The CV is the key document which will help you find your perfect job so it is worth spending time getting it right. As your consultant, we can guide and direct you but the content ultimately comes down to you. Before you get drafting it is worth considering the points set out below.

1. Make sure all the basics are there.

Format. It is helpful if you provide your CV in Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx). Invariably we put it into our house style so it makes it easier for us to tailor it. We will submit it as a .pdf once it is finalised. Make sure you spell check the document and read and re-read it.

Name, address and contact details. This is more for the consultant’s benefit than the clients. It is important that we speak with you on a regular basis especially if you are meeting with a variety of firms. It is good for us to have all the necessary contact details so that we can get hold of you if the client wishes us to.

Education. This is still very important (regardless of how senior you are) and is an area which partners and HR professionals still study carefully. We (and the clients) expect to see at the very least, A-Levels or Highers, Degree grades and LPC grade. If you don't put your results on the CV it suggests you have something to hide! If you were educated in a foreign jurisdiction then it is helpful if you can state the UK equivalent grades. It is also helpful if you can bold the schools and universities you attended as well as the relevant years.

Awards. Remember that the CV is an opportunity to sell yourself and your skills. If you won awards at school or university, then mention them. Don’t be afraid to show off all of your talents and skills.

Languages. Lawyers sometimes forget that law firms are businesses like any other. In this day and age, international work and cross border matters are on offer to all levels of solicitor. If you have language skills, whether fluent or native, then you should definitely highlight them.

Pre-training contract work experience. We find that putting down that you used to work in a pub or as a paralegal doesn't always add any value. If you feel that you have gained certain skills which really are relevant to your current work and career then yes, put them down, but this should be a small section of the CV. Obviously if you can demonstrate leadership and team building skills, for example, it is important to include these.

Social Media. With the advent of social media, we find that more and more law firms are subscribing to Twitter feeds and LinkedIn pages. If you have a presence on Twitter that is legally related or you have drafted relevant blogs, then it is added value to mention these on your CV. If you have a LinkedIn profile (and you should) then you should definitely link it on your CV. Remember that, as your consultant, we can edit your CV into a format that suits the firm, the partner, HR professional or specific role. twitter

Profile or covering letter. It is useful to write up a profile (no longer than a paragraph) which describes your background and relevant experience. It should also state what you are looking for in terms of your next career move. If possible, try to concentrate on experience rather than soft skills.

2. Experience.

Your experience should be in reverse chronological order. No exceptions. Ideally you will be currently employed and so that will be the first job we and the client see. As we read through the CV, it will catalogue your career right back to your training contract. Using bullet points or numbering ensures that it is easy on the reader’s eye. If possible try and avoid lengthy paragraphs with no breaks.

3. Spend time on presentation.

Lawyers by nature should be good with the English language (and most of you are). As such, spend sufficient time making sure that your CV makes sense. Choose a font which is clear and stick with 11 or 12 for font size. Use bullet points and use a 1.25 spacing between lines. Avoid boxes and shaded areas. These will just be removed when we put it into house style. The text should also be Justified. Personally I am a fan of Palatino. Helvetia is also a very good font. I recommend that you read Practical Typography which is a fantastic outline of the art of Typography.

4. First page, upper middle area.

Bearing in mind that most partners and HR professionals are incredibly busy, they won't always have time to read the whole CV. In the first instance they may take a view as to whether to meet you or not on the basis of a very quick flick of the document. We find that the upper middle section of the first page is where most people will naturally look. Try and get the key information here. We can send you a template in the first instance to help with your drafting.

Lawyers waiting patiently for a job interview

5. Template for the interview.

Whilst preparing for an interview is a whole different ball game, the CV you draft will to some extent be the template for the interview. Be sure that you really can talk confidently and expertly about everything on your CV. Don't get caught out on old jobs or old deals. You should be able to talk for a good few minutes on every bullet point on the CV so don't include anything which you can't backup in interview.

6. Ignore the rule of 1 or 2 pages.

There is a myth when it comes to CV drafting that it should only be 1 or 2 pages. The UK and London Legal market does not subscribe to this. The more detail you put on the CV the better. We can always cut it down if it needs it. As a rule of thumb you should aim to create between 2-4 pages. If you go over that, don't worry. If you are more junior i.e. a newly qualified solicitor or in the early years of your career, then make sure your training contract and current experience is sufficiently detailed. More experienced lawyers can pick and choose the relevant deals or cases they want to showcase.

7. Don't be afraid to have a couple of versions.

We do find some lawyers who have unusual backgrounds or fall into more than one category (i.e. do both corporate and commercial) that it is sometimes worth drafting two separate versions of the CV that are focused more specifically on either corporate or commercial. Of course it depends on the role. We can talk you through this.

8. Tailor it to the particular role.

If there is a job spec, then it is of course worth tailoring your CV to make sure you highlight that you have the relevant and required skills and experience outlined in the specification.

9. Remember to highlight soft skills.

The experience section of your CV is going to be key to whether you get the role but it is also worth including, for example, if you have good Microsoft Word skills or that you know your way around a time recording system.

10. Assertive and positive language.

As is the case with the interview, where possible you should use positive and assertive language in your CV. Be upbeat and ensure that you demonstrate that you were a lead on a particular deal or that you were responsible for drafting a key document. Be succinct and to the point.

A lawyer receiving CV advice from a legal recruitment expert

11. Don't forget to put down your interests.

HR professionals and Partners will want to know that you have interests and skills outside the office. It makes you human. Whilst not for everyone, outdoor pursuits and interest are always a good way of demonstrating a healthy and active lifestyle. Avoid passive hobbies.

12. Business development and marketing initiatives.

The modern day lawyer is expected to be a lot of things - technically gifted, entrepreneurial, commercially minded, a natural business developer, a networker and a team player. Business development skills are important because they demonstrate that one day you will be able to bring business into the firm. It shows that you get how a partner is expected to build a practice. If you have spent time presenting, writing, blogging, networking, speaking at seminars or wining and dining clients then you should ensure that you mention this on your CV.

13. Your consultant will put it into house style but you are responsible for the content.

We, as consultants rely on you to ensure that the specifics of your cases or deals are properly explained and accurate. We can, of course, question points and make sure that they read correctly. Ultimately though, you are responsible for the content so ensure that you make the most of it.

14. Partner points.

Partner CVs are generally similar to those of associates except that they should also outline the basics of your client following at or near the top of the CV. You will have to draft a business plan in due course but the CV should give an initial indication of your experience and your client relationships.

16. References.

It is always worth stating who your referees are going to be. It is usual to highlight a partner or HR professional from your current firm and your previous firm (if there is one). It is standard for references to be taken up at the end of a job application process so the referees you give will not be contacted until after you have resigned.

For further information on CV writing contact Sharon Samra at or call on 0207 400 2000.