Friday, September 25, 2015

The lawyer resume format: Have we've been doing it all wrong?

My Foundation's Creative Director reviewed my resume recently and she was shocked when she saw its structure. Nobody's going to hire you if you present it like that, she concluded. What she didn't know was that it was actually more and less how an attorney's (or law student's) resume is supposed to look like. This was how my Career Services contact revised and show me to do it during my first year. And this how everybody else has been doing it- I showed her samples from schools like Yale, although shorter than mine. But why? Here's where the problem is- on a "legal" resume education goes first, before experience. And this is something that hasn't been sitting well. It looks as if my degrees are my biggest accomplishment. I guess with a typical applicant it doesn't make much of a difference. They list the college they went to for undergrad ans above it - where they got their JD. Two to four lines max, and then you get to the meat and potatoes. I have three law degrees from two different countries, I participated in conferences and competitions, I finished two foreign centers of foreign law, I have Dean's lists and Book awards and scholarships. You have to read through half a page of text before you get to any experience and that might be impressive if I looked for a career in academia, not law practice. You need to feature your biggest asset she said - and that is where you worked previously. That's why typical resumes/CVs have it in the reverse order. Work is more important than school. And I guess because this section was intentionally intended to be short- just a quick glimpse at a school name to get the idea about what to expect, for most people it makes no difference. I do think with me it pulls focus away from what I wanted to feature. And the same time I don't want to remove entries from my resume, as I'm proud of all of them just so it can have a better flow. So here's where my problem is: On one hand II know that "the other type" of resume would suit me better upon reading. On the other it could reflect on me poorly. This is what my industry expects, not following the standard, the protocol, the accepted format makes me truly look like a novice. I might as well just print it on a pink scented paper and sign it with a pen with a fluffy tip on top like the character from Legally Blonde. Sure, it would give me attention, but would it be for the right reasons? When you read through some of the job postings they seem to test the candidates on their ability to follow instructions. Answer these questions in a reverse order in your cover letter, one of them said. On the other hand do I risk being completely overlooked if I don't give myself the edge? Shouldn't all communication be purposeful and if I'm running the risk of sacrificing content for format and not presenting myself in an effective way, don't I lose either way? That format was adopted for a reason- a reason presumably other than just following it blindly on a set of presumptions. Presumptions that worked for many but not all. At one point adherence to a standard not only overweighs communication but hinders it. What should happen then. On a personal note, it got me to think, although I never have the courage to do it, I have so many things stacked up against me. I'm in a wheelchair, I'm a foreigner, but I'm educated and I'm creative. And I just want to practice law. Or educate people about it. Maybe being a bit outside of the box can't give me more of a disadvantage that my life already has. Perhaps I shouldn't fear featuring my assets, because no matter what I do I will always be different.

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