I have read recently that CVs in the 2020s need to be completely revamped and have a specific format because of the way most CVs are now processed by potential employers (keywords, applicant tracking systems ATS, videos and online information).
This is partly true, but for legal jobs you need to be aware that there is a very small market indeed for most roles that come up. This means that your CV will always still be read by a human when you apply for a work and so it still needs to be in a presentable format so a human can read it and quickly extract the information they need from it.
Here is our guide for writing a legal CV in 2022.
Stick with the conventional format
Try not to do anything too extravagant. One of the biggest problems we have with CVs is when a job applicant includes lots of tables, graphics, note boxes and other types of formatting that mean that when the CV loads on someone else’s computer, or in another operating system such as Apple, the CV looks dreadful and is very hard to do anything with.
Make sure that your font is exactly the same throughout the CV other than your name at the top. Everything else ideally should be the same size. There is nothing worse than reading a CV containing three different font sizes and three different types of font.
Thanks to the continuing rivalry between Microsoft and Adobe, if you prepare a CV in PDF format, it means that anybody at the other end who received your CV cannot manipulate the CV into their job application software. This creates nightmares in itself and there has never been a functioning piece of software that is able to handle PDF files in the same way that word documents are treated.
Make sure your structure is sound
By this I mean go with the conventional layout of a CV which is:
Name & contact details
Put your name in it in a larger font size at the top, underneath this include all your contact details such as mobile number email address postal address nationality, date of birth bracket optional), sex bracket optional), confirmation of a driving license and quite possibly marital status if you think you want to include this.
Summary – no waffle
The next section needs to be a very brief summary of two or three sentences outlining exactly who you are without any waffle. So for example if you are a conveyancing solicitor in Leeds looking for work you would simply write a “Conveyancing solicitor with 4 years PQE looking for a suitable permanent role in the Leeds area with flexible hours. Salary levels £45k, notice period three months. Experience of help to buy, new newbuilds, staircasing, leasehold and freehold properties.“
Education – everything needed?
The next section needs to be your education and qualifications which should be in reverse chronological order with the most recent listed. You need the date you were admitted to the roll of solicitors (or CILEX) and then follow this back with your qualifications. It can be worth having a section for your recent training and CPD points. Make sure you include your university and school education but keep it brief. Employers really do not care what you did your dissertation on 30 years ago, but they do want to see what class of degree you’ve got. If you have good A-levels and GCSEs it is always worth including them in brief just to show academic consistency.
The next section will be your work details again – most recent first. This is one of the key areas and you will see lots of advice online about making sure that you have plenty of keywords for the ATS systems which extract CVs to put forward to employers based in frequency of keywords. Not so relevant for law of course. However it is still very important to include lots of information about the work you have been doing. Use bullet points and include plenty of facts and figures. Do not write waffly nonsense and make sure that you have evidence for everything that you write. Employers are interested in the quantity of work you’re able to handle, details of any particular specialist experience you have, types of work you have covered, billing levels, size of the teams plus any business development work or managerial experience if relevant. One of the key key features of this section is to always try to tailor the work you have been doing to the role you are applying for. It is no use writing about 20 years of managerial experience if the role you are going for does not actually require you to have any managerial experience and may make the manager in the particular section very nervous about taking you on!
IT & Language Skills
The next section after this will be your computer and language skills which can be as brief as you like but make sure that you include any details of case management systems you have worked on because this is of particular interest to employees.
Activities & Interests
Don’t forget your activities and interests section. So many job applicants forget to write anything other than ‘spend time with my friends, watch TV and eat nice food.’ If you go sailing at the weekend or enjoy walking long distance paths then include it here. Job interviews are so much easier if a employer can ask you questions about your interests and it lightens the atmosphere.
Finally don’t forget to references, although if you are going to use an existing firm as your reference then do not include it on the CV.
There is very little difference in preparing a CV for the job market in 2022 than 20 years previously other than it is rare for CVs to get printed out prior to job interview. I suspect that most employers will print your CV out for the interview, but apart from that they will simply be reading it on a computer monitor. This means that you need to make sure it is visible and easy to read on a screen. The length of the CV is not an issue really, but I would question anybody who writes a CV longer than about six pages as to whether you really need to include everything.