7 tips and tricks for writing your NQ legal CV

It’s finally all about to pay off. After years of study and training, you’re now mere months away from your ultimate goal – qualifying as a solicitor. It’s a time filled with excitement and expectation, but if you haven’t been offered an NQ position at your current firm, or have decided to move upon qualification, then it can also come with a lot of nervousness and uncertainty. At Harvey John, our expert legal recruitment team is on hand to provide impartial advice on any aspect of what can seem a daunting process.

One area on which we provide a lot of advice is what a good CV should look like for NQ positions. We’re always happy to take a look over a draft and provide feedback, but here are our quick top tips for NQ solicitor CVs. (For more tips and advice on legal CVs in general, keep an eye out for our future blog ‘What should I include on my legal CV?‘)

1. Detail the training seat you want to specialise in

It should be obvious that the most important information on your NQ CV in detail about the training seats you’ve undertaken. As your most current and advanced experience, this gives your prospective employer the best indication of your exposure to date. While it’s important to describe each seat you undertook, it’s crucial to go into the most detail about the seat in the area of law you want to specialise in, this needs to be the focus and most important/detailed part of your CV.

If, for example, you want to specialise in Commercial Property, don’t forget that you’re being assessed on the Commercial Property experience you already have, rather than the less relevant experience you gained during other seats. Demonstrating the breadth of your experience and achievements within your desired specialism makes you more attractive to a prospective firm; it shows them that you’ll be able to hit the ground running.  You may also wish to include a profile paragraph at the beginning of your CV to highlight the best of your experience and achievements in your chosen specialism and highlight your passion for this area. (Check out our more general list of suggestions for getting your CV to the top of the pile)

2: Include the length of each training seat

It’s important to include the length of time you spent in each training seat, although it’s often overlooked. An equal six months in 4 training seats are typical, but even if this is the case for you, include it so that your prospective firm knows you haven’t spent any less time than this in your desired specialism. If you’ve spent more than six months in a seat, or done two seats in a specialism, then even better. It’s certainly worth showing off how much more experience you have than any other trainee competing with you for the same role.

3. Detail any high-value or complex transactions or high-net-worth client experience

If you and another trainee both have six months of training in the same area of law, the one who has more impressive experience within those six months will be the favourite for the position. If you’ve done any work on high-value or particularly complex transactions, or have any experience working with high-net-worth clients, be sure to include this on your CV. It will make you stand out above other trainees in the same position.

4. Previous legal work experience

If you have any experience working at a law firm before the commencement of your training contract, for example, as a paralegal, legal assistant, conveyancing assistant, etc, then you can demonstrate a wealth of experience that most trainees won’t have, particularly if you worked primarily in the area of law in which you want to specialise. Having this kind of experience, therefore, makes you a very attractive candidate, and so it’s certainly worth detailing it in your CV.  Don’t include details of your non-legal work experience unless relevant.

5. Networking events

A large aspect of many solicitors’ roles is generating new business for their firms. You’re naturally unlikely to have done much of this as a trainee, but if you’ve attended any professional networking events, even just occasionally, it’s worth mentioning. It demonstrates your willingness and eagerness to get out there and spread the profile of your firm.

6. Education, qualifications, and grades

Your studies may be just a memory after almost two years of training, but including details of your education is still important at this early stage of your career. Often we see candidates subtly omitting some grades that they’re less proud of or that they don’t think tell the full story. While the impulse is tempting, prospective firms will typically notice and ask about these grades, so it probably reflects better on you to just be upfront about them.

7. More than one CV?

I know, one CV is enough work already – could it be worth writing more than one? If you’re interested in applying for multiple NQ roles in more than one area of law, then we certainly recommend it. The best NQ CVs demonstrate passion, interest, and experience in a particular area of law throughout. If you try to demonstrate these things in two areas in one document, it will probably run too long and look unfocused. Instead, write one CV for each specialism you’re applying for that’s focussed on it.

Hopefully, these tips give you some assistance in putting together your CV ready to apply for your first job as a solicitor. For more detailed advice on your CV and every aspect of your NQ job search, however, please do get in touch with me.

Hayley Rose is a Director in the Legal Division at Harvey John.

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