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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

Legal Writing Tip: Resumes 101


By Leslie A. Gordon BASF Bulletin Contributor


Career experts suggest that lawyers update their resumes every six months. You never know when you’re going to want to send it out in a flash and you don’t want to half-heartedly revise it amidst depositions or deal closings, practically guaranteeing you’ll forget recent, relevant experience. As important, reviewing your resume twice a year will allow you to look at the text with a rested but critical eye.

Some Resume Writing Tips

Customize your resume to the employer and the position. (This should be easy if you’ve been finessing the text every six months.) To emphasize certain experiences, mimic the words from the job posting in your headings and descriptions.

Be concise – the resume is your first opportunity to show off your writing style. Use short sentences. If you use sentence fragments, which is acceptable in a resume, be consistent throughout – don’t alternate sentence fragments with full sentences. Also, just like your regular writing, use the active voice, including strong action verbs (synthesized, spearheaded, created) not weak verbs (is, was, do, did.)

As with all writing, make it profoundly reader-friendly. Manage white space effectively by using bullet points and make sure every bullet is constructed with parallel, consistent phrasing. Avoid all but the most common abbreviations and be consistent. For example, don’t write Sept. in one spot and October in another.

Expand your experience section by including not only representative cases or transactions, but also leadership roles you may have had in the legal community. Employers like well-rounded candidates so highlight all presentations or lectures you’ve given as well as any languages that you speak.

Ensure that your resume is error-free, including those subtle but deadly errors like accidentally interchanging hyphens for dashes.

Finally, save your resume in a consistently emailable format such as PDF.


A former lawyer, Leslie A. Gordon is a freelance journalist living in San Francisco.

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