Tips to make a legal recruiter love your CV

4 mins
Sellick  Partnership

By Sellick Partnership

When you embark on the journey to secure your next legal role, your CV becomes your passport to opportunities. It's the first impression you leave on Hiring Managers, making it essential to get it right from the outset. A legal recruiter’s job is to match the right legal professional with the right employer, and we are often looking for a particular set of skills and experiences based on a specific job specification. 

Getting the structure, font size and language right is just the beginning. There are a number of things that legal candidates should avoid when preparing their CV to ensure it goes to the top of the pile!

Contact information 

Essential contact details are a must, including: your name, phone number, email address and LinkedIn profile - if you have one. You'd be surprised how often these crucial details are missed, we advise you to make it easy for recruiters to reach out to you.

Personal statement 

Your personal statement is your CV's opening statement, summarise your legal career, aspirations, and highlight your key skills and accomplishments. Keep it concise, around two to three lines. Tailor this section for each application, aligning it with the specific job description.

Accurately define your legal work experience

Often Recruitment Consultants will refine the information you have provided into a branded CV format before they send it to the employer so they can tailor it for the particular role. Be sure to include as much appropriate information as possible, so the recruiter can get your CV ready quickly. Use bullet points, tailor your experience to the role and always include up-to-date and relevant information.

You should also ensure your legal qualifications are listed in full and temporary and locum roles are highlighted as such so that the recruiter can clearly differentiate them. Remember to explain gaps in your career history, for example if you took a 6 month break to travel or study.

Present the information in reverse chronological order, including:

  • Firm name, job title, and employment dates.
  • Provide one or two lines briefly outlining the firm or your team, for example: 'Joe Blogs LLP is a national Teir 1 Legal 500 full service firm. I work within the busy ranked Private Client Team where I cater towards higher net worth clientele.'
  • Summarise your primary responsibilities and duties, including all the different types of files in your caseload, values of the matters and expand as much as possible. It’s important to expand because if it’s not on your CV, the Hiring Manager will assume you haven’t had the experience. For example, a conveyancer would include: sales and purchases, freehold and leasehold, registered and unregistered titles, new builds, plot sales, help to buy, right to buy, shared ownership, transfer of equity, remortgages, title checks, searches, reporting, enquiries, exchanges and completions.
  • Showcase your achievements, it might be billable hours, actual vs targets, business development, growing the team, or any improvements you’ve implemented.
  • Include a couple of lines of example matters, this could be your highest valued matters or most complex matters you’ve dealt with. It will give the Hiring Manager a good understanding of your caseload, what you can do, and plays on your strengths. 

For each qualification, include graduation dates, institution names, degrees, and grades. Mention your admission date and the regulatory body. If you have any additional memberships or accreditations like higher rights, STEP, or children's panel, include them with the date, including any lapsed memberships.

Hobbies and interests

This section offers a glimpse into your life outside of work. While many CVs mention generic interests, ‘I enjoy travelling, spending time with my family and going to the gym’ use this space to provide a genuine insight. As an example, if you want to include travelling, add a line in about where you've been and where you dream of going. If nothing else, this is a brilliant conversation starter to start building a rapport with your Recruitment Consultant. 

Think about the length

Whilst you do not have to strictly stick to the two page rule, you still need to make sure the information is easily digestible so make sure it is clear and concise. Using bullet points is a good way of doing this.

Check your legal CV thoroughly for grammar and spelling errors

It is reported that more than 9 out of 10 CVs contain spelling errors, something you need to avoid at all costs. Think about your legal CV from a recruiter or a hiring manager’s point of view – if you received a CV full of spelling errors, incorrect punctuation and sentences simply not making sense, how would you perceive that candidate? It would instantly suggest that the you have a lack of attention to detail which is hugely important in the legal profession.

Make sure that you spell check your CV and get your family, friends or recruitment consultant to read over it – a fresh pair of eyes is invaluable and will help you spot mistakes and recognise where things do not make sense, as well as areas for improvement to ensure your professionalism remains intact.

Avoid peculiar or eccentric fonts and confusing layouts when writing your legal CV

Always remember that a CV is a representation of you and your personal brand so getting the format right is really important. From the font that is used, to the layout and terminology, it gives an impression of what your personality may be like, as well as being a reflection of your skills, experience and values. A well-written legal CV is the biggest asset for every successful candidate, and putting time and effort into this important sales tool will ensure that those who read it will get a strong first impression of you and your potential value to their organisation.

Top tips: 
  • Text alignment: whilst already common in the legal industry, ensure your text is justified (use 'Control + J'). Justified text creates clean, polished edges for a more professional look.
  • Font and formatting: Stick to a professional, easy-to-read font (Arial/Calibri) and maintain consistent formatting. Bulleted lists and bold headings improve readability.
  • Reverse chronological order: Listing your work experience and qualifications in reverse chronological order, it’s much easier to read for the hiring manager. 
  • Proofreading: Attention to detail is vital; your CV should be free of grammar and spelling errors, especially since drafting might be a part of your job. Review it multiple times, even stepping away and returning later for a fresh look.
  • Seek feedback: Have a friend or colleague review your CV from a different perspective and they might spot anything amiss. 
  • Honesty: Always be truthful, integrity matters in the long run and it will always be found out. 
  • Tailor your CV: Customise your CV for each application by aligning it with the job description. Ensure that everything in the job description is represented on your CV if it's relevant.
  • LinkedIn profile: Keep your LinkedIn profile current and matching your CV, hiring managers will look at your profile.
  • Action verbs: Start bullet points with strong action verbs ('negotiated', 'drafted', 'represented').
  • It’s your CV: Describe your role and projects you managed with what you accomplished. Minimize the use of phrases like 'I assisted with', or 'I helped with'.

Still need a hand getting your legal CV up to scratch? Here's a link to a Word document that our Legal private practice team has put together, download it now

We've also put together a generic CV template Word document, download this here

Our legal candidates love our resources section packed with all the advice you need to land your ideal legal role. Why not head over to our candidate resources section and check out our guide to writing the perfect CV or chat to one of our Consultants who can give you legal CV advice. Alternatively, you can check out our latest legal jobs here.

Or if you are happy and feel like your CV is ready to secure your next legal job, then get it touch!