LSAT Kung Fu Blog / How To Get Into Law School: The Résumé
How To Get Into Law School: The Résumé
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to continue our look at each piece of the law school application. We’re going to work chronologically—that is, we’ll take each item in the order that you should (in a perfect world, one in which you can maybe go back in time and fix your mistakes) be working on it. I’ve chosen to use a Q+A format, to make you feel like we’re in this together. It will be fun. I
promise absolutely do not promise that.
Last week, we looked at how your Diversity Statement figures into your admissions decision. This week, we’re taking a crack at your law school résumé. Again, we’re going with the Q+A structure, because it’s delightful:
So, what is it? It’s an academic résumé!
You say that like it should mean something to me. Well, what I mean is this: Law schools don't care so much about what kind of employee you’d make; they’re sizing you up as a prospective student. So, the fact that you were salesperson of the month three months running while you worked at Plain Jane's Whips and Chains ("Your Pain is Our Gain!”) isn’t terribly meaningful to them, since it doesn't tell them whether you're likely to succeed in an academic setting.
Think of it this way: You aren't applying for a job, so don't make your résumé look like you are. Job listings are important on your résumé only inasmuch as they tell schools what you've been spending your time doing.
OK. That’s what not to do; what should I do instead? Put your academic credentials up top, and expand them; instead of listing your work achievements, list your academic achievements. In fact, the academics section is probably the only place on the résumé that warrants expansion. Your job is to highlight that you're good at school. It's parallel to how you'd try to impress a prospective employer, but the important parts are about college, not work.
This makes me think: How important is this to my application? Not very. It’s a sort of corroboration of the other elements of your application. A perfect résumé won’t get you into law school if you’ve got a poor LSAT and GPA. But a half-assed one isn’t likely to harm your chances much. Still, there is zero reason in the universe to submit a half-assed résumé. Just do the thing, and as with anything you do, do it the best you can.
Cool. Can we get back to the work portion of the résumé for a sec? Totally. It’s important to note that this general advice about concentrating on your school record should be mitigated by the amount of time you've spent outside of college. If you graduated many years ago, it's appropriate to put more weight on your career. Still, even in this case, start from the perspective that academics matter most. Put them up top, and only hit the major points of your work life.
K. But what if I’m younger; just about to graduate college? Should I include academic info from my high school? No. Schools don't care what you did in high school. Why would they? In the same way that a career after college erodes the importance of the academic sections, the fact that you've graduated from college erodes your high school achievements. When we talk about your educational history, we mean your college and post-grad work. Here, let's try it like a cheer: When I say Academic Résumé!, you say College!
That’s literally the worst cheer I’ve ever heard. Sorry, I guess. But who died and made you Cheer Police?
Is it useful to include a Skills section? Not at all. Why on earth does it matter that you're proficient in MS Paint? Who cares that you can manipulate an Excel spreadsheet like Jon Snow wields a sword? (Sweet Game of Thrones reference). Skills are important to employers; work skills are not very important (if at all) to law schools. Now, if you have learned to do legal research and write strong legal synthesis, that would be worth mentioning.
OK. So should I leave off an Interests section, too? Nope. Put that back in! Having diverse interests is useful! Now, don't fake interests. That's gross, and law schools have excellent BS detectors. But, if you do have a deep abiding love for scuba photography, this is helpful to share. Law school admissions officers are like everybody else in the world; they're attracted to passion. Show them what you're passionate about, and then your Personal Statement will help them see that your passion can translate into performance in school (and on the bar!).
Hold up a second. Earlier, you said the résumé should corroborate the other portions of my application. What does that mean? Well, for example, in that incredible Personal Statement we were just now talking about, you told the committee that what you really want to do is change the world (but you didn't say it like that, because you took my advice and wrote it mo' better). OK. Cool. THEN WHY HAVEN'T YOU DONE ANYTHING TO CHANGE THE WORLD? Seriously, to be effective, every aspect of your application should tell schools about the best version of who you actually are. In other words, the separate pieces of the app should corroborate each other. Your résumé should remind the reader of the person they met in your Personal Statement. I mean, the two should at least look like they came from the same person.
That makes sense. Good.
Anything else I should do? Yeah! Keep it short. Almost nobody needs more than a single page for their law school résumé (if you think you do, no, you really don’t. OK. Take another look at the first part of this post and if you really need two pages to accomplish what we’ve set out to do, then you do you, man). But getting it all on one page shows schools that you're good at an essential lawyerly skill; analysis. It shows that you were able to comb through all the information scattered behind you like a tail, and you picked out the important parts. Your résumé should make you seem like a curator at a great museum; it highlights the important facts and leaves out the extraneous crap.
Well, much as I hate to admit it, this was helpful. OK, cool.
Questions? Comments? Complaints? Post them below, or shoot me an email.
Be good to one another, for we need it now more than maybe ever,
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