Resume DOs and DON'TS for Law School Applicants

Since many law school applicants are working on their resumes for this year's admissions cycle, I decided to follow up on my June 29th article, Top Tips for Legal Resumes and Cover Letters, and provide resume DOs and DON'Ts specifically for law school applicants.

What you should DO:

  • Do provide context for your experience. Put the employer or activity name first, followed by its location. Add your title and the dates and hours worked:

Dunkin Donuts, Baltimore, MD

Assistant Manager, June 2008-September 2009. 40 hrs/week.

  • Do use action verbs, in the present or past tense, to describe your experience (e.g., "Summarized and organized client files").
  • Do include all language skills and your level of knowledge: fluent, advanced, intermediate, or basic.
  • Do demonstrated how you developed your skills and responsibilities over time. If you were promoted, indicate that:

Barnes and Noble, Minneapolis, MN

Assistant Manager, October 2007-July 2008. 40 hrs/week.

Clerk, February 2007-September 2007. 30 hrs/week.

  • Do highlight college honors on their own line, but explain the criteria if they are not obvious.
  • Do include your senior or honors thesis and study abroad.
  • Do specify interests outside of school and work. Details matter: "Enjoy mountain biking and rock climbing" will grab a reader's attention, whereas "Enjoy outdoor activities" will not.
  • Do use a clear font that is not too big or too small (e.g., Times New Roman 11 point font).
  • Do be consistent with formatting spaces, commas, bolding/italicizing/capitalizing words, etc.

And some DON'Ts:

  • Don't use personal pronouns, like "I" or "we."
  • Don't use the present continuous tense-i.e., verbs end in "ing," such as reading, analyzing, etc.
  • Don't include your LSAT score.
  • Don't include your high school or your SAT score.
  • Don't go over one page (unless you have been in the workforce for at least fifteen years!).

Questions? Unique situations? Ask here!


Nicole Vikan is a graduate of NYU Law School. She spent her first law school summer at a large law firm, and her second summer in the Homicide Investigation Unit at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. She returned to the District Attorney's Office after graduation and spent five years as a criminal prosecutor, handling cases such as robbery and assault. Nicole then joined Fordham Law School's Career Planning Center, where she advised students seeking employment in the private and public sectors. She is currently a career counselor at Georgetown Law Center's Office of Public Interest and Community Service. As part of the Anna Ivey team, Nicole works with law school applicants and people exploring legal careers.