I get it. You went to a law school that isn’t causing the employers to beat down your door. Or maybe you have an ominous gap in your resume. Or maybe you have some other blemish on your resume. My advice for you is to please stop beating yourself up about the “blemishes” on your resume The truth is that you really can’t do much about it now (going back to law school for an advanced law degree from a “more prestigious” law school is rarely a good option). Work with what you have.
Borrowing an idea from Seth Godin, you have to realize that oftentimes people don’t make decisions purely on the metrics you believe they will; they make decisions on whether they will have peace of mind if they make the decision one way versus another way. Certainly having a well-drafted resume with many academic and professional accolades on it will help. But if you don’t have it, sell your story and (most importantly) your ability to do the job.
According to Godin, people say they want the “best” in a category, but rarely follow through with it. No one I know drives the FASTEST car, owns the MOST EFFICIENT refrigerator or drinks the HIGHEST RATED bourbon. We may want to, but we are limited by reality and resources.
Godin gives an example of how this works when “hiring” someone. Say you and your spouse are due for a night out and hire a babysitter to watch your child. You don’t hold out to hire the singular person who knows the MOST about child CPR or the one who has the GREATEST ability to teach your child how to read, but instead you hire a competent babysitter based on a recommendation. You hire someone who has a “story” (a friend liked him/her, they are a neighbor kid, etc.). When the babysitter arrives (10 minutes early) and is dressed appropriately and agrees to text the parents every 90 minutes with an update, the babysitter has sold her “story” (that she is going to do a good job) and something else – peace of mind.
So relating this to the gap in your resume, you don’t have to have the BEST resume but you have to get your foot in the door and have a serviceable story as to why there is a gap, why you went to that fourth-tier law school or why you can’t get a recommendation from your previous firm. Focus your energy on showing why you can do an excellent job in the position and you are offering the potential employer what they really want – peace of mind that you can do the job and that the blemishes are not indicative of your future performance.
(An additional bonus is that “selling” your abilities like this also works for generating clients!)