Top five law student resume boosters

By Alexandra Sumner

Chasing “that paper” is one thing; chasing the perfect resume is another. In an environment as rich and rapid-fire as law school, it can be a bit overwhelming to sift the ore from the fluff.

So here are five strong resume boosters to help you stand out in the resume stack.

1) Volunteer for pro bono hours. In the midst of the chaos of law school, it’s easy to throw your hands up and whine, “I just don’t have time for that…” which is why it means so much when someone does.

Pro bono hours are a great (and often, easy) way to give back to the local community while gaining practical experience practicing law. The work itself isn’t glamorous—helping expunge criminal records, change legal names, helping with client intake—but small contributions can lead to big impact.

On top of that, some schools will recognize top pro bono performers during graduation, distributing colored sashes and cords depending on the number of hours worked.

2) Get some clinical experience. Similar to pro bono work, volunteering at your law school’s clinic is great for three reasons: One, you can often get class credit for it; two, you get experience managing individual cases/issues; and three, you build strong relationships with the clinic’s managing attorneys and professors.

Together, clinic work is an ideal balance of work and play. While it might be easy to only apply to the clinic that is closest to your ideal practice of law, use this as an opportunity to explore all your options: Love business law? Try the criminal clinic. Committed to family law? Why not dip your toe in bankruptcy ...

Get out of your comfort zone and into a more balanced understanding of law all while earning credits toward your degree—sounds like a win-win to me.

3) Run a student organization. Participating in a law student organization is amiable, running one is admirable. It takes real leadership to get 20+ strong-willed individuals on-task, let alone get them to agree on anything.  

4) Publish a paper. It's a little unorthodox, but it works.While the typical avenue for law student publication is law review: consider submitting your works to student writing competitions, local or state bar associations, and even other school’s law reviews.  

Alternatively, if you do substantial research for a professor, you might even be cited in the final piece. Any way that gets your name out there is a good way.

5) Volunteer for a politician’s campaign. As usual, I’ve included a bit of controversial advice. Volunteering on a campaign can be a great way to meet people — but, paradoxically, it can hurt you depending on who you “stump” for.

There is no way to pick a perfect candidate, but a safe bet would be a local hero/brother of someone famous.

If you’re feeling particularly “Frank Underwood” about it, be sure to pick someone from the predominant political party in your desired city—even if your candidate doesn’t win, you still might during job interviews.

Remember, doing the bare minimum in law school isn’t going to win you any prizes. Grades are great, but so is experience—so use your three years to earn some.

Alexandra Sumner is a recent graduate of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.