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10 tips for creating the perfect legal CV

Law is a competitive career. Almost 30,000 new students are accepted onto law degrees annually in the UK

Many will go on to complete the Legal Practice Course, as will graduates from other disciplines.

However, there is a mismatch between the numbers successfully completing the LPC and the number of training contracts available. Statistics from previous years show that there is an oversupply of as much as 20% of LPC graduates. The figures for the Bar Vocational Course and pupillages are even starker.

This means that right from the outset of your legal career, it is crucial to differentiate yourself. Your CV is the obvious place to do this and, for would-be entrants to the legal profession, it is often the only option.

CV writing can be tricky, but here are 10 suggestions for making your legal CV stand out in all the right ways.

1. Plan the structure

Before beginning to write, plan the structure and layout. The finished product should be a maximum of two pages and, for a new entrant to the profession, one page is usually preferable.

The layout should be clear, with plenty of blank space around the margins and between sections, a line gap of at least 1.5 and a sensible font (such as Times New Roman). Black is the only appropriate colour for the text. Well-chosen sub-headings are essential.

2. Get the tone right

You are aiming for professional and serious. A legal CV is not the place for humour.

3. Target your applications

HR departments and pupillage committees are excellent at spotting blanket applications. Each time you apply for a position, you have to make the recipient believe that theirs is the only position you have applied for.

They’ll know otherwise, of course, but they won’t want evidence of a scattergun approach to applications. This means tailoring your CV and any accompanying application forms to the individual ethos of each firm or chambers, and the mix of work they undertake. There are no shortcuts, and research is essential.

4. Show your motivation

Your CV is your shop window. As such, you need to convince potential employers why they should choose you. Demonstrate your motivation by including plenty of relevant experience. This might include vacation placements, law clinic work, mini-pupillages, marshalling and mooting.

5. Part-time work

Even if it isn’t in the legal sector, part-time work can be a good indicator of your skills and stamina.

6. Interests

Use your interests to demonstrate your competencies. You might be a keen rugby player, but it is even better if you have captained a team and balanced that with your studying commitments.

7. Personal impact

If you have been involved in voluntary or pro-bono work, think about the impact it had on the recipients. A short bulleted list can highlight positive results.

8. Stand out from the crowd

If there’s something unusual about you, work out if you can include it on your CV.

9. Take your time

It’s important not to rush CV writing. The same goes for tailoring an existing CV for a particular position. Expect to measure the time spent on the task in hours, rather than minutes.

10. Attention to detail

Proofread your CV. Spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes impress no-one.

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