Writing The Perfect CV

You get one chance to make a first impression

In the legal professional effective writing and communication are of paramount importance. Your CV is an direct illustration of your ability to communicate, so should be well set out, easy to read and contain no grammar or spelling mistakes.  

Our top tips are below:


Use Plain English (see How to write in plain English - Plain English Campaign).

  • No legal jargon, run on sentences or unnecessarily complicated words.
  • Aim for simple, elegant and accurate
  • Use a spell checker, but do not only rely on it. Have someone proofread it for you as well.


Keep to three pages at most, two is better. If you have a fairly short employment history, avoid the temptation to add in miscellaneous, unrelated jobs. If you have a long job history, focus on the last couple of roles and provide a concise summary of previous work.

As a guide, experience over five years ago is probably not relevant.


Current employment details should appear at the top and the majority area of responsibility should be listed first within that role.  Recruiters may only skim read the first paragraphs of a CV –so it is important to structure content accordingly.  

Professional qualifications and memberships go towards the end of your CV (set them out in detail, no jargon, acronyms or strings of initials). Educational qualifications last.

Special interests such as school prizes, marathons and mountain climbing are not very relevant but can be mentioned in one brief sentence.

Do not start off your CV with a third person description of yourself as an exceptional achiever.


To make an impact on the first page, put your contact details in the header. This frees the main body of the page to use more effectively.


This is your opportunity to “sell” yourself and your experience in a short list of punchy words or notes relevant to the job application.

These are not your character or personality. The ability to conduct research is not a key skill; getting on well with your colleagues is not a key skill.

Think through your current job role in detail and make a list of exactly what you do each day to pick out the most important elements. These are your transferable key skills.


List jobs in reverse chronological order, the most recent first with a description of what you did/do in each job role. A description from each job role demonstrates an increased your level of responsibility, knowledge and experience on an ongoing basis.

  • Do not write a description summarising all your job experience and then a list of employers underneath. 
  • If you have a really substantial level of previous experience, you might complete a detailed description of the last two or three roles, and then summarise the rest.
  • If you have a long list of reported cases and project involvement, pick out two or three to illustrate something relevant and provide a summary of the rest.


These are not that relevant (see STRUCTURE ) so only include if particularly notable.

  • Sports if you are an Oxbridge Blue, represented the UK or are an Olympic champion for instance.
  • A significant commitment or contribution is relevant. For instance, running your own business, writing a novel. Golfing, reading, socialising wilth friends,– are not relevant.