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Mastering Your Law School Resume

August 13, 2020
two hands holding a paper with the word resume at the top of the page

During the application process, there is no shortage of documents to secure. It can be easy to feel stressed about developing a personal statement or finding the right person to write your letter of recommendation. In all of that, it can be easy to forget about your resume.

However, it is an important part of your application. Submitting a boilerplate document may not be the most effective strategy. The admissions committee wants to understand you in both professional and academic contexts, and your resume needs to highlight your readiness for your master’s, especially if you are applying to specialized LL.M. programs.

No matter what point you are at in your career, writing a resume can be a unique challenge. It can feel tricky to balance not being boastful and still giving yourself credit for your accomplishments. At Cardozo School of Law, we have compiled our advice on how to create a resume that stands apart.

Start from the beginning.

The biggest mistake you can make as you apply to LL.M. programs is submitting an old resume or making a quick update to one from a few years ago. Chances are, you originally wrote and organized it for a different job or opportunity, so adding a couple extra lines about your most recent position does not mean it will work for law school application. Reading your resume is most likely the first impression an admissions committee will have of you and your skill sets. That means it should be tailored specifically to a degree program.

Remember your audience.

Another reason why you should start from scratch on your resume? You are writing for a very specific audience, an admissions committee. They are interested in your career accomplishments as well as your educational ones. Be sure to include academic honors you received, as well as any awards, certifications, and papers or journal articles you have written. Also, be sure to include your experiences volunteering or other activities that could showcase your talents and commitments as a lawyer and individual.

Stay up to date.

Admissions committees for LL.M. programs are interested in who you are today and what you have accomplished since earning your J.D. or law degree. Be sure to emphasize your current role and responsibilities. What achievements are you most proud of? How have you taken steps to advance your career through skills development? Have you taken more formal steps forward, such as promotions or new responsibilities? Be sure to accurately detail the path your career has taken and what you have learned along the way.

Don’t overlook your personal statement

Life happens, and sometimes that’s reflected in gaps in your resume. Know that not every bump in your career can be adequately explained in a single document like a resume. This is where your personal statement can help smooth out any of those issues you are worried about. While the online LL.M. program at Cardozo requires a personal statement, many LL.M. programs label them as optional. While that might seem like extra work, the personal statement is a critical way to give an admissions committee insight into your resume, so do not skip the opportunity to take advantage of that.

Emphasize your interest in a specialization.

If you are applying to LL.M. programs with a specific specialization in mind, such as intellectual property or environmental law, make sure to include any relevant experience you have. Highlight the ways you took the initiative to work in this field in both your current and previous roles. Consider if you have a hobby or community service experience that’s relevant or has inspired you to follow this new path in law. This can help the admissions committee better understand why you want to pursue this degree in particular.

Find the right length.

Deciding whether to make your resume one or two pages can be the trickiest part of the process. While you don’t want to short-change your qualifications, you also don’t want to seem like you are padding your experience. For those early in their careers, one full page is most likely ideal. If you’re not sure what the best option is, one trick is to decide that unless you can fill the second page over two-thirds of the way down, you need to keep your resume at a single page for now.

Proofread.

Correct spelling, punctuation, and syntax means a lot more than just good grammar. It’s a reflection of your attention to detail and your ability to communicate as a professional. When you feel like your resume is complete and you have caught every possible error, ask a trusted friend or colleague to take a look at it. A fresh pair of eyes can catch more than the grammar and spelling errors you missed. Your proofreader might also be able to point out areas that seem confusing or need more explanation. If you ask someone familiar with your work history, they may also be able to point out parts of your background that might be relevant to include or sections where you have been a little too modest about your accomplishments.

Add Intellectual Property Law to Your Resume

Now is the time to make a move in your career, and creating a new resume is just the start. When you apply to Cardozo’s online LL.M., you’re starting out on a new path in your law career, one that will prepare you for the diverse range of industries impacted by IP law.

Explore all of the admissions requirements for our online LL.M. in Intellectual Property program, and read our Q&A on requesting a letter of recommendation to learn more about the application process.