How to write a good CV to get work – a guide for Locum Solicitors.
Preparing a CV is usually fairly straightforward for most people have no problem at all in putting together a decent, good quality, factual CV full of relevant information. However, there are a number of people out there who struggle with the concept of a CV and it is these people this article is aimed at.
You can, as an alternative to reading this article and preparing your own CV, use a CV template which is available for purchase at www.legalcareercoaching.co.uk. This template contains lots of examples and over 40 pages of actual extracts from real life CVs, detailing how to set out information. It can also be copied and pasted into your own CV.
However, if you want to prepare your own CV from scratch these simple guidelines ought to enable you to do it and to make sure your CV stands out and presents you in the best possible light.
This section goes at the top of the CV and contains all the information the reader needs to instantly see, which includes your name, your postal address, your email address, landline phone number, mobile phone number, nationality, confirmation of a driving licence and as an optional extra your marital status and gender/sex.
There are a small minority of people who think that you do not need to put your name on your CV and that it suffices to write Curriculum Vitae at the top of the page. This is wrong as you can probably imagine.
The information in this section is used by the recruiter to contact you and also to check that you a) live in the UK and/or b) your location in comparison with themselves and c) that they can contact you easily. They can also check your date of birth so that if you are only 14 years old it is obvious that you will be unable to work on a particular assignment.
For a locum, it is very important to have a summary of who you are and what you are looking for and capable of offering. This is usually a very simple two or three sentence paragraph outlining what you are able to offer. A quick example of this would be :
“A conveyancing solicitor with over 10 years’ experience in a range of law firms from small to large, dealing with both residential and commercial conveyancing. Able to assist with registered and unregistered land, leaseholds, full high value property development work and most other aspects of conveyancing. Available to cover across the country for both short and long-term assignments with an hourly rate of £35. Impeccable references available – numerous repeat bookings to date”.
This summary means that the reader can instantly see what experience you have and what you are able to offer without having to read the whole of the CV if they do not wish to. Most of the time we will read the rest of the CV just to check where you got your experience; but apart from this a summary section can save a significant amount of time going through a CV to check that the relevant information is there.
The education section comes next and this needs to be fairly brief if you are looking at locum work. The first entry needs to be the fact that you are a solicitor or legal executive and the date you were admitted to the roll or gained your legal executive certificate. Underneath this you need to have confirmation that you have completed the professional skills courses, the law society management courses if relevant together with your undergraduate university degree, legal practice course/law society finals and the CPE/GDL if relevant.
The class of your undergraduate degree can be very useful particularly if it is a 2:1 or 1st Class. Where you obtain a degree can also be of assistance because there are still firms out there who believe that certain universities have a higher level of qualification than others and they will hold you in better stance if you have been to one of the universities they view in this way.
Confirmation of A Level grades can also be good if you have straight As or Bs, but GCSEs or O Levels simply need to be stated and the number. Make sure this section is in reverse chronological order. There is nothing worse than having to read through a list of GCSEs or O levels and schooling to get right down the page and discover that you went to university and gained a 2:1.
The next section is your work history and this needs to be in full from the moment you left school through to the present day. Professional locums will often have a list which is at the end of the CV detailing every assignment they have been on in the past 10 to 20 years. This does not always work well but it is usually recommended by ourselves and other recruiters.
Start with the most recent first and work backwards and ensure that you include plenty of detail about the work that you are actually able to do. A good way of doing this on a locum CV is to have an extensive list of bullet points broken down into different sections covering all the different work that you have undertaken and are capable of assisting with, and then underneath this having a reverse chronological list of all the assignments you have undertaken, and permanent roles covering the whole of your career back to school years (or university).
The page of information on your actual ability and experience needs to probably be a full sheet of A4 and you can go into as much detail as you like in order to complete this section. It is important to make sure there is lots of information there detailing exactly what you are able to do. It is an ongoing theme of recruitment that a couple of words on a CV can catch the eye of the recruiter and make the difference between you being booked for an assignment and you being ignored. Information that is of particularly interest is the number of files worked on at any time, confirmation of the different types of law within your field that you’ve covered, any evidence of other areas of law that might be of interest to a recruiter (e.g. wills and probate for a conveyancing solicitor) and exact examples of types of cases dealt with (whether contentious or non-contentious law).
IT and Language Skills
The next section should be your computer and language skills which for a locum is of extreme importance. So many locum assignments now require locums to be able to handle their own IT and admin work and a CV that does not contain confirmation of this is going to be ineffective. Firms want to see that you are able to undertake your own typing or are prepared to deal with your admin work, or that you can handle a case management software system. If you have worked on case management software systems, make sure you include the name of the system that you have used as again this can make a considerable difference to your chances of success. If you do not know your typing speed it can be worth going online to do a typing test. The easiest way of doing this is just to type “free typing test” into Google and seeing what speed you get. For a fee earner anything over 40 words per minute is quite good. A good secretary ought to be able to type at about 70 words per minute.
Activities and Interests
The next section is activities and interests and again this is not one of the most important sections on the CV when locuming but it can be of use because it identifies you as a human being rather than an automaton.
Finally you need two references on the CV if possible. Better still is to have two “to whom it may concern” reference that you can send out in full with the CV every time it goes to a recruiter. However if you do not have these then full names, addresses and contact email/phone numbers will be very useful as well.
There is no such thing as a perfect length of a CV but we usually recommend making sure your CV is at least 3 pages long, if not longer, in order to get the information into it that we would like to see. Make sure you use a nice simple font and avoid using Microsoft templates, boxes, text fields, ensuring that the CV is as text based as possible without too much embellishment. Recruiters use specialist software that takes a CV and converts it into the in-house style. It is very difficult to do this if you send the CV with text boxes or tables.
Finally always send the CV as a word document and not a PDF. PDFs cause terrible problems despite looking more professional than a word document, but considerably harder to use across differing systems.
I hope this article has given you the confidence to prepare your CV if you were struggling! It is geared towards locum solicitors and legal executives.
Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment as well as the main consultant for interim lawyers, the specialist locum solicitor service from Ten-Percent Legal. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions regarding the content of this article.