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Your Legal CV: Why It’s Still Critical to Your Success This Year

Did you know that Leonardo Da Vinci, in 1482, wrote the first ‘official’ CV? It was addressed to the Duke of Milan in the hope of gaining a specific painting ‘gig’.

Da Vinci was well known for his intelligence and consequently focused the content of his CV on the project in question. He highlighted his prowess and results in using certain painting techniques he knew the Duke required for the painting in his ‘CV’.

Fact: Tailoring your CV to the role in question has always been critical.

I am sure Leonardo would have been astounded to discover that this humble communication piece would continue to be the start of the recruitment process over five hundred and forty years later.

Though candidates are taking to TikTok and other social channels to promote their personal brand, a CV continues to be the first communication piece your legal hiring manager requests from the team here at Clayton Legal.

So, what are the key elements you need to consider as you craft your CV to stand out to the law firm you want to work for?

After over twenty years of reading good, average, and downright diabolical legal CVs, we have a few suggestions to create a CV that profiles you as the legal candidate to take to interview.

Let’s start with the basics hiring managers look for on the first skim through.

CV Basics

Before diving into specific content and structure, let’s confirm some CV basics. This is the initial document your new employer will see alongside a cover letter should you choose to use one; more about that in another post.

It does not need to be more than a couple of pages long; brevity and getting to the point are key. Your hiring manager will explore more about you and your experience related to your CV in the interview. Remember to ask your legal recruitment consultant for help on this.

Ensure your full current contact details are visible and correct; name in bold at the top of your CV, followed by your full address, email and mobile phone number.

It is common for candidates to find their old CV on a hard drive and use this without checking that the details and phone numbers are still accurate. There isn’t a requirement for a photograph in the UK, nor should you add your date of birth or marital status. When it comes to pronouns, she/her, he/him, the decision is yours.

If you have a disability, it is not necessary to add this though it can be helpful for both your legal recruitment consultant and hiring manager to know when they are setting up an interview.

Create a new email address purely for job hunting. There is nothing worse than an overflowing personal inbox where email communication gets lost, and you end up missing vital emails from your recruitment consultant.

Though your name may be taken on Gmail or, adding private or personal or a number to your name should work.

For example, looks professional and is easy for a recruitment consultant to remember. Avoid adding your birth year, for instance, AngelaSmith1977, as this could set up age bias. If you were born on the 27th of the month, AngelaSmith27 would be fine.

This leads to formatting, fonts, and grammar. The more challenging something is to read, the less people concentrate, and key convincers about you and your ability to excel in the role you add to your CV can get missed.

Use a professional font, nothing less than 10 point and avoid any non-professional style; you are applying to a law firm. It is easy to think that standing out in this way is a good idea. It isn’t -leave that to the answers you give in the interview.

Have clear headings for sections, use spacing and bullet points and keep a consistent formatting theme in the body of your CV.

Read through your CV to check for context and content and that it reads well. Typos, spelling, and grammar can trip up the best of us, so treble-check everything and get a friend or significant other to read over what you have written.

CV Content

As Da Vinci worked out, tailoring your CV to the job you are applying for is critical, which you can do throughout each section I have highlighted below.

As a start, add a personal statement. This is a concise summary of four or five lines that summarises you, your work history, and your main achievements.

Your Personal Statement

Be specific in your work title; for example, add your legal subvertical and avoid jargon. In the legal profession, years of experience post qualification are critical to add here. Refer to any main achievements, and where possible, make these relevant to the job description as you now start to tailor the CV for the role in question.

Finally, give a couple of examples of what you can bring to the role.

Work Experience

When it comes to work experience, list your current position first and then work backwards. Add the title of the role, the firm in question, how long you were there and your main responsibilities. Then list the key results you delivered and align these to the job description. Talk to your legal recruitment consultant, who will be able to help you pull out what the firm in question is looking for.

Highlight Work Gaps

As you add the list of roles and firms where you have worked, highlight any gaps you have had and why.

Be transparent; the world is a very different place to what it was, and taking time off to look after our own mental health or family members, new and old, happens. Hiring managers in the legal world, as you might expect, are naturally predisposed to look for detail, and if they can’t identify what you were doing between 2011 and 2012, they will be left wondering what other details are missing.

I am sure you can answer the question well in an interview, but remember this is a screening stage where the hiring manager will likely read your CV in isolation.

Education and Qualifications

When it comes to education and qualifications, use a similar format with the most recent qualification first. State the type, result, the dates and the university or college. A brief summary of the areas of law you studied will be relevant here, as would any legal memberships you are a part of.

Relevant Skills

When it comes to skills, list anything relevant to the role here. This might be your new business development skills, a specific software package you can use or languages if they are relevant to the role, geography and the population the firm serves.

Interests and Activities

This area isn’t necessary on legal CVs. Adding an interest in reading or travel won’t really add anything to the conversation. However, if you are involved in activities that relate to your role and profile you as a team player or potential leader, then, of course, add that here.


When it comes to writing a legal CV, the devil is in the detail, and this is where the help of your legal recruitment consultant is vital.

We have shared a basic flow here, and it is up to you to fill in the gaps relevant to the specific role in question.

If you are ready for your next legal move, check out a selection of our current legal vacancies here and then upload your current CV here. Our team are based across the UK, and you can find all the relevant phone numbers here.


Download Our Guide Here – How To Develop Your Legal CV

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Posted By

Lynn Sedgwick

Managing Director

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What to leave off from your CV

  • July 15, 2018

Over the past few months we’ve been giving our advice on all things recruitment, how to nail any assessment methods, how to master the interview and even how to ask for interview feedback at your new company. But one thing we haven’t covered yet is what information you should actually leave off your CV. Here are our top tips.

You should always keep in mind that you’ve got limited space to work with and any CV longer than two pages is probably too much, unless you’ve had a really extensive career. This means there’s no space to keep in anything that doesn’t directly improve your chances of securing the role that you’re applying for. For example, everyone knows that a candidate’s references are available on request, so you don’t need to say it and take up valuable space. The same applies with putting ‘salary negotiable’. Unless you’re applying for a remarkably unique role almost every position will have a negotiable salary so you’re just wasting space which could be taken up with information that aids your application.

Along similar lines, it also makes sense to leave something to talk about when you actually meet the company so don’t include too much detail about your personal life. The interview should be your chance to elaborate on your CV and to show a bit more of your personality so unless you’ve climbed Everest or crossed the Atlantic on your own, it’s probably a good idea to leave out that you enjoy ‘swimming, reading and socialising.’

Ultimately, you should leave out generalist information and tailor your CV for every single role you apply for so it mirrors what the company is looking for and touches on the skills mentioned in the job description. A sure-fire way to get your application binned is to send an application that you’ve used for numerous jobs. Remember, we do this every single day and it’s easy to spot a CV that hasn’t been edited for a specific role.

You should also try to avoid clichés wherever possible. Almost every CV contains some combination of phrases like ‘hard working and a people person’ or ‘possesses strong communication skills’ and unless you can actually back the points up with examples, they’re essentially meaningless. Recruiters see these phrases on numerous applications every
day and as a result don’t necessarily respond to them unless the applicant can produce evidence of times they’ve shown these skills.

This also means that you can’t afford to even suggest that you’re only making a speculative application or that you’re not entirely confident about your ability to do the role in question. As we’ve just touched on, firms want to see a tailored CV that shows you’re a great fit for the job in question and if they don’t receive that, they’re not likely to continue with the application. Businesses want talent that stays with them for as long as possible and they’re not going to go ahead with a potentially expensive application and assessment process if they don’t think you’re completely right for the role. This is particularly true when you consider that the cost of replacing a departing employee is generally around 1.5 times their salary, so if
you’ve even hinted that you’re not quite right for the role on your CV or are unsure where you want your career to go, it’s unlikely your application will go much further.

What information do you think jobseekers should leave off their CVs? Leave your thoughts on this topic below.

Next up, the interview stage. Read our blog for some tips on Nailing you interview here.

Want further tips/advice or a good read about the Recruitment world? Visit our News & Insights page for more.

Or, if you want to speak to one on our experts, call us on 01772 259121.

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