Your law school resume - not a big deal (unless you're applying to an online law school)

There are two things you need to know about your law school resume (and two exceptions to these statements):

  1. It isn't going to be much different in content and format than a normal resume.

  2. It isn't going matter very much to your application at all even if you write in crayon on a bar napkin but there are two exceptions:

    • Your law school resume may be very important to you if you want to win a merit-based scholarship, for instance, a specialized one awarded to public interest students, OR

    • Your law school resume may be very important to you if you apply to an online law school, online law degree program (of which I will write more), or distance learning (correspondence) law school,especially if these schools do not require the LSAT or any particular college GPA.

Let's go into these points in greater detail.

1. Your law school resume will be similar to any "normal" resume in content and format

What a relief, right?

If you are applying to law school, you must by now have a normal resume that you used to get the job that you got after college or to get jobs during college.

This means that you don't have to change much if you have already put in the hard work of putting together a beautiful resume.

While there are a lot of ways to write a resume, I would sum it up this way: a good resume boils down all of your key work and educational experience to just one page, with not only a description of your responsibilities, but also where ever possible a description of achievements, quantified and specified where possible. I might provide more guidance on this later, but otherwise, you can go Google how to write a good resume and come back here.

I'll wait.

Anyway, spend no more than a couple of hours reviewing your resume to highlight or emphasize any legal-related work you did before applying to law school, such as working as a paralegal at a major law firm or the department of justice or something you might want to highlight that.

Other than that, I am not even sure that your law school resume will be read by a particular if your LSAT and GPA.

2. No one will actually care about your law school resume, with two exceptions.

I have given you some advice about your resume, just because I know you feel like you have to dot all your "i"s and cross all your "t"s. And you will proofread your resume, and have a friend look at it to make sure you didn't miss anything major, etc.

But frankly, I think that you could your law school resume on crayon and a cocktail napkin and no one would care.

That is, as far as I can tell no law school admissions person actually reads resumes. I have never heard of someone getting into a law school based on a good resume or not getting in because of a bad one. I have never even heard of or read about the resume mattering one way or the other to normal law school admissions (and if you have please do tell me).

The anecdotal evidence I have suggests that your work experience before law school if any, as reflected by your resume, doesn't matter at all.

Some people in my law school class had stellar resumes, having worked at Goldman Sachs, etc. before law school. Others had no professional resume to speak of, either right out of college or with kind of non-professional jobs before law school. One friend of mine had only worked at a GNC before law school. The only work experience my best friend from law school had before law school was working at Best Buy and at an amusement park.

All I mean to day is that unless you were a Cabinet level official our someone who basically is so well known that you don't even need a resume anymore (In which case why are you applying to law school again?), it won't matter much.

Exception one to the maxim that your law school resume doesn't matter: certain merit-based scholarships

There are certain scholarships that will require a knock-out law school resume. For instance at NYU law school, there is the Root Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholarship that provides the lucky recipient a free tuition for three years (you cover your living expenses, which are not insignificant in Greenwich Village).

Now, still, there isn't much for you to worry about here: either you do or you don't have the background they're looking for; you can't fake it (and if you are thinking about it, please don't).

But the standards are much higher and particular for those who want these scholarships than those who just want to get into a particular law school.

For instance, what that Root-Tilden-Kern scholarship committee at NYU Law School wants to know is--above and beyond your scores--whether you have a serious public-interest oriented work history that would suggest that you will follow a very serious public-interest oriented future as a lawyer. By "serious public interest work" they generally mean "years and years of serious work before law school helping poor, down-trodden, or disenfranchised people for terrible salaries."

You either do or do not have that experience. But if you do have that experience, you are in the ballpark, and you still have to make your experience shine compared to someone else's.

In this case, spend more time on your resume, more than just an hour, and ask multiple friends to read over your resume and other application essays and have them be brutally honest and tear into them. (If you have no friends or don't want them to be brutally honest, I can play that role and review your application--write to me at larrythelawtutor at gmail dot com).

I will, at some future time, list these scholarships elsewhere on my site.

Exception two to the maxim that your law school resume doesn't matter: applying to online law degree programs or distance-learning law schools

I really feel--for reasons I articulate elsewhere--that the future of law school, for many people, will be online. Currently, there are no ABA-accredited online law schools (even though the ABA seems happy to approve new brick-and-mortar law schools every year). But I think this will change over time.

Anyway, let's assume normal law school isn't an option for you--maybe you need to work full time, or you never took the LSAT, or you never graduated from college.

Online law schools or purveyors of online law degree programs are not as fussy at the moment as "normal" law schools are; many do not require the LSAT, and some even do not require you to have completed college or undergraduate studies.

However, if these online law schools are not basing their admissions solely on "objective" criteria such as LSAT and GPA, they need some other basis. That will only come with the personal statement and resume. What kind of life did you lead? Who did you work for? What in your experience suggests that you might be a good lawyer or a tenacious one (I think they are one and the same)?

The short answer is that if you are applying for an online law degree, you also need to spend a lot of time personally reviewing your law school resume, and having your close friends review it so that it sings.

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