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Top 3 Ways to 'Dumb Down' Your Legal Resume

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

It's a tough market out there for unemployed lawyers. If you're one of them, you may be considering a job outside the legal field. You may be thinking about "dumbing down" your legal resume to make yourself more marketable.

Career experts have mixed feelings on this move. On one hand, a "dumbed down" resume may help get your foot in the door. But it may also raise questions and concerns about your veracity for the truth.

Here are three ways to be smart about "dumbing down" your legal resume:

1. Don't lie, just rephrase.

Your legal resume doesn't have to include everything you've ever done, but you shouldn't be dishonest either, one expert writes for Lies may come back to bite you, as employers verify your credentials.

For attorneys, lying on a resume also potentially violates ethical codes of conduct that call for honesty in all dealings. Such a violation could get you disciplined or disbarred.

Instead of lying about job titles, try to rephrase. For example, use a title like "Specialist" or "Project Team Leader" instead of "Senior" or "Manager," suggests Nicholas Carroll, author of the e-book The Layoff Survival Plan.

Omitting your J.D. may be a bit trickier. But you may be able to justify it by adding a "Relevant Education" heading to your resume, and listing only what's required for the job.

Keep in mind, if you leave jobs or degrees off your resume, you must still disclose them on a job application, warns. A resume is a marketing document, while a job application is a legal document that requires full disclosure.

2. Stress skills instead of past jobs and accomplishments.

Instead of a traditional chronological resume, try using a "functional resume" that groups your past experiences into clusters of related skills, one expert suggests in The Wall Street Journal.

A functional resume helps to "dumb down" your resume by de-emphasizing the length of your past positions, and by drawing attention to the skills you can bring to a potential employer.

3. Stay true to your experience.

"Dumbing down" your legal resume may actually just require a change in tone. Instead of touting impressive past successes, try to describe them in more general terms that emphasize what your experiences mean for your potential employer.

Finally, though you may feel pressured to "dumb down" your legal resume in a sluggish economy, some experts say being overqualified may no longer be a liability. A tough job market means you're competing against lots of candidates with a variety of professional degrees, not just those with JDs.

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