Heading: The heading should include your name, mailing address, telephone number, and email address at the top of your resume. You may wish to include your permanent address on your résumé in addition to your current address if you are applying for jobs in or near your home state, and your connection to that area is not already apparent on your résumé.
Degrees: List your degrees in reverse chronological order. Do not include high school. Include in the education section honors and activities under the appropriate school entry. Keep in mind that the honors category is reserved for the activities that you were chosen to participate in through some type of selection process. Briefly describe any awards that are not self-explanatory. If you are a joint degree candidate or already have other advanced degrees, give careful consideration to the amount of space you devote to those other degrees on your résumé. Think about the level of connection between the degree and the position you seek. The presumption of many legal employers is that Yale Law students with other graduate degrees are more interested in academia than law practice. Think strategically about this issue not only in drafting your education section, but also your experience and publications sections.
Scholastic Activities: Include activities that best exemplify your skills and interests and the skills and interests that the potential employer will find useful. These qualities may include leadership, speaking and writing ability, and teamwork. Ask yourself these questions: Which activities were most important to you? Which activities took up most of your time? Were some of the activities “legal” in nature (i.e., Student Judiciary Board)? Narrow your list of activities by selecting only one of a number of activities that are of the same genre. However, if you are applying for public service positions, you should include all of your service related activities to demonstrate your commitment to public interest work. With respect to social activities, do not overdo it.
If you are involved in activities at YLS that demonstrate skills or interests in which an employer would be particularly interested, feel free to list those activities in your experience section instead of as activities. For example, many students choose to include law school clinical work, research for a professor, and pro bono projects in the experience section of their résumés.
Students sometimes wonder about whether to include certain activities or experiences on their résumés that reflect an affiliation with a particular political, ethnic, gender, or other similar type of organization. Because the answer to this question will vary depending on the type of employer and the type of organization, this question is best addressed in an individual counseling appointment. Your affiliation with certain organizations may help your ability to secure an interview or job with certain employers and may hinder your chances with other employers. It is wise for you to think about this issue and talk it over with a counselor before sending out your résumé.
Experience: The experience section should list in reverse chronological order, all relevant employment. The name of the employer should be listed first, followed by the location, and dates of employment. The dates you provide can be general (i.e., Summer 20XX) and need not state specific starting and end dates. You may wish to include your job titles, depending on their impressiveness or assistance in clarifying your responsibilities.Volunteer or unpaid employment may be included in this section along with paid employment. Feel free to include work performed as part of your scholastic experiences in your experience section, including legal clinic experience, research for a professor, a pro bono project, and extensive work for a student organization. Use action verbs in your job descriptions. For example, state “researched and wrote memoranda on issues of jurisdiction and venue,” not “involved in assisting attorneys in the researching and writing of…” Provide enough description so the potential employer learns something about the projects you worked on and the skills you developed.
In deciding which employment experiences to include on your résumé, remember that your résumé is your sales tool. Feel free to leave out less relevant positions and include the more relevant work. While employers may become concerned about large gaps in your résumé, leaving out a summer here and there is not a problem. You may wish to use a summary line on your résumé such as, “Held various positions as sales clerk, waitress, and receptionist while in college.” Do not worry if you do not have any legal experience yet. Employers are not seeking law students who have had legal experience before law school. They are looking for students with qualities that lawyers possess, including common sense and intellectual ability. Think about what experiences you do have—did you develop leadership skills, analytical ability, or speaking ability? If so, be sure your descriptions reflect that information.
Additional Sections: Following the experience section, many students include an “interests” section listing a few special interests that may matter to an employer. It is not mandatory; however, if you have interests that are not already reflected in your application, then you may wish to include it. If you have a particular language ability that may be relevant to an employer, you can include a “skills” or “languages” section with that information. You may also add a “publications” section, but keep in mind that if a publication is listed on your résumé, you will likely be asked about it during an interview. In addition, listing many publications on your résumé may give an employer the impression that you are primarily focused on an academic career.
Additional CDO Resources
In an initial application, include a writing sample only if specifically requested. Many employers will request writing samples later in the interview process. Nearly all judges require a writing sample with the initial clerkship application materials. The best course of action is to have a writing sample ready at every stage of the interview process in case it is requested.
Legal employers typically seek legal analysis in writing samples; therefore, a memorandum or brief is preferred over a research paper. In addition, less outside editing is better, which is why previously published pieces are not automatically at the top of the list. Although the topic of the writing sample is generally not much of a concern, if you have a sample that relates to the employer’s work, you may wish to use it. The ultimate criterion, however, is the quality of the writing. If you use a document prepared for a prior employer, obtain the employer’s permission and make sure you have made all necessary modifications and redactions to preserve client confidentiality.
Although there is no definitive ideal length for a writing sample, 5-10 pages typically demonstrates your writing ability. If all of your potential writing samples are much longer, consider using an excerpt (e.g., one argument from a longer brief) and provide a brief explanatory note in the form of a cover sheet.
A cover sheet is useful to give any necessary background information about your writing sample. For example, if you use a writing project prepared for class, give the name of the class and a brief description of the assignment. If you are using a document prepared for a former employer, explain that you have obtained the employer’s permission and made all necessary modifications.
Writing Sample Cover Sheet Examples
In an initial application, include references only if specifically requested. Many employers will request a list of references at some point in the interview process. Students applying for public interest fellowships and judicial clerkships will most likely need to provide letters of recommendation with the initial application materials. Consult the Public Interest Fellowships and Judicial Clerkships in the U.S.CDO guides for advice on securing letters of recommendation.
A list of references should include the contact information for two or three individuals who can recommend you for employment based on their personal experience with you as a student (preferably as a law student) or as an employee Employers are most interested in references who can discuss you in terms of the skills important for the position, such as legal writing and analysis, ability to assume responsibility, and interpersonal skills. If you ask law school faculty to serve as references, be sure that they know you from class participation, conversations outside of class, or research or other independent work that you performed for them.
Prior to listing someone as a reference, have a frank conversation to be sure that he/she is comfortable with providing you with a strong, positive recommendation. Take the time to talk with them about your career interests as they relate to the employers to which you are applying. In addition, provide them with a copy of your resume so they can become familiar with your background and experience.
Sample List of References
At some point in the recruiting process, employers will likely request your YLS transcript. Employers request transcripts to view both your grades and your course selections. First-year students who are asked to provide a transcript should explain to employers that grades are unlikely to be available before late January, and that, pursuant to the law school’s grading policy for first term, your transcript will show only credit or fail for each course. You can offer to send your transcript when grades are available, or to send an undergraduate transcript immediately if that would be helpful.
Courses are listed on your transcript as soon as you commence the course selection process. For first-year students, that means that spring courses will be listed on your transcripts starting the first week of December. If you think your course selections may be a selling point to employers, you may wish to hold off on sending transcripts until your spring courses have been selected.
Unless an employer specifically requests an official transcript, you can provide an unofficial transcript. On the back of an official YLS transcript is an explanation of the law school’s unique grading system; therefore, if you send an unofficial version, you may wish to obtain a photocopy of the grading explanation from the Registrar. Requests for either type must be made online. There is typically a 24-48 hour turnaround time. Unofficial transcripts can be photocopied; official transcripts cannot be copied and only 10 may be requested at one time.
For additional information about transcripts please consult the Registrar’s website.