Consultants often ask us how to best format their resume. Choosing a resume format can be complicated for both recent law graduates and experienced candidates. The old standard of 1-2 pages (1 preferred) still holds true. Recruiters and firm HR staff have not the time nor patience to review pages of detailed work experience, especially where the law firm is reviewing large numbers of resumes.
Candidates should pay close attention to how they present material in resumes. Any typo in a resume severely discredits the remainder of the material about the candidate. I run across too many resumes that misspell the name of the law firm they were assigned, which doesn’t reflect well on your attentiveness while working there.
Your resume should list all active bar memberships because firms often have specific bar membership requirements. Bar memberships should be listed either in the line below your name or at the bottom of the resume so that it is easily seen. You should include bar admission date and bar number. If you bury your bar memberships in the middle of your resume it makes it more likely someone won’t see it and will move on to the next resume.
Your resume should reflect whom did you work for and describe the legal task performed. Many resumes repeat the same bullet points for each assignment, which is a missed opportunity to describe the depth of your experience. The work you performed on a review is more important than the matter you worked on. One way around this to simplify your resume by consolidating. Instead of listing 10 assignments with 5 different firms try listing all of your experience with the appropriate employer:
Compliance, a System One Division May 2010 to Present (2 assignments)
Agency B May 2010 to Present (3 assignments)
Agency C May 2010 to Present (1 assignment)
- Reviewed documents on 5 major document review assignments that were related to 2nd request issued by the Dept. of Justice and/or FCC.
- Participated in both QC review and privilege review on all 5 assignments.
- Drafted and assisted with final privilege log on 5 assignments.
- Experience with internal investigation assignments.
- Participated in 3 person review that lasted 6 months
- Assignments include the following law firms: O’Melveny and Myers, Hunton & Williams, Jones Day.
- Matters include issues related to FERC, pharmaceuticals, health insurance and oil and gas production.
If you’ve never been on a document review assignment, don’t worry. Keep your resume simple and to the point. If you don’t have document review experience but rather discovery experience, you can set up a subsection called “Discovery Related Experience” detailing that experience. This helps to call attention to your discovery experience. You can go online and research review platforms, such as Relativity and Concordance. Take a tutorial or become “certified” in these review platforms and then list on your resume. Incorporate any pro bono, nonprofit work you have done into your resume. This fills gaps and helps you to secure your first assignment. After you start your 1st review, you should immediately update your resume to include the agency and review platform – often there’s no time when the assignment is over.
Remember, the agency that placed you on the assignment is your employer, not the law firm. You should view your law firm work as assignments and be careful not to state that the law firm or corporation was your direct employer. Some law firms hold it against you if your resume implies you worked for them.
Similarly, do not list the actual client or matter on your resume. There are law firms that consider it a breach of ethics to list matters on your resume. And they wouldn’t be wrong. Even the existence of an investigation is sometimes confidential. It is better to play it safe and leave this information off your resume.
Skills are often overlooked and underdeveloped on a resume. Accurately reviewing documents at a high rate of speed is a skill. If you are consistently among the faster reviewers on an assignment, put it on your resume. Proficient in multiple review platforms? Have you been given admin right to a review platform? List them. And most importantly, always list languages you are proficient in. (And if you aren’t quite sure of your proficiency in a language, it may make you extremely more marketable if you take the time to improve your comfort level in that language.)
Document review is very competitive, and there are many resumes for each position. And, your resume is reviewed two times for one position; once by the agency and once by the law firm. A resume that is direct, concise, informative, relevant and error free has more of a chance to be selected by both the agency and the law firm. And on the other hand, a resume that is too long or has careless errors is likely to be passed over before it reaches the law firm. The time you spend on a focused document review resume will get you on more projects and give you less time on the sidelines.