How to write a good legal CV – a guide for trainee solicitors

So here we are in March and the legal jobs market is busy. Jobs for newly qualified solicitors are out there and, although some firms are already making decisions about their own NQs, the season is still young – the NQ job market is very lively, and it’s all still to play for. We’ve seen plenty of NQ solicitor jobs in Leeds city centre as well as in other regions in the North, too.


That said, if you’re a trainee solicitor qualifying this year then it’s definitely time to start thinking about where you’d like to be for your first NQ position. There are many reasons why you might have decided to put your applications in later, but let’s be honest: there’s no denying that the applications process can feel like a long, thankless slog.

But don’t despair: actually starting an application is often the hardest part of the entire process. Getting your applications off the ground can be made much easier by giving yourself good tools to work with – and the most important of these is a solid, well-written legal CV.

So, what are our tips for writing a solicitor CV? Read on for advice from our team of legal recruitment professionals…


What sort of information should I include in my solicitor CV?

All in all, the best way to write a really impressive CV is to keep content factual. Avoid too much personal conjecture and limit any content about yourself that can’t be verified objectively. Detail of experience is paramount for your CV; save the rest for other areas of your application.

A good CV will hinge on a logical structure, so be sure to include all your relevant personal contact information, as well as your academic history including dates, grades and establishments. You should also include your current position and job title, and, if you have undertaken a non-traditional training contract, provide some additional detail to explain the range of work you have covered.

How much detail should I go into?

For each seat, you should include a short description of the department and the clients you worked on, and, most importantly, details of the range of work you undertook: this includes tasks performed and duties assigned to you throughout your training.

While you don’t need to wax too lyrical, we recommend making your summary as exhaustive as possible, as prospective employers will want to see continuity of experience and skills across jobs whether that be with your current employer or previous ones. Indeed, most employers are always doing a kind of risk assessment when they hire a new employee – so make sure you can explain any gaps in your working history or instances where your experience doesn’t flow consistently.

How long should my legal CV be?

It’s a common myth that all CVs need to be a standard size of two pages – personally, I think that’s utter rubbish. As an experienced legal recruiter, I’d recommend including as much detail as possible about your experience, specialisms and remit (although don’t include words for words’ sake – be sure to keep your writing as factual and concise as possible).

Demonstrate your experience with examples of where you have run a matter yourself with a client or spoken with clients directly. In short, if you have dealt with clients and had direct involvement and autonomy, put it down!

Added to that, any previous paralegal experience you can include will obviously add to the overall document and highlight your suitability. Marketing and business development, as well as networking, is always well received too, so don’t be shy about adding those.

Should I get personal with it?

Last but by no means least, we recommend including some information about yourself and your interests and hobbies. Some national clients may be seeing a considerable number of CVs every week – they’ll all start to blur into one after a while, so you want yours to stand out.

A client said to me recently that they want an ‘original thinker’ to join them as an NQ. Whilst that’s a pretty broad spec (I’m not sure what that even means, to be honest!), it’s a good idea to include some interesting info about your life outside of the office. Skip the dull details – a full clean driving licence is not an interest – and mention a hobby or interest of yours that reflects well on your skills as an individual. ‘Cycling round the Andes’ might sound a bit out there, but if I were reading your CV it’d make me look twice!

To summarise…

The NQ job market is hot at the moment: this month, a newly qualified solicitor we’d spoken to who had found the market quite quiet in their specialism in January/February has had two offers come through in the last couple of weeks. Now is certainly the time to be getting your CV in order and speaking to a recruiter if you haven’t already, because, as this candidate found, the market can change very quickly – at least she is sorted and that’s the main thing!


If you’d like some support getting your legal CV in order, or finding an NQ solicitor role that’s ideal for you, please contact the Brooke Thornham team – we’d be happy to help. Alternatively, take a look at our FREE NQ Resource Hub, which is full of information and advice for every stage of your NQ job search.

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