The CV is one of the most underrated and most painstaking part of the application process. One would think that knowing yourself would actually be simple. Perhaps it is. It’s getting your life down to a page which is the challenge.
In the American context, nothing can beat the effectiveness of a one-page resume (yes, a resume is different from a CV!). As soon as you get into your LLM program, you will be asked to develop a resume summarizing your credentials within a page. Usually this is difficult for students coming from jurisdictions where CV’s can be even two or three pages. Also, if you have a doctorate degree or other advanced degrees, or even many years of work experience, reducing content can be difficult. But, it is best to stick to the norm in the location where you are studying, and especially if you plan to pick up a job afterwards. In fact, even for the application process, it is recommended to follow the one-page format as that is what people are used to seeing.
Do your research. After you open up that LSAC account, find out from alumni and people in your network and see where people have ended up after graduating from that law school. If you are on Linkedin, you can search for the law schools’ name and see who all shows up in your search. You can even see their career trajectories to see if their career graphs match up with your reason(s) for going. Due Diligence, my friends!!
The next obvious question then is how to structure the resume. Do we put education first or experience? As a guideline, if you have been out of school for many years, then it is a good idea to highlight your experience first. This will resonate more with the admissions committee as it is the most recent accomplishment you have. If you are fresh out of law school, then highlight your internships but try to see which ones could be relevant to the program you are applying to. Work on those bullet points and make them meaningful. Use active verbs and try to quantify your achievements, but be realistic. And yes, remember these as they can become talking points in an interview. Context may have to be given (e.g. boutique litigation law firm, corporate law department of multi-national as an explanation under the firm name) as many admissions counselors may not be able to translate what is a top law firm or a brand name in your country. Err on the side of clarity and not ambiguity.
Another word of caution. Sometimes students will put Future NY Bar Candidate, to indicate that they intend to give this exam. This can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Often, it shows a commitment to becoming qualified within the relevant jurisdiction, and is a talking point during interviews. It can even help your future employer understand that you will need some time off to study for the bar, and that you will only begin employment after the exam is out of the way. The risk you are taking here is of letting people know that you have taken the exam. So in case you have a bad couple of days, and do not clear the exam, this line can come to haunt you later. One school of thought is to avoid putting these forward-looking statements till you have actually cleared and qualified in that jurisdiction. From an LLM application perspective, this does not matter materially, but from an employment perspective just be aware of the risk you carry with you. If you are okay with that (honesty helps!), then it is completely fine.