What your CV should include
The following should be set out clearly so that by glancing over a CV an employer can extract the relevant points:
- Personal details (address etc)
- Qualifications (including grades and institution)
- Employment history
- Legal experience
- Additional information (including any language skills)
If your grades are not what they might be, the general rule is that you must still include them since an employer will draw the worst conclusion in their absence.
How long should your CV be?
A CV can be over two pages in length so long as the additional information is relevant. The longest section is likely to be the details of your current employment (if you are training, details of all the seats completed to date).
If you have pursued an alternative career before moving into law, or have had a few other jobs it is worth giving brief details, but no more than a line or two unless there is some connection to the type of work you are presently seeking.
Your professional experience
Over and above your exam results this is the most important part of your CV, and time and effort should be devoted to providing a sufficient amount of detail to make your CV stand out.
Simply providing a list of the different types of transactions or types of claim (e.g. mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, sale of assets OR personal injury, professional indemnity, debt recovery) is not enough. This is a starting point but examples of specific cases/transactions should be given together with details of your involvement in these matters. The names of clients should not be given unless this information is in the public domain and usually a generic description is best e.g. well known high street retailer, property development company.
Try to give several examples, where possible, of different tasks you have carried out, for example, documents you have drafted, negotiations you have conducted. If you have had an unusual level of responsibility, perhaps running a case on your own account, then this should be made clear. Sometimes it is worth giving an indication of the approximate value of a claim or transaction, as this can be an indicator of the quality of the work you have been dealing with. In litigation if a case has been reported it is also worth mentioning this. Here are two examples to demonstrate the level of detail required:
- Assisting a partner with a professional negligence claim against welders who caused a fire in a warehouse. Interviewed witnesses and drafted witness statements, attended locus in quo, drafted all court pleadings and instructed counsel. Approximate value of claim £300,000.
- Acting for a major Italian clothing retailer in the acquisition of a UK based company. Assisting in the negotiations and in the drafting of all documentation.
Making your CV clear and interesting is the key to success. Do not be tempted to experiment extensively with unusual fonts or to include your photograph, but instead think carefully about what makes you stand out from the crowd. Make the most of your achievements, legal and otherwise, as firms like well-rounded employees with external interests. However do avoid self-serving statements (e.g. ‘I am a determined and self motivated individual with excellent negotiation skills’). It is for your potential employer to assess these matters and such statements waste space whilst adding little if any value.