Editor’s Note: This post is the second of a three-part series that focuses on resume writing and job searching for attorneys.

In our previous post, we highlighted the rationale for developing a résumé that effectively communicates your value proposition as an attorney. We also discussed the first steps to take in crafting a résumé that highlights your experience and accomplishments. We would now like to elaborate a bit about how a well-drawn accomplishment statement needs to be drafted. When we write a résumé for an attorney client, we utilize the formula “S”, “A”, “R”, which is an acronym for Situation, Actions and Results. Virtually every accomplishment can be expressed using this approach. As you prepare to collect the data to draft your résumé, we encourage you to use the S. A. R. approach to collect data which will help you to better express an outcome. For example, use this method to create an accomplishment:

  1. Situation: Major client was in danger of defaulting on significant legal fees to firm, due to uncertainty around coverage limits from multiple insurance carriers.
  2. Actions: Facilitated analysis of coverage limits with insurance coverage partner and created and participated in arguing for subrogation under policy limits from three insurance firms.
  3. Result: Clients were able to recover $10 million in legal fees from their insurance carriers and my Firm was able to collect on its billings without write-offs.

This scenario can then be translated into an accomplishment statement which will then be edited and finally be expressed as a bullet point in the body of your résumé as follows:

  • Successfully argued for reimbursement of legal fees from insurance companies, thus saving clients more than $10 million and minimized probability of fee write-offs for the firm.

Notice that this statement begins with an action verb – clearly identifying the value of the accomplishment in real dollars, and collaterally noting the importance of the accomplishment to the revenues of the Firm. The language is spare and outcome focused and the “$” sign will capture the eye of any reader who quickly scans the résumé.

An additional benefit in using this S. A. R. format is that it allows one to sharpen the delivery of the facts, so that in an interview or networking meeting, when a question is asked about a particular matter or accomplishment, the attorney can declaratively and concisely set forth the fact situation, define their actual contribution to the solution and then quantify the value of the result.

A few other comments worth noting in the writing and presentation of your résumé:

  1. An attorney with more than two years of practice should construct a résumé of two pages – no more. Additional information, citations, articles and specific matters can be summarized in an addendum to the résumé. Be prepared to offer it, if queried, but otherwise keep in hand.
  2. Only use résumé-friendly, sans serif fonts, such as Arial, Verdana, Calibri, Garamond or the like. Also, font size should not exceed 12pt, save perhaps for your name at top of the document. Printed material, like books and newspapers, typically use serif fonts (i.e. Times New Roman, Bookman or Garamond) for extended “readability,” whilst shorter documents and websites almost universally use sans serif for “legibility.” It is a personal choice; we recommend sans serif.
  3. Put your name and page number at the top of Page -2- of your résumé; remember that pages can get separated.
  4. An attorney in practice more than two years should always place the “Education” section after the “Professional Experience” section of the résumé (typically, at the end of Page -2). Also, we tend to discourage inclusion of grade point averages in the document for all but the youngest attorneys. After several years in practice, your experience and accomplishments count more than grade point. If you are a recent law school grad, list your education and grade point at the beginning of your résumé, before Professional Experience – otherwise at end of Page 2.
  5. However, awards, academic honors, distinctions, and extremely high class placement should always be mentioned. For example, if you graduated 6th in your class, that fact will always capture the attention of the reader.
  6. Do not include personal information, beyond contact information – most search firms and many law firms will not call your current office number, so be sure and list your cell phone, personal email account, LinkedIn URL as well as your home phone number. Some would also argue that your home address not be included for security. At minimum, you should include your city and state, without zip code.
  7. Also, as a related issue, please ensure that your mobile and home phone greetings are professional and portray the image you wish to convey.
  8. Be creative. If you have a particular interest or hobby that will set you apart from other candidates by all means mention them – things such as professional musician; avid skier; fluency in Chinese; collector of rare books, for example, will all make you more interesting.
  9. Be sure to include any summer internships or law clerkships but keep it simple. It is generally conceded that these jobs are research and drafting oriented. The real accomplishment is the attainment of the position, in a particularly competitive marketplace.
  10. Be careful about how you use italics, underlining, bullet points and other MS Word applications. Bullet points should be reserved to highlight a few important accomplishments after your most recent jobs.
  11. Proofread – Proofread – Proofread. Check over both your résumé as well as your transmittal emails. The simplicity of “cutting and pasting” can be your undoing. Mis-merging of cover letters/emails can also trip you up. Always look over your work before sending it out. Perhaps even ask a trusted colleague or partner to also review your work before it is sent.

 

Robert S. Wilson is the Founder & Chairman of High Potential, Inc. a talent management and leadership development firm, with offices in Chicago, Illinois. Bob is a former practicing trial lawyer, and HPi provides a range of Career Coaching, Outplacement, Leadership Assessment and Executive Coaching services to a number of law firms and corporations in the Upper Midwest. Bob and his colleagues can be reached at 312-252-8200; bwilson@oiglobalpartners.com; www.hpi-inc.com and via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bobhpi

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