The Lawyer 2B CV workshop

In a brand-new feature, each week our expert careers advisor takes a look at a reader’s CV and gives some useful tips on how to improve it.

Welcome to a brand-new feature at Lawyer2B: our CV workshop. In every edition, we’ll take a real CV sent to us by a reader and get it critiqued by an expert.

And not just any old expert: we’re lucky enough to have Gemma Baker, the head of careers at Kaplan Law School. Gemma worked in grad recruitment for ten years before joining Kaplan – she was at Ashurst, Trowers & Hamlins and Mayer Brown – so she’s been on the inside and knows exactly what law firms are looking for.

Case 1: ‘Shelley’

Shelley is just entering her third year of an LLB. Here’s the CV she sent in. We’ve changed her name and a few personal details, but otherwise it’s unchanged. The red numbers are where Gemma has made notes: scroll down to see what she had to say…

Shelley Calvert
Shelley Calvert
Gemma Baker
Gemma Baker

Gemma says… 

“I think the student is not giving herself opportunity to shine. None of her grades are listed and her fantastic extra curricular achievements are played down. Remember, your CV introduces you and represents you to potential employers. It is essential to include and expand on key achievements and interest. It does not have to be law related! There is a great deal of potential in this CV – but remember recruiters are rushed, they won’t have time to read between the lines or ask for more information – it is up to you to get this across.

Formatting is important, the right (modern, professional) font and size will enable to you to include more details, without cramming. Ensure your document is set to single line spacing and don’t have huge margins.”

Gemma’s notes

[1] Make sure you are using UK English if you are applying to UK firms. When writing down your mobile number there is no need to include the 0044 code for the UK, as it isn’t needed.

[2] Give year when graduating.

[3] There are no marks here from any modules, therefore no indication that the student will get a 2.1 I would include the first year average as a %.

[4] This should not be under education; it should be included in work experience or Achievements & Interest and there should be a great deal more information about the student’s involvement and responsibilities.

[5] There are no marks here. What did the student get in each module in the IB? What are the original grades? 

[6] Please give some explanation as to what this course is.

[7] Generally law firms don’t have ‘internships’. Was this a vacation scheme or work experience? Please be distinct.

[8] There shouldn’t be a full stop here.

[9] What did you learn about the firm, about City law? What insights did you gain? Give some context about the team you worked in – did you work with partners/associates? Further, give more information about the work undertaken. Who did you conduct research/write reports for? What was it used for – in letters of advice? Was it sent to clients? Ensure you are highlighting any achievements in your work. The advice above can be applied to all work experience here.

[10] Is this definitely the name of the department? Or is it a team?

[11] What did you do at the ABA and Court of Athens – did your visits have purpose?

[12] The firm’s name is spelt with “&”, not ‘and’. These are tiny details, which are essential to get right.

[13] Is this employment or volunteer work? I would like more detail here. How many students are in the groups. What year are they in (we don’t have grades in the UK), what topics do you discuss?

[14] No need to include any IT here.

[15] Way more information here! How often do you participate or train? Give some explanation about I am Here – it sounds great! The Euro Youth Parliament – amazing! More information please – is this still ongoing? What do you mean by representing Greece – what views do you voice? How do you prepare? How often are you involved?

The student sounds as if they have participated in many debating competitions, which makes me wonder whether all the relevant information is on here? Is everything included. Include all achievements and interests from the age of 15/16 onwards – it does NOT have be law related, so: music – the student plays the piano so have they been in an orchestra or band, or had solo performances? Sport, positions of responsibility, debating/mooting, acting/drama, voluntary or community-based work: include it all!

Have you got the CV-jeebies?

Submit your CV, covering letter or application form and, if selected, Gemma will take a look at it. 

We’re looking for people who are ready to apply for training contracts and/or pupillages, so you should be at least in your second year of university.

Do give us a little bit of detail in the email about what stage you are currently at, whether you are/will be applying for training contracts or pupillages, what sort of law you want to practice and where, etc. You might also want to include any specific questions you have about your CV (eg. “Should I include my poor A level results?”) However, don’t feel the need to write loads or sell yourself to us. We’ll pay very little attention to what you put in the email, apart from using it to give Gemma a little more background knowledge about you.