CV Advice for NQ Solicitors
After years of hard work, you’re finally a qualified solicitor and the time has come to apply for jobs. It may have been a while since you updated your CV, so you might be wondering what to include now you’ve achieved newly qualified status.
With the competitive nature of the legal job market, it’s important that you make sure your CV is as best as can be. Here are some top tips to take on board when writing your NQ Solicitor CV:
Starting your CV with a personal statement is a great way to condense your key attributes and make you stand out to a recruiter. This is an opportunity to summarise all your skills, experience and achievements whilst outlining your career ambitions. It should be a handful of sentences reflecting who you are and why you are an ideal candidate for the job.
As a newly qualified solicitor, you should highlight your chosen specialism in the personal statement. Showcase your key competencies in this area, as well as your passion. Remember to keep your personal statement short and sweet – aim for no more than about 150 words.
As a recently qualified lawyer, you will likely have a long list of qualifications to include in your CV. It is important to include a full education history in reverse chronological order, starting with your LPC result and finishing with your A Levels. GCSEs can be summarised as a collective, e.g. ‘10 GCSEs, Grades A*-C, including Maths and English.’
Make sure to include the qualification title, grade obtained, where you studied and the dates attended. Always put the full course title for a degree e.g. ‘LLB Law,’ followed by the degree class and the name of the University.
When it comes to grades, honesty is the best policy. Include all your results, even if you’re not proud of them. Leaving out information will only raise concerns among employers.
When applying for solicitor jobs, your experience is your key selling point. Every candidate will have training contract experience – so it’s important that you lay out your experience in such a way that demonstrates your competencies and achievements.
Beginning with your most recent seat and working backwards, summarise each seat with bullets outlining what you worked collaboratively on and what you handled independently. Use action verbs such as ‘accomplished,’ ‘initiated’ and ‘exceeded’ rather than overused verbs like ‘assisted,’ ‘utilised’ and ‘oversaw.’
Breaking down your experience in such a way will not only make your CV more digestible for an employer, but it will also highlight your strengths.
With this is in mind, you should still take the precautionary measure of maintaining your client contact network back home. Although the transition from Offshore to Onshore is usually smooth, there is no harm in setting yourself up well for opportunities in the UK, should you decide to return.
Take some time to consider the key achievements in your training. This could involve working towards targets, excelling in high value work or taking the lead amongst other trainees. Any experience of working on more complex matters and dealing with high-net-worth clients will help you stand out.
Think about how your experience translates into skills – particularly relating to your preferred practice area. For this reason, go into the most detail regarding the related training seat. Anything that shows the employer that you are a capable and responsible junior solicitor is definitely worth a mention.
When it comes to listing experience and achievements, facts and figures are key. Make sure that where applicable, you show evidence to quantify each achievement – values, numbers, timeframes surrounding deadlines etc.
Don’t forget to include the length of each training seat either. This is important as it demonstrates to an employer that you have spent a considerable amount of time in your chosen specialism. Four 6-month training seats is standard, but you may have done two seats in one particular area, giving you an advantage where experience is concerned.
Your CV should ideally be no more than 2 pages long, beginning with personal details, followed by the personal statement, then education and achievements, work experience, skills etc.
In terms of format, it is best practice to make the layout as clear as possible. Use section headers and bullet points to list details; chunky paragraphs and incoherent text is more likely to get skimmed over.
If you’re open to more than one practice area, it is crucial to tailor your CV accordingly. When applying to different roles, you should amend everything from your personal statement to experience and achievements. It might even be beneficial to write an entirely new CV for a fresh perspective.
Whatever you decide, remember that you should give a greater weight to demonstrating a passion and enthusiasm for one area of law in particular. Avoid trying to focus on multiple areas – this may make your CV look unfocused and lengthy.
If you’re still wondering about what else you can do to give your CV an edge, or if it seems a little bare, perhaps you can consider the following:
• Previous legal work experience (as a paralegal, legal secretary, conveyancing assistant etc) is helpful to include. It shows that your legal experience stretches beyond your training contract, making you an attractive prospective candidate.
• Include any law related events or fairs you have attended – particularly networking events. This further indicates your interest and will demonstrate your passion for business development – a desirable quality in any newly qualified solicitor.
• Provide details about your university course, including relevant modules and the learnings and skills you gained. A law-related dissertation or unusual / specialist modules could be of interest to an employer.
• Make sure that you’ve listed any standout skills such as speaking a foreign language, IT and software proficiency etc.
• Unique interests, even if they aren’t academic, reflect your personality and show that there’s more to you than your legal background.
The most important thing to remember when writing your NQ Solicitor CV is that you should make sure that you can speak about everything confidently and in detail. This is crucial when going for interviews – embellishment is never a good idea.
Remember, if you’re really struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help writing your CV. Get someone to proofread it and give you honest feedback. Alternatively, you can approach a recruitment agency or CV writing service such as TopCV.
Search and apply for a variety of NQ Solicitor roles on TotallyLegal.