Document Sample
					Resume and Cover Letter
Preparation Guide for Law
Students                                         LAW CAREERS OFFICE

Some students may come to law school with years of work experience and a
professional resume that might just require some fine-tuning. Others may be starting
from scratch. Whatever stage you are at, a cover letter and resume are vital parts of
your application package for any legal employment, whether you are applying to a large
Bay street law firm, for a judicial clerkship or for a summer position with a public interest
legal organization. Your resume should succinctly capture your experience, skills and
notable achievements. The following guide is a tool to assist you in creating your
application package. Once you drafted your cover letter and resume you can make an
appointment with the Law Careers Officer to get some feedback (email
careerof@uvic.ca to make an appointment).

You will find a sample resume and cover letter provided at the end of this guide.
Caution – do not simply copy this resume. If you do - you are not putting enough effort
into the process. A good cover letter and resume are tailored to your own unique skills,
achievements and accomplishments.

How to Start
An extremely important first stage in putting together an application for any type of legal
employment is to consider what the employer is looking for and what you have to offer.
This requires 2 steps:

   1) Know the organization you are applying to;
   2) Know yourself

Ultimately, your resume and cover letter should be tailored to the specific job that you
are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a clerkship you may want to
highlight your legal research and writing capabilities. Or, if you are applying to a non-
profit environmental organization you may want to emphasize your involvement in the
Environmental Law Centre. If this is your first time preparing a resume, before you start
you may want to jot down a rough outline of all of the skills and experience you have
acquired, then you can decide what you want the employer to know about.

What to Include in an Application to a Legal Employer
The list of what to include in an application package may vary from employer to
employer. Generally an application to a legal employer includes:

   1) 1-page cover letter;
   2) 2-page resume;
   3) Photocopies* of official undergraduate, graduate and law school transcripts
      *clerkships may ask for official transcripts, and you should always take an official
      transcript with you to an interview with a legal employer

                                                                       LCO – November 2008

   4) References or Reference Letters (optional unless requested)
   5) Writing Samples (do not include unless requested)

To double-check what each employer would like to see in an application package you
can review the firm’s promotional materials (brochures, websites) or the employer’s
survey in the Quicklaw National Articling Database (NAD).

The cover letter is just as important as the resume. Many legal employers look to the
cover letter as a sample of your writing ability. A great cover letter can get you in the
door, and a bad cover letter with mistakes can get you relegated to the “no” pile.

Cover letters can be painstaking to write, but there is a simple format you can follow if
you are having trouble getting started.

Formula for a Simple Cover Letter
   1) Introduction
   2) Why you chose to apply to this firm/organization
   3) What you have to offer (one or two skills/attributes)
   4) Conclusion

The first paragraph of your letter should be a simple opening sentence that states the
position you are applying for and who you are. Do NOT start your letter with, “My name
is …”. If you are a co-op student you may want to indicate your anticipated date of
graduation especially if you seem “out-of-sync” from other law students and if the
employer is not as familiar with UVic’s law co-op program. You may also want to
address why you are applying to a particular geographic location in your introductory

Why Are You Applying
The second paragraph of your letter should address why you are applying to that
particular organization and how it fits with your career goals. This is where you should
do some research on the employer. Make sure you are accurate about your research.
Do not say you are interested in family law when the firm does not even practice it. Your
reason for applying to the organization may be very specific – it is an intellectual
property boutique firm and that is your area of interest. Or your reason could be broad –
you are interested in the firm’s rotation system and exposure to a number of different
practice areas. This is the paragraph that you should customize for each specific
application based on the research you have done on the employer. Show them how you
would “fit” with their particular firm/organization. Indicate your interests, without coming
across as demanding or difficult.

What Do You Have to Offer
Ideally the 3rd paragraph of your cover letter should connect your past work experience
and skills to what the employer is looking for. Focus on one two skills/attributes and tell
the employer what you have to offer without repeating the content of your resume. If

                                                                      LCO – November 2008

possible highlight relevant experience and skills that connect to the goals of the
organization. For example, if you are applying to a litigation boutique firm you can draw
attention to your mooting experience. If you find it hard to do this, then draw out any
transferable skills you feel you have acquired from past work, volunteer or extra-
curricular activities.

Provide a short concluding paragraph thanking the reader and asking for an interview.
You may want to indicate any enclosures you have included in your application. If you
are going to be in the area during the interview period you may want to include this and
any relevant contact information. You do not have to repeat your phone number if it is
the one included in your letterhead.

Cover Letter “Do’s” & “Don’ts”
   1.     DO remember to address the cover letter to the appropriate person. DON’T
          address it to “To Whom It May Concern”. Take the time to find out the
          contact for the job you are applying to. You can find this in the Employer
          Database on the LCO website, QL’s NAD survey, and the employer’s
          websites and promotional brochures.

   2.      DO personalize your letter to the specific employer. You may have a
           template that you use for all of your applications, but try to find something to
           change for each letter and tailor it to that specific employer. If you do use a
           similar letter for numerous applications, make sure you proofread your letters
           and DON’T mix up firm names and contact through sloppy mail merging.

   3.      DO keep your letter short and simple. Remember the employer may be
           reading hundreds of applications. You do not want to overwhelm the
           employer with things they can glean from your resume. You want your cover
           letter to make a great first impression, but not bore the reader. Try to bring
           forward important “themes” in your resume.

   4.      DO include your reasons for applying to that particular geographical area.
           This is especially important if your resume does not indicate any work
           experience or ties to that area.

   5.      DO proofread both your cover letter and resume. Get a friend to read it over
           too – the more eyes the better.

   6.      DO remember to sign your letter.

                                                                     LCO – November 2008

Resumes formats can differ greatly depending on the field of employment. Generally,
legal employers tend to be a conservative bunch and prefer a neat and logically
organized in a reverse chronological format. Ideally, your resume should only be 2-
pages in length, especially if you are applying to larger law firms that will be reviewing
hundreds of applications. A 3-page resume may be acceptable for a clerkship or
internship where more detail about some of your experience may be warranted. US law
firms prefer a one-page format. There is no need to use expensive coloured paper, as it
does not photocopy very well. Legal employers will likely be photocopying your
application a few times to provide to an articling committee or interview panel.

Format and Organization
The appearance of your resume is more important than you think. A poorly organized
resume reflects how much time and thought you have put into it. A sloppy resume can
send a signal to an employer that you have not bothered to put the time into your
application, and it may not be an accurate reflection of who you really are. Also, a
resume that is visually pleasing to the eye with plenty of white space is much easier for
an employer to read than one where they have to search around for the information.

Suggested Headings
Generally your resume should be organized in reverse chronological order starting first
with Education and then Work Experience. The remaining categories will differ for each
student and should be organized in a way that suits your own personal strengths.
However you choose to organize your resume and list your experience, you should
keep it consistent throughout.

Name & Contact Information
Start with your name, address, phone number and e-mail address in a heading at the
top of your page. You may want to create a “letterhead” with this information that you
can also use for your cover letter. Make sure the information is accurate. You can
include both a school and home/permanent address if it is important for where you are
applying. For example, if you are applying to law firms in Calgary and you are originally
from Calgary, you could include a home address that you will be staying at during the
interview period. Be sure to include an email address. Many law firms will communicate
with applicants by email. Make sure your email address is an appropriate one and one
that you will check regularly for correspondence from potential employers.

The education section should list your degrees, dates obtained, and name and location
of the conferring institution. List your education in reverse chronological order with law
school first. You should indicate your anticipated date of graduation from law school.
This is particularly important with UVic law students who are in the co-op program. You
should indicate if you are in the co-op program and the month and year of your
anticipated graduation i.e.) August 2004.

If you have any academic awards you can list them in reverse chronological order. Offer
a brief explanation for any awards that may not be apparent from the title. You can also
list this information under Education to save space if you wish.

                                                                     LCO – November 2008

Work Experience
List your work experience in reverse chronological order. If you have a lengthy job
history you may only want to go back to your most recent and relevant job experience.
Make sure you include a job title, a place of employment (including city and province),
and dates of employment for each job. Provide a short description that gives the reader
a picture of the transferable skills you gained from your experience. Do include summer
jobs you held throughout your undergraduate studies or part-time employment. Legal
employers are interested in the diversity of experience you have and what you did prior
to law school. Point-form format is easier to read than paragraph, and you can use
bullets to separate each description. Try not to provide overly lengthy descriptions –
remember you want to provide the reader with a quick “snapshot” of the job and what
skills you gained from the experience. Try not to list skills that are obvious from the job
title. For example if your job title was “Customer Service Supervisor” you do not need to
say in a job description “served customers”, but instead you might want to highlight
significant responsibility you had i.e.) “supervised staff of 20 and assisted in managerial
aspects of store”. It is best to start each bullet point with a simple, past or present tense

Skills/Languages/Additional Training
These are optional headings, and generally not necessary with applications to legal
employers. Legal employers will expect that you have basic computer skills and you
have received training in Quicklaw, Lexis-Nexis etc. If you are fluent in any languages
you SHOULD include this. In this section you can include any additional training or
courses that you have taken i.e.) dispute resolution course outside of law school.

Extra-Curricular Activities/Volunteer Involvement
The title of this heading can vary. Some students have lots of community involvement
with organizations outside of school, while others may be involved in student
government or other university clubs and activities. It is important not to “pad” your
resume. If you put an activity on your resume you should be prepared to talk about your
involvement in that activity and how you contributed. You may want to provide a short
description for significant volunteer or extra-curricular activities, especially for activities
where you have had significant involvement.

Do include your interests and hobbies. Legal employers do like to know “who you are”.
You may find that if you have a unique interest or hobby on your resume the employer
will ask you more questions about it an interview than your Master’s thesis in English
Literature. Who knows, the person interviewing you may have ran a marathon too and it
will be a starting point of the conversation. If you do include interests on your resume be
prepared to talk about them in an interview – if reading is listed as one of your interests
think about what you would say about that interest if asked in an interview. Be specific.
For example instead of writing “Travelling”, include the list of places you’ve been, or
your favorite travel destination.

Listing references is optional unless the employer specifically requests them. Most legal
employers do not contact references. If you do include names of references make sure
you ask the reference before including them and provide them with a current copy of

                                                                        LCO – November 2008

your resume. Provide their name, title, and place of employment. The phrase
“References Available on Request” is not necessarily that helpful and should be left off.
You can check the job posting, the Quicklaw NAD survey, and the employer’s website
to see if they specifically request them. Law firms are NOT looking for academic
references. Go to former employers, not professors – unless you have done research
for them. Remember your transcripts will be included with your application package, so
a professor writing a letter stating you were in his/her class and received a “B+” does
not add anything to your application package. When applying for graduate studies or
clerkships, academic references ARE required.

What NOT To Include in a Resume
   No typographical, spelling or grammatical errors
   Small font – try to use a 12 point font
   Time gaps that may leave questions for the reader
   A title of “Resume or Curriculum Vitae” at the top of your page
   An objective line is not necessary in a legal resume
   Age, Marital Status, Citizenship
   Do not list your law school courses under education; the employer can get this
      information from your transcript
   LSAT Score
   The use of the pronoun “I”
   Acronyms that are hard to figure out (i.e. if applying to an internship with the UN
      in The Hague, they may not know what UVic refers to)

                                                                    LCO – November 2008

                                   Suzy S. Smith
   1234 Flower Lane  Victoria, BC  V4N 4T7  (250) 666-9705  suzy@uvic.ca

May 19, 2008

Mr. Greg McDade, QC
Ratcliff & Company
500-221 West Esplanade
Vancouver, BC V7M 3J3

Dear Mr. McDade:

RE:     2009-2010 Articling Position

Please accept my application for an articling position for the 2009-2010 term with Ratcliff &
Company. I am a second year student at the University of Victoria, Faculty of Law.

I am particularly interested in an articling position with Ratcliff & Company because your
firm would provide the unique opportunity to work in aboriginal law representing First
Nations communities, yet also allow students to gain experience in other areas of law such
as real estate and family. I am generally interested in litigation, but I would like the
opportunity to gain some experience in solicitor’s work during my articling year. I am
attracted to the size of your firm, and the opportunity for students to fully participate in
files and gain some courtroom experience.

Through my work experience and courses in my undergrad and at law school I have
developed a strong interest in aboriginal and environmental issues. During my employment
at Ecojustice Canada in Vancouver I had the opportunity to work closely with staff lawyers
on some important projects involving current aboriginal and environmental law issues. I am
a member of the UVic Law Environmental Law Centre and I have taken a number of
aboriginal and environmental law courses, including the Environmental Law Centre Clinic. I
possess strong legal research and writing skills gained through my work experiences.

Please find enclosed a copy of my resume and copies of my undergraduate and law school
transcripts. Thank you for considering my application. I would welcome the opportunity to
interview with your firm.


Suzy Smith


                                                                       LCO – November 2008

                                  Suzy S. Smith
   1234 Flower Lane  Victoria, BC  V4N 4T7  (250) 666-9705  suzy@uvic.ca


2006 -         Bachelor of Laws – University of Victoria, Faculty of Law
Present        Anticipated date of graduation May 2009
               Completed Environmental Law Centre Clinic (Fall 2007)
                undertook specific research projects for clients under the supervision of
                 the instructors (course for academic credit)

2006           Bachelor of Arts – University of Western Ontario, London, ON
               Major: First Nations Studies
               Graduated with distinction


   Law Foundation Entrance Scholarship (2006) – University of Victoria, Faculty of Law
   President’s Scholarship (2002) – University of Western Ontario
   Dean’s Honour List (2004, 2005, 2006) – University of Western Ontario

WORK EXPERIENCE___________________________________________________

Summer 2008 Temporary Articled Student
            Ecojustice Canada – Vancouver, BC
             Provided legal research and opinions to staff lawyers including research
               in the areas of forestry, environmental, aboriginal and administrative law
             Organized and participated in community forums and consultations

Summers        Server
2006, 2007     The Keg Restaurant – Vancouver, BC

Sept 2005 -    Teaching Assistant (Professor R. Rhododenren)
May 2006       Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Western Ontario – London, ON
                Assisted in marking and evaluating assignments
                Taught weekly tutorial sessions
                Worked up to 20 hours per week while taking a full course load

Summers        Outdoor Adventure Retail Staff
2004, 2005     Hikers Haven – London, ON

                                                                     LCO – November 2008

                                                                          Suzy S. Smith – page 2

Summer 2003; Staff Manager & Sales Associate
July 2001 -  Westbeach – Vancouver, BC
Aug 2002      Supervised staff of 30
              Motivated staff by developing creative sales contests

VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE____________________________________________

Sept 2006 -      Volunteer Advocate
Present          TAPS (Together Against Poverty Society) – Victoria, BC
                  Assist clients with disability applications; prepare submissions and
                    represent clients before the BC Benefits Tribunal

Sept 2004 -      Volunteer
April 2006       Neighbourhood Legal Services – London, ON
                  Responsible for intake interviews, landlord-tenant inquiries,
                    and research

March 2000 - Volunteer
Aug 2002     Habitat for Humanity – Vancouver, BC

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES ______________________________________

2007 - Present          Student Researcher
                        Student Legal Information Clinic, UVic Faculty of Law

2006 - Present          Member & Student Researcher
                        Environmental Law Centre, UVic Faculty of Law

2006 - Present          Treasurer
                        Publicly Active Law Students (PALS), UVic Faculty of Law

2006 - 2007             Team Member
                        Intramural Ultimate, UVic Faculty of Law

2004 - 2006             Team Member
                        Intramural Soccer League, University of Western Ontario


Sports: Soccer, Ultimate, Snowboarding, Yoga
Art: Watercolour Painting, Pen & Ink Drawing
Travel: Australia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Greece

                                                                       LCO – November 2008

                                                             Suzy S. Smith – page 3


  Ms. Linda Johnson
  Ecojustice Canada (formally Sierra Legal Defense Fund)
  Suite 214-131 Water Street
  Vancouver, BC V6B 4M3
  (604) 123-1234

  Professor R. Rhododenren
  Faculty of Social Sciences
  University of Western Ontario
  University College 112
  London, ON N6A 3K7
  (519) 234-5678

  Mr. Bill Smith
  123 Oak Street
  Vancouver, BC V1G 3Y6
  (604) 123-1234

                                                           LCO – November 2008