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LL.M Applications 101: What is the secret to a successful resume?

Case Studies, Legal Research,

When I first dabbled with the idea of pursuing an LL.M. abroad, I wasn’t particularly sure how I would have to start. I was told that TOEFL scores and grades mattered most, but as I delved deeper into this bottomless chasm, I learned there was so much more to an application than I could have imagined! For all those seeking a quick way out of this post, here is the TLDR: Decide which part of the world you wish to apply to and mold your resume strategy on that basis. For brevity, I will suggest strategies for the two hotspots for LL.M. applications—the U.S. and Europe.

Successful resumes to European law schools are more modest than those to American law schools. While boldly listing your achievements, including every scholastic skill you have ever acquired would work well for an American University, it may not be the best approach to a successful application to a European law school. As an alumna of a Top 4 law school in the U.S., I can vouch for the fact that grades are the end-all for a successful application. Unequivocally, a good GPA goes a long way in getting you past the first round of selections. However, top American law schools are looking at all-rounders candidates that bring value and diversity to the class. This is another reason why candidates with work experience see greater success in their applications to American law schools. While this post does not discuss the resume’s more complicated cousin, the personal statement, top American law schools are attracted to threeareas in particular—gratifying volunteering experience, positions of responsibility, and relevant work experience. For those law students who lack the last area, substantive volunteering or pro-bono work for say, a college legal aid society is good compensation. In addition, again, there is no doubt that good grades and extra-curricular accolades can boost a resume that lacks in any other area.

European law schools largely focus on grades. The top U.K. schools are sufficiently satisfied with a student with exceptional academic credentials, albeit little or no work experience. A successful resume to a top law school in Europe must highlight all those academic credentials which make the candidate stand out among their peers. This means gold medals, academic distinction, andextra-curricular achievements are indispensable for success. There is substantial divisiveness on the issue of whether work experience can compensate for below average grades. Keeping in mind the larger strategy for maximizing success, a resume to a top European law school should highlight academic accolades, law review, moot experience, and if applicable, work experience. Volunteering may not play that big a role here.

As we reach the end of this post, here is a ready reckoner to keep in mind:

1.Create a resume ‘theme’
Candidates with work experience should make sure that their work experience is extensively documented. On the other hand, a fresh out-of-school graduate should focus on academic successes, significant internships, and extra-curricular accolades. There is no doubt that moot courts, law reviews, and pro-bono volunteering are some accolades that draw the attention of most law school admission panels.

2. A well-structured resume can go a long way
Legal Education and academic achievements, professional experience/internships, volunteering/positions of responsibility, publications and moot courts. This capsule format cannot go wrong.

3. Formatting is king
A successful resume encapsulates all the credentials within 2 pages, is well-margined, and is devoid of a single spelling error that may leave the candidate red-faced. Let us not forget that a law school selection panel is the greatest fan of ‘colorful’ portfolio resumes. Stick to a modest font and black and white template.

4. There is no strict formula for success, and we all pave our own paths. Please don’t cage yourselves and always aim for the skies!

-Gayatri Raghunandan
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