How to Develop a Competitive Edge

Having seen and reviewed thousands of law student resumes, I am always struck by how uniform and “cookie-cutter” they are: the same formats, the same length (almost always limited to one page), the same order of presentation; the same boring language, and the same conventional paths. The lack of imagination these indicate is across-the-board and completely counter to what wins candidates a job interview, i.e., distinguishing yourself in some way.

The contemporary world offers countless ways to develop a unique value proposition, one that enables an applicant to emphasize differences, uniqueness; something that will make a prospective employer pause before dispensing with your resume and deep-sixing it in the round file. Manifesting a competitive edge is what makes you memorable—in a good way—when it comes time to decide whom to invite to the office for a job interview.

Here are three things (there are many others) you can do to gain such an edge:

Develop knowledge of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and supplement that with knowledge of the new anti-bribery laws of major trading nations such as India and China.

The FCPA criminalizes promises, offers, or making bribes, directly or indirectly, to a foreign official to retain business or to secure an improper business advantage. The law also requires publicly traded companies (on U.S. stock exchanges) to maintain accurate books and records, and to use an adequate system of internal financial and accounting controls.

The number of FCPA cases are skyrocketing and creating numerous new opportunities for attorneys, particularly those interested in litigation. This is a specialized area that few lawyers know much about. However, the globalization of business and the surge in the number of multinational corporations and the competitive environment in which they must operate means additional FCPA compliance, enforcement, and alleged violations. The risks associated with this pose a huge and growing challenge for U.S. companies seeking to do business abroad.

Combine this with new commitments by India and China to go after corruption and you also add to the mix a huge increase in enforcement actions by Indian and Chinese authorities.

Supplement your law degree with a certificate or comparable credential. There are more than 400 such programs that are legal or law-related that, combined with a JD, can greatly enhance your competitive edge when it comes to job hunting or business development. Many are online programs that can be accessed and listened to or viewed asynchronously. Moreover, these programs are for the most part reasonably priced and not terribly time-consuming. They look great on a resume. They show initiative, forethought, and energy.

Become conversant with new and emerging technologies that have vast legal implications. Robotics, artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, unmanned aircraft, digital assets, data protection, the Internet of Things, and blockchain are only a few of the emerging technologies that have broad implications for society, daily life, and the law. You do not have to become an expert in the technology; only acquainted enough to be able to speak intelligently about it and to understand its legal implications.

Do any one of these three things and you will find that you have a value proposition that distinguishes you from the crowd and makes you attractive to prospective employers.