Legal Job Search Tips to Revamp Your Resume and Enhance Your Marketability

By Charles A. Volkert, Esq.

Whether you’ve been looking for a new legal job for a while or one of your career goals is to ramp up your job search, you know it’s possible to send out dozens of resumes and never get a single call. Although this is frustrating, the good news is there’s something you can do about it. Here are some ways to become more marketable to potential employers.

Revamp Your Resume

Is your resume as effective and attention-grabbing as it could be? If you haven’t been getting any responses, it’s a good idea to take a second look at this critical document. The resume is an advertisement for your unique combination of experience and expertise. To really work for you, it needs to give hiring managers a strong sense of your abilities and yet be concise and succinct.

Start your resume revamp by taking a fresh look at the work history section. This part of your resume should help prospective employers readily grasp what you can do for their firms or organizations.  Outline your track record of professional achievements in each position you’ve held. Rather than creating a simple laundry list of your responsibilities, describe your contributions to each employer in specific, measurable terms – dollars saved, cases you helped win, and deals closed. 

In the rest of the resume, and in your cover letter, it’s important to emphasize crucial details that set you apart from other candidates. For example, if you possess an advanced degree or certification, be sure to highlight it. Also mention areas of specific expertise, outstanding accomplishments and other qualifications that will make you stand out from the competition. Don’t forget to mention specialized skills, such as proficiency with the latest case management or eDiscovery software. If you’re having trouble putting your resume together, ask a career counselor or professional recruiter to assess it to help you make sure it properly showcases your talents and experience.

Develop Your Work-Related Skills

Because there are so many good candidates on the market, you need to make sure your background and training are as comprehensive as possible. Employers are seeking legal professionals in high-demand practice areas, such as litigation, compliance and healthcare law. If you have expertise in these specialties, be sure that’s immediately clear in your resume and cover letter.

If your legal job search has stalled, consider using some of your time to improve your skills. Take a continuing legal education class or attend professional seminars to enhance your existing skills and acquire new ones, make new contacts and keep yourself busy. A business communications or technology course is a good option – you’ll acquire skills that will serve you well in any workplace. Even if the course is unrelated to the legal field, you can still benefit.

Step Up Your Networking Efforts

This is not the time to be lax about networking. Use both traditional and online approaches to increasing your list of contacts. For example, create a profile of yourself on legal networking sites and post your resume on a wide variety of legal association websites.

Take the time to attend professional meetings and seminars, and pay regular visits to your local career resource center. These activities will help you feel connected to your professional community and may spark new ideas and leads. Remember to keep in touch with long-time members of your professional network as well. Let them know you’re still actively looking for a job – from one week to the next, a contact of yours may hear about a brand-new opening.

Get Expert Help and Guidance

A legal staffing professional can help you target your search efforts to the most promising opportunities, extend your network and alert you to openings you might not hear about otherwise. The best recruiters also can serve as career guides, providing you with resume and interview tips, salary data and advice to enhance your marketability.

A key advantage of working with a specialized legal staffing service is the ability to gain an insider’s perspective and advice on the job market. Because these professionals know the firms that are hiring, they also have a solid sense of what the organization is looking for in a potential candidate. Leverage this experience by remaining open to suggestions that might improve your marketability. If your recruiter recommends that you take a particular course to update your technical skills, for example, be willing to follow this advice.

By emphasizing how your skills, experience and knowledge will add value and enable you to immediately make a contribution to a target firm’s growth, you’ll highlight those abilities that set you apart from other candidates. Ultimately, you’ll land the interview that leads to the right opportunity.