Revive Your Resume(s): Lawyer Layoff Survival 101

The worst has happened: you are laid off, or you see a layoff coming. Here are some quick tips on resume revival.

1. Revive your Resume(s): Resumes become stale over time. Make sure that yours contains up to date information, and appears fresh and energetic. I always tell my clients to use action verbs (avoiding the verb “to be” whenever possible.) Choose positive, powerful verbs that communicate your expertise and authority, such as “negotiated”, “argued”, “won”, and “settled” rather than “assisted with” or “helped draft”.

2. Always be Honest: The legal world is small. Thanks to the internet, any potential employer can check your background. Be sure that you state the truth.

3. Sell Yourself: In this crowded market, you must distinguish yourself from other candidates. What special and unique things have you done? How can you compellingly describe–using persuasive language–your expertise? Do you have letters of recommendation from co-counsel or clients that you can share?  If not, ask for some.

4. Create Multiple Resumes: Different jobs call for different skill sets. Redraft your resume, creating several versions to highlight different skills. For example, I have helped one international business lawyer with a fair amount of bankruptcy experience early in her career. Her traditional resume never mentioned this experience because bankruptcy wasn’t her primary area of practice. Given the current market, she is creating another version of her resume to highlight and describe this experience in detail.

5. Get Feedback. Legal recruiters, lawyer coaches and lawyer friends can help with feedback. It’s a good idea to have several pairs of eyes read a resume for content, tone and typos. If you are applying for a non-legal position, be sure and have some non-lawyers look at your resume beforehand, and remove any “legalese”.

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