Do’s and Don’ts of Attorney Resume Formatting

In the Internet age, it is easy to follow the herd and use resume templates to write an attorney resume. Templates abound, and even we provide free resume samples. However, when every candidate ends up using the same resume format, recruiters and human resources departments have a hard time finding a resume that stands out from the crowd. Thus, while lifting a resume format from a template is an easy way to create an attorney resume, it’s clearly not the most effective.

While your attorney resume should be original enough to reflect your work style and personality, it is not an arts and crafts project either. Creating a fine balance between originality and professionalism is key to drafting an effective attorney resume. Your attorney resume is your first presentation of work to a potential employer, and therefore it should be a high quality presentation, the likes they should expect with respect to your work product.

The attorney resume is a document that, when done well, takes time to craft. It needs to be well thought out and error-free. There are no shortcuts to success, and attorney resume writing is no exception. This is why many attorneys are turning to professional resume writers to give their attorney resumes an edge over the competition. However, if you still want to take a “do it yourself” approach to drafting your attorney resume, here are some do’s and don’t of attorney resume formatting to keep in mind:


  • Use a reader friendly font (nothing less than 11 points).
  • Keep your resume short (no more than two pages).
  • Use capital letters, bold, or italics typefaces sparingly, for emphasis only.
  • Use italics to designate honors, e.g., magna cum laude.
  • Underline publications, (e.g., Harvard Law Journal).
  • Match your cover letter font, paper, and letterhead to those of your resume.
  • Match styles and abbreviations. If you indicate “J.D.,” also use “B.A.”
  • Begin each experience statement with an action verb (see “Using Active Verbs in Your Legal Resume”).
  • Describe current work in the present and prior work in the past tense.
  • Check all spacing, spelling, and grammar…proofread, proofread, proofread.


  • Present a dense, hard to read document requiring the reader to locate a magnifying glass.
  • Confuse a resume with a biography and run past two pages. Be sure to delete old or irrelevant material. Sometimes, less is more.
  • Use fonts that look like a typewritten product or an eighteenth century love letter. Rather, select a font with variable spacing such as Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Indicate “References Upon Request.” This is a waste of space and states the obvious.
  • Add “Esq.” or “Esquire” after your name. This is a waste of space and states the obvious.
  • Use first person “I” and don’t overuse articles such as “a,” “an,” “the,” etc. Complete sentences are not the norm on resumes.
  • Omit your graduation dates, dates of employments, or other relevant dates. Employers want to know theses dates; omissions will only draw more emphasis on what you are trying to hide.
  • Evaluate your own characteristics by labeling yourself “business savvy,” an “effective negotiator,” etc. Instead, let your experiences lead the reader to conclude this.
  • Mislead or lie on your resume. That may seem like an obvious don’t, but so many applicants fall into this trap by simply stretching the truth. Honesty is the only acceptable policy when it comes to the resume.

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