University of New Hampshire

School of Law

Legal Career Toolkit – Résumé Dos and Don’ts

Format is important. If the resume looks hard to read, is too long or doesn't have enough white space, it may get thrown out. A well-written resume will highlight academic and work experience that is relevant to the employer and demonstrates your skills, achievements and interests.

See here for examples of resumes.


  • Keep your resume to one page. A general rule is one page for every 10 years of relevant experience. It is acceptable to go to slightly more than one page only if everything on the resume is clearly relevant and important to the potential employer.
  • Make it easy to see, easy to read. You want a layout that is user–friendly, not cluttered or disorganized. Use capital letters, bold and indentations to separate sections and guide the employer. This is your marketing piece, and you have one chance to make a good impression with your credentials on paper, so make it look good.
  • Use reverse chronological order. That's the format that legal employers are used to seeing. While you're in law school, the "Education" category goes first, with the University of New Hampshire School of Law first in that category.
  • Type size. For most fonts, somewhere between 10 and 12 is good. Go too small and it gets hard to read. Try an in–between size, like 11 if you're pushing over one page by just a bit.
  • Margins. Keep a left margin to 1." If you list "education" and "experience" on the far left, they can be less than 1" away, but solid block descriptions should be 1" or more. Top and bottom should be a minimum of .75". Employers like to have room to write notes and having plenty of white space invites the employer to read the content.
  • Type styles. Keep them simple. You want your credentials to stand out, not your word processing skills. As a rule, only have two or three different things going on, such as bold, bold italics and plain. Adding UNDERLINE or ALL CAPITALS makes it too hard to read. Do use italics for publications.
  • Use a professional–looking font. Fonts such as Times New Roman, New Century Schoolbook and similar type styles all work well.
  • Have someone else proofread your resume for typos, spelling mistakes or omissions. This is in addition to running spell check. It is nearly impossible to read your own work with the same eye as someone who isn't familiar with it. If you can't find someone to proofread, do the next best thing and read it out loud, every word and number.
  • Use light neutral bond paper. White, ivory, beige and light gray bond paper are all acceptable. Remember, you don't want to give the employer a reason to toss your resume. Play it safe and use conventional colors. Use the same paper and envelopes for cover letters and lists of references.
  • Include an Interest Section. This information gives the reader a bit of insight as to who you are as a person and also provides something to discuss during an interview.


  • Use pronouns. Never use "I" or any other pronouns.
  • Be dishonest. Never embellish your GPA or class rank. Please make sure that this information is exactly what is listed on your transcript. Putting false information on your resume can cost you your job and your professional reputation.
  • Include "objective." An objective should not appear on a legal resume – this information should be saved for your cover letter.
  • Include "References Available Upon Request" – employers will ask you for references if they want them. Prepare a list of three references. Include the following information for each reference: full name, title, employer, city, state, telephone number and email address.
  • Use too much bold typeface or excessive underlining. This tends to distract the reader. Make sure your resume is easy to read.
  • Include personal information. Never reveal your age, martial status, children, physical characteristics. This is information that employers are forbidden to discuss during an interview.
  • Put anything on your resume that you're not comfortable discussing during an interview. EVERYTHING that is on your resume is considered fair game during an interview.

Scannable/Electronic Resumes

Because many employers request resumes via email, you may want to consider have two versions of your resume – one that is formatted to be mailed and one that is solely for electronic use. Here are some tips to make sure a resume you submit electronically will be readable by an employer.

  • Use standard fonts such as Times New Roman, Futura, Palatino or Century
  • Use a font size of 10 to 14 point
  • Do not condense spacing between letters
  • Avoid all fancy font styles and effects such as italics, underlining and shadowing
  • Avoid vertical and horizontal lines, graphics and boxes
  • Use enough key words to define your skills, experience, education and professional affiliations
  • Be concise
Most employers spend 30 seconds scanning a resume.
Make the most of YOUR 30 seconds!!!

Cover Letters

A cover letter introduces you and the purpose of your contact with a potential employer. Your cover letter should be written so that the reader will want to look at your resume. You should include information that does not fit into your resume. Often students don't take the art of writing cover letters seriously. Employers DO read them. This is your opportunity for your letter to stand out from the pile of applicants.


  • Be thorough. Make sure you address your cover letter to a specific person with their complete title. If you're unsure about the spelling of a name, call the employer and ask the receptionist!
  • Mention a referral. If you have been referred to this employer, you should mention it in the first sentence.
  • Apply to jobs out of state. It is important to make the connection to the geographic area immediately. Employers tend to hire students that have a tie to the area.
  • Sign your cover letter. This sounds silly but this is the biggest mistake students make on their cover letters.
  • Use your cover letter as your marketing piece. Give the reader specific examples as to why you should be hired – relate your experiences to the employer's needs.
  • PROOFREAD your letter. Even the smallest typo could keep an applicant from getting an interview.
  • Use the same quality bond paper as your resume. Remember that neutral colors like white, ivory, beige and light gray are good choices.
  • Be enthusiastic. This can be done without looking like you're begging for a job.
  • Follow–up with employers. This is especially important. If you tell a potential employer that you will follow–up with a phone call, do so within two weeks! This attention to follow–up demonstrates a real interest in the employer. Make sure you keep track of which employers you've called or emailed to avoid an embarrassing situation.


  • Send your letter "To Whom it May Concern". Make sure you go the extra step and find out who is responsible for hiring for the position.
  • Ramble on – use clear, concise language. Make sure you engage the reader so he/she will want to continue looking at your application. Don't just ramble to fill space. Make sure that your letter speaks to an employer.
  • Sound arrogant remember you need to show them what you can do for them NOT what they can do for you.
  • Forget to sign your cover letter. You must show an employer that you pay close attention to detail.
  • Use "I" to start every sentence
  • Focus on negatives – if your grades aren't spectacular, don't mention it in your cover letter! Remember to always highlight your positive achievements & skills.
  • Regurgitate your resume in your cover letter. A cover letter is the perfect place to incorporate specific examples into your argument on how you would meet their needs.
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