Preparing a great law student CV
Creating a great CV when you're a student can be challenging. First there's the fact that you are writing about YOU. Knowing what are the strongest aspects of your experience, study and life so far can be hard to see from the outside. Should you include your part-time job in retail, your high school grades, the first aid certificate you did last year or the name of the one course you got an HD in?
Next there's the worry that you don't have enough to include on your CV (especially compared to those students who seem to have been compiling achievements since primary school!) How do you know if you have put in enough information and whether you have highlighted the right details in the right places?
And finally there's that nagging feeling that it just doesn't look that good. Should you use more bold, colour, less headings (more headings), keywords, dot points, fancy font or none of the above?
To help with these "pain points" the following discussion goes through the structure of a student CV, indicating key things to include. If, after this, you feel you still need someone to look over your CV, get in touch via the link at the bottom of the article.
WRITE YOUR OWN CV
It can be very tempting, when starting out, to use a template for your CV. While there are thousands available online, the problem with most of them is that they are not suited to the job you are applying for or the information you need to include.
Your CV needs to put forward your information in the best way possible, and this may require a different layout, focus or information than a template. So my advice is to create your own CV using the general structure below.
PUT PERSONAL DETAILS FIRST
Your personal details form the first part of your CV and should include your name, pronoun if relevant, phone number and email. You don't need to include your address or date of birth unless asked for.
These are often set out like the following:
Esme Richards (she/her)
Phone: 123 456 789
SET OUT YOUR EDUCATIONAL INFORMATION
This is a key part of your CV whatever year of law school you are in and should be clearly laid out so it is easy to read. Include the degree/s you are studying, any specialisation/major for a second degree, your university, the year you started and the year you anticipate finishing your degree/s.
You should also include your ATAR (for first and second year students) and your GPA or WAM (whichever is higher) for later year students. If you are studying 2 degrees, include separate ATAR or WAM for each. If your second degree GPA/WAM is not as high as your law GPA/WAM - you can leave it out.
Suggested layout is as follows:
2019 - 2021 Juris Doctor, University of Melbourne (expected completion Dec 2021)
2013 – 2018 Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws (BA LLB), National University of Singapore
First Class Honours
2018 Year 12 Certificate, Allswell College Melbourne (ATAR: 95)
NOW INCLUDE ANY WORK EXPERIENCE
Work experience is one of the most important parts of any CV. If you do have relevant law experience (including any research work, internships or law firm experience), great. But don't be nervous about listing part time jobs that are unrelated to law if that's what you have.
Put your work history in reverse chronological order and include the months or years worked and the key tasks/role involved. Focus on the aspects that are most relevant to the particular law job, internship or position you are applying for (ie good time management, email/phone communication, areas of responsibility). If you do have law related experience, be sure to specify the main skills involved, and include a referee related to this work if possible (see below).
Suggested layout is as follows:
Sept 2020 – Present Research Assistant, Associate Professor Phillips, ABC Law School
In this role, I undertake legal research on Commonwealth sentencing
decisions. I am required to manage my own time, undertake detailed
analysis of relevant judicial decisions and compile case summaries.
Jan 2020 – Dec 2020 Sales Consultant, Foxy Shoes
In this role, I assisted members of the public with their enquires about
shoes and related products. I worked as part of a small team, was
responsible for purchase transactions and phone enquiries, and
compiled online orders.
EXTRACURRICULAR AND VOLUNTEER WORK
Not everyone has experience on a committee or doing volunteer work but it is great if you do. Include the duration of the work, the role and the organisation. This is also where you can put details of any mooting competitions or other law school activities you have been involved in, and membership of any clubs and societies whether on or off campus.
Suggested layout is as follows:
VOLUNTEER WORK AND MEMBERSHIPS
July 2021 Team member, ABC Law School Mooting team
March - Dec 2020 Volunteer, Red Cross Melbourne, delivering food packages to elderly
residents during COVID lockdown and restrictions.
2019 - present Member of ABC University Green Student Society
Feb 2019 Student Volunteer, ABC University, showing local high school students
around the University
Jan 2019 St Johns Ambulance First Aid Certificate
DON'T BE SHY ABOUT YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS
Don't worry if you don't have specific achievements to include. But if you do, you can either include them within the relevant section above or in their own section. Achievements include prizes, awards, published papers, and elected roles in University or Law School societies.
INCLUDE YOUR INTERESTS
Including your interests, sports, languages or other general activities is important as employers like to see you have a life outside university (haha!) and will often ask questions about your interests in interviews. They also show your personality and what it important to you outside your studies.
INCLUDE AT LEAST 3 REFEREES
Including referees in your CV is important as it shows that there are people willing to support you. In the ideal world it is best to have at least one academic, one work and one personal referee. Include their name, title, organisation, phone number and email. If you don't want your referees contacted without your permission leave out their phone number and email and include the words "Contact details available upon request".
If you don't think an academic knows you well enough to be your referee, make an appointment to see one in a course you have enjoyed or done well in and discuss your studies and what you are applying for. You can then follow up by asking in person or via email if they are happy to be your referee. Academics know this is an important part of their work and are usually willing to help.
PAY ATTENTION TO FORMATTING
The way you present the information in your CV is important to making sure it is easy to read. Use headings, columns, dot points if you have a lot of information and full sentences to describe your work experience. As the examples above show, it often looks good to have a column on the left side of the page with years/dates and then a second column with details of your degree, experience, activities etc. List all information in reverse chronological order with most recent work/activities first.
Bright colours or images are to be avoided (black font is best). Also use a standard font like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. Keep you CV to 2 pages if you are a later year student or 1 page if you are a first or second year student.
PROOFREAD YOUR CV - AT LEAST 3 TIMES
Triple proofread your CV. It is so easy to miss mistakes no matter how careful you are, so it is also good to use spell checking software or audio replay, or get someone else to read your CV through.
To get feedback on your own CV, contact me here