the type of employer you are targeting (e.g., public interest employers generally do not focus on applicants’ personal interests). If you choose to include an interests section, be specific, and only include items that you can discuss comfortably and in that you were recently engaged (e.g., running marathons, reading Russian literature).
We recommend that you also include a “Bar Membership” or “Bar Admissions” section listing the date of admission, if applicable.
Do not falsify or exaggerate information on your resume. The Georgetown Law Student Handbook of Academic Policies states: “Students are cautioned to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in the preparation of their job resumes, letters, and application forms. The inclusion of material that is misleading, inaccurate, or false may be a violation of the Student Disciplinary Code. “