If you’ve been following our 2020 Summer School, then you’ll have done some work on understanding what makes you unique, who your ideal clients are and how to market yourself. Now it’s time to get practical and equip yourself with the best tools and techniques to turn opportunities into successful projects. We’re going to start by looking at how you can make sure your CV is doing the best job it can of selling you to potential clients. With over ten years of experience connecting lawyers with freelance projects, we know what clients are looking for, so here are our top ten tips based on their feedback.
#1 Keep it brief
The ideal length for a professional CV is two pages. At the very most, you may need three. However much you have accomplished, you should never present a potential client with more than this. They don’t have the time to read more, and you risk ruling yourself out of a project before you’ve even had a chance to meet.
If you’re struggling for space:
- Include your address, email address and phone number in small print in the footer
- Group roles earlier in your career together, with a couple of sentences describing key experience and responsibilities
- Only include details of qualifications at A-level and above.
#2 Start with an executive summary
Use a brief opening paragraph to highlight what you have to offer in terms of your experience, your values and what you are setting out to achieve. Avoid using too much jargon or management speak so that the real you comes across.
#3 Highlight results
For each role you describe in your previous work experience, select one or two achievements you are particularly proud of and lead with these. Then bullet point the other skills and experience you gained.
#4 Call out sectors, not just employers
Think of your reader and make the layout of your CV attractive. Where possible, use bullet points to break up large portions of text. Use plenty of white space, clear headings and make sure that you use at least 11 point font. Use short sentences and be as concise as possible.
#6 Avoid fancy templates and graphics
It’s tempting to go all out with hidden tables, backgrounds, maybe even a photo. Our advice is not to. These templates can often be distracting for the reader and there is the potential for them to be corrupted or read incorrectly if they are being loaded into any kind of staffing platform.
#7 Show a (little) bit of yourself outside work
Do include a line or two about your interests alongside work, if you have some interesting hobbies or volunteering work. Keep it minimal, so that it doesn’t eat into your space for professional achievements and make sure it’s a talking point. So, for example, “I’m a fan of world cinema and spend any spare time I have at screenings and festivals”, is a better conversation starter than “Watching films.”
#8 Keep it up to date
Get into the habit of updating after every project, so that you are always ready to respond to an opportunity. Often clients, particularly those in-house, will want to review your CV and make a decision within 24 hours and you don’t want to risk missing out. Make sure that the language you use keeps pace with market practice in your particular area of law and be sure to highlight any familiarity with the latest tools or law-tech.
#9 Know when to tailor it
Following on from the point above, don’t risk missing out by tailoring your CV unnecessarily. That said, if you have experience in two different areas, for example you could carry out both general Commercial work and you have an interest and skills in Privacy law, then you may want to have two versions of your CV ready to go, one tailored to general projects and the other majoring on your Privacy experience. Similarly, if you have particular sector experience that is relevant to a specific project, you might want to emphasise this in a tailored CV.
There are few things more excruciating than a typo on a CV – especially if you are trying to demonstrate your “atention to detial”. Proofread your finished document, then ask someone else to read it and give you feedback, then proofread again.
Putting it all together
Your CV needs to sell you without being long-winded or too comprehensive. Take the time to make it as concise as possible and keep it focused on positioning you to meet the needs of your clients.