Like car engines, the hybrid combines the best of both worlds. Once you get some legal experience under your belt, we recommend a combination functional/chronological resume format rather than a straight reverse chronology of your work experience.
A chronological resume is organized by your employment history in reverse order from the present back to your first legal position, with job titles, names and locations of employers, dates of employment and responsibilities and accomplishments for each. Recruiters and hiring partners like this resume format because it clearly demonstrates your job history and career advancement.
This format sometimes is used by job seekers with a number of jobs, gaps in employment, or a job history in a different field. A functional resume is organized by skills and functions. In a purely functional resume, company names, employment dates, and position titles are intentionally omitted. This resume format is the least common and least preferred by employers because it signals that there may be issues in your background and leaves too many questions unanswered.
The combination chronological-functional resume is our recommendation for experienced attorneys who have had more than a few jobs. It is mostly functional but also includes a bare-bones work history in reverse chronological order. This format highlights your expertise and achievements that might otherwise be buried within the job-history section, while presenting, but deemphasizing, your chronology of jobs. [See resume sample below.]
Sell your expertise
You want the reader to quickly scan your resume and see “this is what I’ve done and what I can do for you”. You may include an initial sentence summarizing your strengths, but we recommend against an “Objective” section since it either is so broad it is meaningless or so focused it looks too crafted for the particular job.
In a combination format, rather than listing your experience at each past position, much of which can be repetitive, fold your job descriptions into one “Experience” section, perhaps with bullets and/or boldface headings to make it easy to read. Focus on transferable skills and experience tailored to the position being sought. For example, if you have done a mix of corporate and real estate transactions but are applying for a real estate position, list your real estate experience first and spend more space talking about your relevant experience in that area and less on the corporate. It is fine to have more than one form of resume, tweaked to the particular type of position you are seeking.
List your history
After describing your experience, include a separate “Employment” section listing, in reverse chronological order, each firm name, city, your title and dates of employment. You might include one sentence about your duties, but with little detail as it is fleshed out in the previous section. If you have worked in other fields, such as business or education, separate your work history with sub-headings into legal and non-legal experience.
Briefly summarize your pre-law career if it is not specifically related to the substance of your legal career. Or, omit it if it doesn’t relate to current job or is too long ago to be relevant. If, on the other hand, your pre-law career enhances your legal practice, for example you were an electrical engineer and now practice patent law, include the important details.
For candidates with more than five years of practice experience, the education section is presented after your expertise and work history. If you wish to include specializations, certifications, MCLE and other training, you can title this section “Education and Training”. List recent relevant MCLE or other training, including the year and source, to show you are up to date.
DO include dates on your law degree (and all law jobs). Rather than obscure the fact of your seniority, omitting dates can backfire. Prospective employers may either assume that you are trying to hide your age or that you are even older than you are. You may leave the date off of your undergraduate degree if you are a second career lawyer and there was significant time between that degree and your JD.
Listing interests on your resume is optional, and should include only those that are relevant to the position or show you are fit and energetic. Include activities or memberships that may have business development potential. Also include publications and presentations if you have them. List technical skills, but omit obsolete technologies such as shorthand, or typing speed. Leave off personal information including marital status, children, height, weight, and health. Those are illegal for an employer to ask about, so don’t volunteer it.
It is best to keep your resume to two pages or less. If you have more information you wish to impart, consider an addendum. Addenda could include representative cases or transactions, where you select some matters you have worked on, and describe them and the level of your involvement in more detail than would be appropriate in a resume. If you have authored numerous law-related articles, or spoken at many programs, those lists also could be appropriate for an addendum.