Mia Carpiniello, J.D., Associate Director
With the law school application season upon us, I thought our prior blog post on crafting an effective law school resume would prove helpful to our current applicants. So, read on below! And don’t forget to also check out the two sample law school resumes provided on our pre-law website (https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices//gradprof/law/), which will serve as helpful guides to you as you prepare your own law school resume.
Your resume is one the several components that ultimately comprise your applications to law school. Many students (and alumni) at Penn usually have some kind of resume in their possession – some are very up-to-date (for those actively applying for internships, jobs, or fellowships) and others have not seen a substantive update since high school graduation. While some applications will ask you to list your most significant experiences directly on the application, there are often only a few lines to do so and the expectation is that you keep that brief and prioritized. With that in mind, your resume is actually a very important aspect of your law school applications since, for many schools, it is the only opportunity to list and describe all of your activities, achievements, and involvements in full detail. Law school admissions committees are very interested in how you spend your time and energy outside of class, so it is essential that you create a strong, accurate, and flattering portrayal of yourself on your resume.
There are several ways, however, that distinguish a law school resume from the aforementioned resume you might use in job or internship applications. In addition to the two sample law school resumes I have provided for your reference on our pre-law website (under Law School Application Components), here are five (relatively) easy steps in converting the latter into the former.
- Stop cramming everything in. Since law school admissions committees want you to use your resume to represent a full picture of your involvements, the days of eight-point fonts and 0.2-inch margins are gone. In fact, most law schools will happily accept resumes that are 1-2 pages in length. That’s right, your resume can finally be longer than one page for these purposes. With that in mind, clarity and readability is critical. So, widen those margins (to 1-inch) and increase that font size (to at least 11-point font… 12-point font is great, too) and feel free to increase the spacing between entries as well. All of your terrific achievements and activities will be much easier to read and admissions officers will thank you for that.
- Stop leaving things out. Now that you have 1-2 pages, you can (and should) feel free to revisit older drafts of your one-page resume and include the less significant, but certainly important experiences that didn’t make the final one-page-resume cut. In fact, it’s important for law school admissions committees that you account for your time – both during the academic year and over the summers – so, again, they can see the full picture of who you are and what you have done as a candidate. So, that summer that you worked as a lifeguard or a waitress or a camp counselor – that can now reside on your law school resume as well.
- Toot your (academic) horn. After all, this is an academic program to which you’re applying. Your Education section should be complete and detailed and, without exception, the first section that appears on your law school resume. This is also the space to provide any academic highlights that might not appear directly on your transcript, like the title of your Senior Honors Thesis or detail about your study abroad program, to draw the admissions committee’s attention to your scholarly accomplishments. On the same note, if you have accumulated any academic honors – Dean’s List, Honor Society inductions, Departmental Prizes – it is recommended that you create a separate section on your law school resume that enumerates and, if necessary, explains them. You can title this section heading something like Honors and Awards, for example, and this section should also directly follow your Education section for consistency.
- Give extracurricular activities equal real estate. Law schools are filled with innumerable student groups and organizations and, perhaps unsurprisingly, law school admissions committees are very interested in filling their incoming classes with active and engaged students who will contribute to their vibrant student life. So, your participation in extracurricular involvements in college – especially those activities in which you ascended to leadership roles – is highly relevant and interesting to admissions committees, as are your more professional experiences. You should treat your extracurricular and leadership activities with the same level of detail and depth on your law school resume as you would, say, your summer internships. Provide the dates that you were involved, descriptions of your activities and responsibilities, the positions/titles you held and, of course, make sure that these campus activities have their own appropriate section heading.
- Say good-bye (for the most part) to high school. Law schools are interested in the adult version of you and, as a senior or an alumnus/a, that will largely not include activities and honors from high school. That’s not to say that, if you had a few significant experiences and/or prestigious accomplishments before coming to Penn, that you couldn’t still list them on your law school resume. But those should not be more than a few (1-2) and should be chosen thoughtfully. If you had a significant leadership in a high school club (President, Founder, etc.), achieved a distinctive honor (Valedictorian, Class Speaker, National Merit Finalist, etc.), or substantively participated in a significant activity outside of high school (lab research, summer internship, etc.), then you still might consider including them on a law school resume. But, it’s time to delete that you were the Secretary of the French Club in your sophomore year of high school. And please delete your high school GPA, however impressive it is (and was, at the time, to the Penn Undergraduate Admissions Office).