Recruiters tend to scan and dismiss CVs very quickly so you need to convince them within the first half page of your legal CV that you have the relevant skills and experience. One of the best ways to make that initial positive impact is to write a compelling legal personal statement.
How long should a personal statement be?
Your legal personal statement should be a short, sharp and succinct 3-5 sentence paragraph positioned just below your contact details on the first page of your legal CV which acts like a mini-advertisement to grab their attention and highlight your relevant capabilities.
How to start a personal statement?
It’s important to label yourself with a title that is specific to the job you are applying for. For instance, instead of calling yourself a ‘Solicitor’, label yourself as ‘Commercial Property Solicitor’, or ‘Insolvency Solicitor’ to reflect exactly what they are looking for. Of course you can only call yourself this if you have practical experience in the relevant area but it enables them to see right away that you have the background that is needed.
What to include in your legal personal statement?
Mention how many years of PQE experience you have or your current stage of training, as this will tell them at a glance whether your experience level is likely to be sufficient for their needs. If the role or organisation asks for particular expertise or knowledge e.g. understanding of the retail sector, dealing with global businesses or working with corporate HR teams, then make sure that this experience is mentioned in your personal profile e.g. “Extensive experience of advising corporate HR teams on wide ranging legal matters from policy development, settlement agreements to handling Trade Union disputes”.
If you’re applying for a management role ensure that you include previous people management experience, budget management responsibilities and any executive level accountabilities to reinforce the seniority of your role.
Demonstrate the value you can bring to the organisation you’re applying to by including something in your legal personal profile which illustrates that your career to date has been successful. This might be the fees you’ve brought in, new clients you've introduced, your ability to resolve difficult conflicts or identify commercial opportunities. In addition, if you have been nominated for any awards, met or exceeded particular performance targets, generated ideas which improved the business then mention these too e.g. “Developed innovative ways to introduce new business such as using social media”. If you mention them briefly in the profile you can always expand on them later on in your legal CV .
Employers like to have a sense of what you are like as a person but always back up any claims about your personal qualities by supplying evidence to prove it e.g “strong communication skills include giving regular presentations to audiences ranging from 10 – 100 people both in-house and at industry events.” Make reference to personal qualities that they say they are looking for, rather than those which you think are important. There is no point emphasising your strategic visioning abilities if they say they want someone who is intensely detail orientated.
In summary, your legal personal statement should address all the areas that the recruiter will be considering in relation to their selection criteria for the job. Be prepared to craft a few different versions of your personal profile before you find the one that most adequately reflects you and the type of law job you are pursuing. It’s worth the effort because if you get this right, then you increase the likelihood of your application being read thoroughly and subsequently shortlisted rather than discarded at first glance.
Corinne Mills is the Managing Director of Personal Career Management, the leading career coaching company who are now career management partners with TotallyLegal.
Are you looking for your next legal job or need help improving your career prospects? Personal Career Management provides specialist coaching and advice to legal professionals looking to stand out from the crowd in a competitive job market.