Take a minute and look at your resume or CV. Maybe you haven’t updated it in a while and don’t even know where it is. But find it, dig it out, and look at it. Take a few minutes to read about yourself. Who you are, where you’ve worked, what positions you’ve held, and what you’ve done. Notice anything missing?
Maybe not. That’s okay, keep scratching your head.
Now pretend you aren’t you. Pretend you are a potential employer or client looking at your resume and considering whether to hire you. Now what do you notice? Anything you want to know about this person that isn’t there?
Probably. Because here’s the thing. You can ask 10 people and they’ll tell you 10 different ways to write your resume. You can worry about which font to use, how wide the margins should be, and whether to make it one page or two. But what potential employers and clients really want to know about you boils down to two things:
- What have you done?
- How well did you do it?
I’m sure you’ve got plenty of information about number one. You’ve listed your duties and responsibilities underneath each job. But what about number two? I’ll bet you a hundred dollars you’ve been so busy describing what you’ve done that you haven’t included what’s most important:
As in, what have you accomplished? I see the same mistake in our firm’s Deals and Representative Matters lists. All of our practice groups keep lists of the major transactions and legal matters they’ve worked on to demonstrate their experience to potential clients. The firm showcases these lists in its brochures, proposals, award submissions, and lawyer CVs.
The lists are important because they provide concrete examples of our work, facts to back up claims about great we are, and reasons for legal directories like Chambers and Legal 500 to give our practice groups high rankings. The lists are also a major part of our pitches for new business. The problem is they typically read like this:
- Represented Sony Corporation in numerous administrative proceedings on
anti-counterfeiting activities in Russia.
- Advised BAT Rossiya, a major tobacco producer, on different labor issues and legal aspects of interacting with trade unions.
- Advised Yapi ve Kredi Bank of Turkey on the establishment and initial issuance under their US$1.2 billion future-flow securitization program backed by diversified payment rights.
What’s missing from these descriptions? You’ve got it…results. And by results I mean, what was the outcome of the deal or matter? How did the firm’s representation or advice benefit the client? Writing a Deals or Representative Matters list without including results is like driving halfway down the street. It’s a good start, but you’re not there yet.
To identify a result, try using what I like to call the “So what?” test. For every deal or representative matter on your list, ask yourself, “So what?” like this:
Issue: Represented Sony Corporation in numerous administrative proceedings on anti-counterfeiting activities in Russia.
Outcome: So what? Did you win? What benefits did you achieve for Sony?
Issue: Advised BAT Rossiya, a major tobacco producer, on different labor issues and legal aspects of interacting with trade unions.
Outcome: So what? How did this help BAT Rossiya?
Issue: Advising Yapi ve Kredi Bank of Turkey on the establishment and initial issuance under their US$1.15 billion future-flow securitization program.
Outcome: So what? How did this help Yapi ve Kredi Bank?
Once you have your answers, put the issues and the outcomes together as I did in a brochure I wrote for our Global Corporate Compliance Group excerpted below. I’ve highlighted the outcome part of the description for each matter in blue.
No FCPA charges
Conducted an internal investigation, helped terminate non-compliant employees and revised product distribution agreements for a Fortune 500 IT company under investigation for public procurement fraud and bribery in Brazil. As a result of the client’s implementation of our remediation plan, the DOJ decided not to file charges.
Successful joint venture
Conducted FCPA and trade sanctions due diligence, drafted protective contractual language and developed compliance policies and procedures that enabled a US public company to proceed with its joint venture with a Chinese state-owned enterprise. We also trained the joint venture partner’s Chinese legal and business teams on US anti-corruption and trade sanction law to prevent future liability.
Quick, credible investigation
Collected 3.5 million documents and interviewed 120 witnesses in the US, Australia, the Middle East and Asia in a large-scale internal investigation of a Fortune 100 metals company facing FCPA charges. Our ability to execute the investigative plan quickly and earn the trust of US enforcement officials with our thoroughness and transparency saved the client significant time and resources.
Notice that instead of using the title “Representative Matters” or “Related Matters” as is most common, I simply call this list “Results” because that’s what potential clients want to know most. I also summarize the outcome in the subheadings, not just in the descriptions. Rather than using the name of the case, client, or issue, I used the subheadings “No FCPA charges,” “Successful joint venture,” and “Quick, credible investigation” to get the client’s attention and reinforce that the firm is about outcome, not just process.
This might seem like a lot of work, and in some ways it is. Taking these descriptions a step further requires some effort. That’s why I would encourage you to refrain from listing 10, 20, and even 30 deals in your CVs or client materials and instead focus on five to 10 and make them really good.
Taking the extra step of including outcomes in your Deals and Representative Matters lists will make you stand out from competitors because so few professional services firms do it. It seems so obvious once you see the benefits, yet for some reason it’s not the natural approach for a lot of firms. Just like when drafting our resumes, we get so busy talking about ourselves that we quickly forget who we’re writing for and what they would want to know.
Now that you know the secret, you have no excuse. It’s time to start turning those Deals and Representative Matters lists into Results lists. And remember, “So what?”
Note to readers: This post was written while I was conducting writing workshops for the lawyers and business services professionals at Baker McKenzie, where I wrote and edited the law firm’s thought leadership content for eight years. In the post, I rely on examples from Baker McKenzie communications and refer to the firm in the first person because I worked there at the time of writing.