Your CV is the starting point of any job search. Before sitting down to draft it, it’s important to understand its purpose. Put simply, your CV is a way of persuading an employer, recruiter or hiring manager to invite you to interview. Legal recruitment experts Realm Recruit discuss how personal injury lawyers can optimise their CV’s to land that next big role.
In comparison to an application form, which might ask you to describe in detail specific questions about your professional experience, your CV should be less detailed. However, it should provide enough information to make it clear that you’re a relevant well-rounded and suitably qualified candidate for the job at hand.
Format it correctly
A CV should be well-formatted and easy on the eye, so it can be easily digested by the reader. It should also be clear from the content that you have an obvious interest in personal injury law.
In terms of length, two to three pages should be sufficient to properly detail your experience without making your CV appear cramped with information. Using bullet points is a good way of making sure the content of your CV easy to read.
What to include in a personal injury CV
At the top, you should list key personal information such as your name, location (or where you’re looking to work) and your contact details. You should also outline the kind and level of role you’re looking for, for example EL/PL Paralegal/Graduate, Senior Catastrophic Injury Solicitor or RTA Litigator. If you’re a graduate who’s open to considering more than one niche of personal injury, feel free to list the areas you’re interested in.
At this stage, it’s useful to include your current salary or salary expectation. Doing so will help the reader to make a judgement on whether or not you’re within their budget and suitable for the role on offer. If you’re a recent graduate or haven’t moved firms in a while, it might be helpful to do your research or speak with a recruiter to check that your salary expectation is realistic; you don’t want to undersell yourself, but equally, putting a figure that’s too high may cause employers to dismiss your CV.
You should also include your notice period or availability.
Your personal profile is your chance to highlight your key achievements, attributes and experience. This is your opportunity to grab the attention of the reader, so try to avoid buzzwords and clichés that don’t really tell someone much about you.
You should state how many years of experience you have or your current stage of legal training (I.e., if you’re in the process of working towards your LPC or GDL), the size of your current caseload and how much you bill. You should also explain what kind of role you’re looking for.
It's to essential to show from the start that you have a dedication to and an interest in personal injury. If it’s not clearly evidenced by how long you’ve worked within the sector, you might explain why you’re set on working within personal injury. For instance, many solicitors are motivated by wanting to make a difference to people’s lives through securing compensation for them and their loved ones. Catastrophic injury lawyers might highlight their links to charities such as Headway, Back Up or the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA).
In this section, you should outline your education history and academic results, from LPC and degree down to your A-Level and GCSE results.
If you studied personal injury law modules at law school, make sure you mention them, particularly if you’re a graduate.
Awards & activities
If you have significant academic achievements, won awards at university or were a member of any relevant clubs or societies, such as a Law Society or a debating society, you might list them here.
Employment / work experience
Next, list your employment history and work experience.
For personal injury solicitors or paralegals, it’s important to provide information about how much you bill (either monthly or annually) and a breakdown of your caseload in each role, in terms of:
size – how many cases you typically handle
the types of files you deal with (e.g. 50% RTA, 50% EL PL)
Explain what you achieved or learned in each position and whether you had any supervisory responsibility. Also, if you can, give some examples of noteworthy cases you handled or were involved in, whether they were particularly interesting or high-value.
If you’re a defendant solicitor, you should mention the level of involvement you had with clients and if you were involved in delivering any training or reporting.
Non-legal work experience
If you are a graduate without much legal experience, include details of relevant work experience placements and outline what you learned at each and the skills you gained.
You can also include non-legal work experience, as long as it doesn’t overshadow your legal experience. If you’re held down a job alongside studying, make sure you mention this, as it shows that you’re proactive and self-sufficient and is likely to have resulted in you developing transferable skills.
Interests & hobbies
Workplace culture has become increasingly important in recent years and this section of your CV will help employers to determine whether you’re likely to fit in with their existing team.
Try to steer clear of cliches (everyone likes to socialise with their family and friends in their spare time), and include interesting information about what you like to do away from work that will help to convey your personality.
The majority of people include something along the lines of “references available on request” at the end of their CV, as they prefer to know whether their referees will be contacted. However, it’s highly unlikely that an employer would contact a referee without speaking to the candidate beforehand.
If your referees are esteemed professionals or a leading individual in their field, providing their names and contact details will likely add further weight to your CV and potential application.
Nowadays, more and more recruiters and hiring managers use online job boards to find suitable candidates. Including relevant and specific keywords in your CV will make it easier for them to find it. The most important keywords to include are related to your practice area and job title. e.g., EL PL Fee Earner/ Personal Injury Solicitor/ RTA Fee Earner.
Check your spelling
It sounds obvious, but a CV littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors suggests a lack of attention to detail and can be the difference between getting an interview or not. Never rely entirely on spellcheck - carefully read through your CV before you send it to anyone.
It’s also a good idea to ask a friend or family member to proofread it for you before you submit it to a recruiter or law firm, as they may be able to spot typos or spelling mistakes that you might have missed.
Tell the truth
Some lawyers may be tempted to embellish the truth in their CV, particularly if they’re at an early stage of their career without a lengthy employment history. For instance, saying that a work experience placement was broader than it was might be considered a white lie by recruiters and can be dangerous for your prospects of landing an interview.
You’d be surprised how regularly recruiters come across a CV that doesn’t include any contact details.
It's no longer necessary to include your full address at the top of your CV, but you must provide an email address and phone number. You might also include your LinkedIn handle.
Keep it up-to-date
Make a point of going back and refreshing your CV every so often, perhaps every 3-6 months or whenever anything meaningful changes in terms of your circumstances or experience. It’s really important to keep track of how much you’re billing.
By updating your CV regularly, you are keeping track of information which demonstrates what you’re capable of and how you’ve progressed throughout your career – which you can then use when applying for a new role!
You never know what’s around the corner, the perfect opportunity could present itself when you least expect it; keeping your CV up-to-date will ensure that you’re prepared.