How to Get an In-House Legal Job: Package Yourself Correctly

This will be the topic of our next blog series, and was also the question we sought to answer in “Navigating the Maze: Making Smart In-House Legal Career Moves,” a recent event co-hosted by FLEX and UC Berkeley School of Law Alumni Career Services.

At the event, our experts – Raj Singh, Lead Corporate Counsel at Facebook, Amy Boyd, in-house legal recruiter at Google, and Susan Tien, a professional recruiter – addressed some of the challenges attorneys face when they pursue in-house opportunities.

There’s Bad News and Good News

Unfortunately, landing an in-house job can be difficult without a “golden resume” – i.e. one that includes a top-10 law school, “blue chip” law firm credentials, 5 years of commercial transactions experience, and some time in-house in a relevant industry.

But don’t worry if this isn’t you.  There are ways for all of us to increase our prospects.

The Art of the Package

Isn’t it amazing when you receive a beautifully wrapped gift and what’s inside fits you perfectly?

The same is true when applying for an in-house position.  Think of your resume as the “wrapping” and your experience as the “gift” that you’re packaging up for the hiring manager.

Give ‘Em What They Want

Even if you don’t have a “golden resume,” keep in mind that top credentials are what employers are looking for and present yourself accordingly.

For example, maybe you’re at a small firm, but the partner you work for came from a top firm. Or perhaps you graduated at the top of your class. Be sure to include all the honors that enhance your legal credentials (ex. editor of your school’s Law Review, voted “Top Young Lawyer,” etc.).

If you’ve never worked in-house, highlight any significant counseling experience that shows you’ve advised clients on business and legal issues.  If you’re lucky enough to have had any on-site client secondments, be sure to feature those as well.

If you’re applying to a technology company, include any technical training that might show industry knowledge.

Finally, use numbers and metrics to demonstrate your leadership skills – for example, you’ve managed a team of 12, were lead counsel on a $50M deal, or were sole counsel to 25 start-up clients.

The Way You Wrap Matters

Independent of your skills and credentials, our experts all agreed that resume formatting is also important.

Employers sort through hundreds of resumes a day.  To increase your chances of getting noticed:

  • Try to stick to a single page. Use two only if absolutely necessary – keep in mind that the longer it is, the more you’re showing inability to prioritize and identify key information.
  •  Don’t waste space with extraneous statements like “creative lawyer” or “fast learner,” etc. At best, these will get skipped over. At worst, they will be mocked.
  • Simple is best – where did you work, for how long and what did you do?
  • Don’t organize your experience by skills. Add a separate “key accomplishments” section or write paragraphs instead of bullet points if it makes your resume extend beyond a page.
  • Your bullet points should match the job description so tailor your resume to each job (yes, that’s every job you apply to!)

Next Up: Beyond Your Resume

Stay tuned for next month’s post which will discuss the experts’ advice beyond getting the packaging right.

How do attorneys get in-house jobs?