Telepathy and resume content

Telepathy is not a job search tool. When drafting resumes and cover letters, you must share information about yourself that will be useful to a prospective employer.

How do you know what an employer  wants to know?

Know about the employer Don’t put the cart before the horse: What do you know about the employer and the work that it does?

If you do not know what the employer does, do some research. You may not learn what the managing partner had for breakfast last Friday, but you should be able to learn some basic information about the employer and its activities. Search tools:, LinkedIn, Google searches, alumni data bases if appropriate. Ask your career services professionals what they know about the employer.

If you have done the work, describe it clearly. Use all of the important buzzwords and markers of accomplishment. If you have not done the work, you must use the language of transferrable skills to show that you have done something similar which shows that you have the capacity to learn.

Caveat writer: Do not write that you are eager to advance your skills set and to grow as a law clerk or lawyer. That you may learn something while working is a collateral benefit to you and of no consequence to an employer who is trying to hire a competent lawyer or clerk to get work done today.

What does the employer know about your school? A second critical and often overlooked question for applicants: is the employer familiar with my school and its programs?

Unless the employer is an adjunct professor or very recent graduate, the answer is usually “no.”

Law schools and their programs change all the time. Unless an employer is a graduate of your law school who pays particular attention to all of the printed and electronic material that the Dean sends regularly to update grads about curriculum, faculty, and new teaching methodology, your prospective employer has no clue about your law school experience.

Someone who graduated more than 10 years ago will have no idea that you represented live clients in your clinic and went to court on their behalf. Experienced lawyers may not know how your other classes may now connect to real world problems, and without specific information, they may dismiss your study abroad program as three months of overseas drinking.

Telepathy is not a job search tool. If you don't put something on your resume, an employer cannot possibly know that you have done it, unless perhaps, it was covered at Above the Law, or in the New York TimesIf you have served on a journal or participated in a moot court, you need to put that information on your resume. Moot court in particular may need some explanation as the work that students do varies wildly among law schools. Similarly, your participation needs to be listed under "EDUCATION" and explained under "EXPERIENCE."

Don’t hide or diminish your experience. If you have done interesting work (multiple arraignments, hearings, trials, or managed a huge case load as a clinic student director) and are applying for a litigation position, don't bury that information the last paragraph of your letters or omit it from your resume. This is consumer information that your prospective employers need to know in order to make a good decision about interviewing and hiring you.

Finally, consider each word in the job posting. Sadly, many postings are ludicrously incomplete (“2nd year law student needed for busy family law practice,” or “3rd year student needed for complex business transactions practice.”) Should you see a job description that is more than a posting, make certain that you understand the meaning of each word.

Many will list “entrepreneurial spirit,” a phrase that is fraught with peril because it is meaningless without context it. Good news. Raleigh criminal lawyer Damon Chetson wrote a helpful blog post from the perspective of an employer reviewing resumes and seeking experience beyond public defender clerkships. His excellent list of experiences and characteristics are good ways to demonstrate how you have worked and how you are willing to work.
  • Do you have marketing experience—and by experience, I mean, actual work reflected in proven results?
  • Do you have sales experience?
  • Accounting, collections, or billing experience?
  • Have you run direct mail campaigns in the past, or appeared on radio?
  • Can you write? I mean: can you really write?
  • Do you have a vast network of friends and acquaintances in your community?
  • Are you tech-savvy? Do you know how to set up and maintain a network for a small office?
  • Are you hooked into social networks?
  • Do you know how to budget for a business?
  • Do you have hustle?
  • Have you demonstrated a willingness to work whatever hours are required to get something done? Even on short notice?

The combination of your knowledge about the work that a prospective employer does and your sharing complete information about your experience puts you on a path to employment.  Relying on telepathy to ensure that an employer knows who you are and what you can do puts you on a path to nowhere.


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