Zeroing In on Your Résumé: Lessons from the Internet Age, Part I

As I’ve discussed in numerous posts on this blog, getting into law school isn’t only about LSAT scores. I don’t care what LSAT prep companies, who have a vested interest in making the LSAT all-important, say. The LSAT is important, yes, but I know a lot of people who haven’t had “top 14 scores” (according to internet blather) who are now sitting in top 20 law schools, most with merit scholarships to boot. Still, the number of people who call me to say that they “need” a 170 is astonishing (and of course the “need” may make the score less likely, since these people are putting undue pressure on themselves).

Of course, over 20% of my clients do achieve a 170 or above on the LSAT, with an average improvement of over 16 points, and over 40% end up in the top 10 percent. I don’t know of any other LSAT-prep company that can point to this level of success—and part of the reason why Advise-In achieves exceptional success is because we work hard to put our emphasis on the LSAT and achieving  your best score. Period. Not the external pressure of needing a certain score.

Your application package—including the LSAT—is about doing your best job on everything so that you increase your percentage chance of admissions and merit financial aid. It’s about being a professional in every aspect of that package. And people ignore the non-LSAT parts of that package, including their coursework, at their peril.

In addition to your LSAT score and GPA, there’s also your law school personal statement, your résumé, letters of reference and optional essays, and sometimes, interviews. Every single one of those is something we work hard with our clients to maximize.

But autumn is a season when many people take another look at their résumés, so today’s post will talk about keeping your law application résumé focused.

Zeroing in on Your Law School Résumé

You want to be thorough. You want to tell the schools everything about you, all the amazing things you’ve done, all the responsibilities you’ve carried, why you are such a fascinating human being. But not everything is relevant, and therefore putting it all on your résumé won’t help you to achieve your goal of being admitted. In honor of the Twitter/Instagram generation, I thought it might help to think about the lessons in concepts from modern communication:

  1. Hashtag Check. In times gone by, I would have called these the “themes” you want your résumé to express: points you want to hit. Anything that doesn’t support one of these themes should be excised. What if we thought of them like “hashtags”?

    Here are the points admissions officials want to know:

    • you are dedicated;
    • you can do intellectual work at a high level;
    • you will contribute positively to the interpersonal mix (the human quotient), of the law school; and
    • your career after law school will reflect favorably on the school’s decision to admit you.

    So, every item on your résumé should circle back to one of these points. Did you win an academic award?  Well, if it demonstrates intellectual, professional, or writing achievement, great! That would show you are #intellectualhighlevel. Or was the award for fine art or athletic achievement? Well, maybe that wouldn’t link as obviously (although it might support another theme, such as a unique perspective you’ll bring to the #interpersonalmix of your class, or that the #dedication it takes to achieve athletic success translates into other aspects of your life). If you are coming to law school from another profession, do all of your previous jobs demonstrate one of the above? Or are you just listing jobs?

    Now this doesn’t mean the link has to be obvious—remember: the key part of this is that a link only counts when you are able to identify and describe it specifically. Think about this for every item on your résumé: if you were to tweet about that job/activity, would you be able to put, e.g.,  #intellectualhighlevel or #dedicated as the hashtag? If the link seems tenuous or a little far-fetched, you should seriously consider omitting it. Résumé space is at a premium!

  2. Make sure the links work. A résumé item only supports one of the above themes if the reader can identify it and make the connection. Show how something demonstrates your strong candidacy. And be specific!

    Has anyone outside of your undergraduate institution heard of the James C. Smith award? Don’t assume law schools will know what it means. If it’s not a well-known honor, you should tell them, briefly, what skills are the basis of the honor. Don’t just list a job, or list its responsibilities (more on this in a future post). Remember, you must show how that job supports one of the skills hashtags that are important to admissions offices.

Up next: more résumé tips.

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on October 26, 2013.

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