Selling yourself for a legal job

Here are some items to consider that may help you sell yourself when describing previous work experience orally, on your resume, and on your cover letter:

Summarize the big picture/main point/overall goal as a first step before getting into the specifics of your task.

  • That is interesting that you did research into x or wrote about x but what was the point  (so the starting point is that you are advising client on an erroneous refund case brought by the government against the taxpayer, your client, in District Court (and specifically on a motion for summary judgment); the starting point is not that you prepared a memo (or researched) some esoteric tax provision)

Articulate (concisely) your role.

  • After summarizing the big picture it is appropriate to get into the weeds and provide specifics but get in quickly and get out.  For example, you researched and provided your advice or recommendations concerning the legal issue of x for the purposes of strengthening the client's argument in its motion for summary judgment.  Do not get into the specifics of the legal issue unless asked.

Demonstrate heavy lifting.

  • Show comprehension of a difficult legal issue
  • Even if the issue is not difficult, it may be helpful to show that you had lots of responsibility for a part or all of the project such that you can take (even if split) ownership of the result

Describe how you interacted with the decision maker.

  • Perhaps you had some influence in the outcome and if so, explain (as opposed to merely performing a routine task like writing a memo or researching an issue)
  • It will likely be helpful to demonstrate that you are a thinking person who contributed in a meaningful way to formulating a solution
  • Demonstrate that you are aware, understand, and are sensitive to client (which could be partners or other associates) preferences as you perform your tasks (including method of communicating the result, time spent on the project, ways of approaching problem)
  • Remember to share credit with others so be balanced in how much you talk yourself up

Demonstrate strong initiative.

  • What kinds of things did you do that was above and beyond what was asked
  • Why did you believe these activities were necessary to achieving a successful result

Why were you the right person to do x.

  • Here is your chance to highlight your strengths.  I think I was helpful doing this task because I was able to parse through the myriad of facts and focus on the ones that were the most relevant to the outcome.

Overall, be as specific as possible after describing big picture (niche should be specific too so not just that you are interested in tax law but you want to focus on procedure and administration issues in tax).

  • Every word carries freight on the resume, so consider eliminating words like "issues" that don't add anything
  • The reader should generally be able to have a sense of what you did (and your role in the big picture) just by reading your description on the resume.

Image courtesy of digitalart at