How to Build your CV for a Law Firm: An Easy Guide for Students
Building a resume or a Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a daunting task, isn't it? What if I told you that it actually only takes five minutes, and it does not even matter much? Well, I would be lying about both things.
Building a resume or a Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a daunting task, isn't it? What if I told you that it actually only takes five minutes, and it does not even matter much? Well, I would be lying about both things. However, it is a fair transaction – a back-breaking effort for a well-lit future. It might be the only sheet of paper that actually matters. In the following words, I will explain two related, yet distinct things – Building a law firm resume and drafting it
Building a Good CV for a Law Firm
By this, I refer to the actual task of achieving the content that goes in your resume. The series of planning, execution and experience spanning 3 or 5 years as the course may be that incorporates the professional skeleton of your law school life. The first step toward having a desirable resume is to realize as soon as possible that you have the power and the responsibility to curate your resume. Law school curriculum is not like an ordinary course; here you fill your own plate choosing from the wide array of available opportunities. There is only so much that your plate can hold, so you need to pick carefully but you do need to pick. Therefore, you need to plan!
Focus on your Target Audience and Start Researching
Here, the target is a law firm. Thus begins the research part of it. Researching which top-paying firm is on lists and surveys is interesting but not particularly useful. You need to research and make a list of firms that are likely to offer an internship for your current profile. Your profile will take time to get better. Cursing it as it stands now is not going to help. Just get going with an internship at a start-up firm or an internship through someone you know or by contacting alumni on LinkedIn. Put that on your resume and apply for a better place for three months far.
Building a resume is like a well-synchronized heist! You need a written timeline for your plan to get executed at the right time no matter how occupied you are at that time. This is how the basic problem goes. For any good internship, you need to apply three months before your proposed start date (unless otherwise mentioned by them). We will deal with the application itself in the second section.
For instance, if this is January and you write the subject of your email as "Internship Application: March 2021; New Delhi Office", this email will not be responded to unless there was a call for internship posted from their side in the first place.
Thus begins the following up. The often outshined gem of landing big internships is the periodicity and sincerity of your follow-up emails. A follow-up email is just a simple email sent approximately two weeks after the application email. It says that you are still really keen on working with them; it may also mention another skill or experience of yours not previously mentioned and requests them to consider you.
After the first follow up is sent, send another follow-up email one week after that. You can then call the office. So let us see what it does to our timeline:
January 1st – Application
January 14th – 1st Follow up
January 21st – 2nd Follow up
January 30th – Call Office and seek an update
March 1st – Proposed Internship
You have probably begun realizing why alarms are going to be needed to properly execute this plan but let us take it to the next level. This is just one internship application. You need to have a backup plan as well. If you are applying through a cell, there may be restraint in applying to more than one place. It is certainly a bad idea to apply in bulk but it is equally risky to apply to just one. It is the age-old adage –
Put your eggs in a few baskets and then watch them all closely.
So, what is the final picture? Just factor in two other applications following the same dates and add a date before 1st January (say 28th December) on which you will finish making your resume, cover letter, etc.
Brownie Points for a Law Firm Internship
- Internship at a Government Ministry: An internship at ministries such as the Competition Commission of India, Sports Authority of India, Serious Fraud Investigation Office, Patent Office, Cyber Pad and so on which may be most relevant to the subject area of the desired firm will hold great value in your resume. Remember that you are usually required to be in your 3rd or 4th year to acquire these internships so your first goal should be building a resume for this.
- Company Secretary (CS) Course: A heatedly debated topic in law school is whether a CS course is helpful or not for a job in a law firm. Well, it may just be settled that it has a good part in securing corporate internships, and sincere performance in those internships might land you a job.
- If you have found a good company, repeat: Most, if not all, pre-placement offers (PPOs/job offers during law school) are offered to the intern who has worked at the company for at least three months. So, if you feel like you have found a place you want to work at, intern repeatedly, or intern alongside college and acquire months of experience. It will either land you a job there, or the people who now know you there coupled with the experience you acquired will land you another one quickly.
Supplement all of this with periodic research, reading and interaction with peers and seniors and you are all set for the most difficult part of building your CV.
Now, let us gather some tips for effective drafting.
Drafting a Good Resume for a Law Firm – Tips
- Research the firm you are applying to, and understand the position you will be working at. You are looking for the values they appreciate, subject areas they deal in and the skills required for the given position.
- Highlight the above skills and subject areas in your resume as well as the values in your cover letter. You can choose to use bold letters for something which is indispensable but do not highlight or colour.
- It need not be said that your past corporate internships are to be highlighted, and if you have worked there before, do mention it in the email.
- Firms value skills like leadership and research above others. Find ways to highlight these. Describe organizational achievements like "Led a team of 7 people in the ABC Committee".
- Moot Courts, especially on corporate laws, hold great value in your application to a firm if you have a "Semi-finalist" to write. Even quarter-finals or participation in prestigious moots in the area, such as NUJS Herbert Smith, M C Chagla, GLC Tax Law and the like are to be highlighted.
- Convenorship and equivalent positions in societies matter more than you might think.
- Proofread it; see that it is aligned correctly on both sides, opens in the web browser and not just Adobe (they won't download it you see).
More tips and guidance may be drawn from the sample attached below. If you feel the motivation but feel confused and overwhelmed at how to begin, go back to the top and read it again! This time start implementing it as you see it. Good luck!
Contributed By: Ashish Agarwal