Preparing Your CV

CV’s can come in many shapes of forms, but in our experience there are elements that most good Australian legal CVs share.

Here are some tips and rough guidelines around structure and form that are commonly used to great effect by legal job seekers.

Content

  • Focus needs to be on demonstrating the experience you have gained working as a lawyer, rather than stating subjective skill-sets and abilities.
  • It is your experience set out in a detailed matter list (see below) which will be the fundamental factor in determining whether you get an interview.
  • There is no need to include photos or information such as marital status and date of birth.

Format

  • The CV should be presented on a plain background without borders, photo’s, or other embellishments.
  • The layout should be simple with use of bold subheadings, paragraphs and dot points.
  • Ensure your drafting is in plain English; do not use legalese or refer to yourself in the third person.
  • Pay attention to grammar and content must be concise and to the point.
  • Use standard formats consistently throughout the CV. Do not use background colour in headings.
  • We recommend about three to four pages maximum. Any more is unnecessary. Do not follow the American standard of one page for Australian roles
  • Remember that your drafting ability will be judged from your CV
  • It’s a good idea to have a master copy that you can then customise for each role depending on particular skill requirements that the employer is looking for.

Structure

In terms of structure, we recommend legal industry CV’s should generally follow the following recognisable format and structure which many applicants utilise. Feel free to vary, but this is what we most commonly see. As follows:

  1. Contact Details:
    • Name
    • Phone Number
    • Email Address
  2. Education and Admission:
    • Include your admission date (month as well as year is important for applicants under Senior Associate level) and the institutions where you did your degrees together with completion date. If you achieved honours or the equivalent, list it
  3. Legal Experience:
    • Employers should be listed chronologically from your most recent to your first. Any summer clerkships or the like should be given minimal attention and left out if you are a more senior practitioner. Do not exclude any legal employers after admission, no matter how short the tenure
    • List the employer, your title, practice group you worked in and the months you were there, not just the years, particularly if you are a junior lawyer.
    • It is also sometimes helpful to put a URL link to the employer’s website, and/or a brief description of the firm, particularly if you are applying from interstate or internationally to give the reader some further understanding of who your past employers are, as well as experience and professional training you have obtained.
    • After each employer, list some example matters you worked on during your tenure to illustrate your skill-set and aggregate these where necessary into particular sub areas of speciality e.g insolvency and general commercial litigation, property development and leasing, M&A and procurement etc. This should be in order that you either want to emphasise for the role you are applying to or by default where the focus of your experience has been.
    • Alternatively, if you are senior and looking to minimise CV size, you can aggregate your employers into one list/chronological table and then aggregate all your experience together in an extended matter list with clearly set out areas of sub speciality. This will help you cut down your CV size to the recommended 4 pages by avoiding duplication of types of matters or areas of experience.
    • Your matter list should be a clearly set out series of short descriptions of the matters you have worked on within an area of speciality. Each description should explain the area of law (e.g property/litigation) , the type of matter (e.g acquisition/misrepresentation), the value of the deal/claim where that is in the public domain (e.g 10m+), the level of autonomy you had (e.g. carriage v’s supervision v’s part of a team), the actual tasks you performed in the matter and the end result.
    • Where possible the matter list should state client name, particularly if they are well known, however keep in mind confidentiality; where needed you can describe your client generically i.e. Acted for listed Australian FMCG company/International Infrastructure Company etc.
  4. Other Work Experience:
    • If you are a lawyer at the junior end of the scale, without many other employers, set out any other pre-law work experience you may have had in brief, but there is no need to go into much detail; one or two lines should be enough.
    • Once you have been working professionally for 3 years or so, this becomes irrelevant unless it adds something to your ability to do the role e.g. if you were a IT analyst pre-law and you are going for a IT Lawyer role, put it in.
  5. Academic Achievements/Awards – e.g golden key, won the Moot
  6. Memberships
    • Any professional associations e.g ACLA, LIV etc.
  7. Interests:
    • Include this as a list and keep it brief, mention any sports, social interests and other pursuits
    • Although lawyers often ask us whether they need to put this section, it also can give interviewers a topic of conversation in the interview that allows you to get your personality across outside of the law and build rapport with a potential employer.

Don’t worry about listing referees – simply note that they will be provided at a later date.