Transitioning to Civilian Life

The decision to leave the service for civilian practice is significant. To complicate matters, that initial decision requires you to make many more decisions. What type of work do you want to do? Where? What are your goals in life and in your career? Once you answer those questions, the real work of finding a job begins. The Transitioning to Civilian Life: A Roadmap for Military Lawyers program offers practical advice for attorneys making this change. Here you'll find résumé, cover letter, interviewing and networking tips from military lawyers who have successfully made the transition to civilian lawyer. You can even find tips for what to consider when looking at a compensation package.

Watch video clips below on how to craft a stellar résumé, what not to do in an interview, and the benefits of working for the government.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently released a report: The Military to Civilian Transition 2018, A Review of Historical, Current, and Future Trends. Read it here!


  • Use civilian terms
  • Limit to one or two pages
  • Use clear, non-jargon language
  • Have others review your resume
  • Tailor your resume to fit the position for which you are applying

Visit our resume/cover letter page for more in depth pointers!

Resume Examples:
Sample Flawed Resume
Sample Effective Resume

Watch this short video for more résumé tips!


  • Be smart when listing references - contact them to obtain their permission before listing them

Cover Letter

  • Always use a cover letter when applying. A resume alone is not effective (unless there is a specific request for a resume only).
  • This is your first chance to make an impression. Be sure it's smooth, readable and error free. The recipient's name, title and address must be correct.
  • Use impeccably correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, and no jargon
  • Use direct words instead of qualifiers and intensifiers
  • Be concrete - provide details and avoid vague generalities about accomplishments. Be specific about activities. Explain your skills without providing tedious detail
  • If your cover letter contains mistakes the prospective employer will move on to the next applicant
  • Be accurate and honest
  • Thank the reader and request an interview in the closing paragraph
  • Be friendly and professional, but never pushy
  • Proofread! And then have someone else proofread - they may catch a mistake you overlooked
  • Avoid clichés
  • Tailor your cover letter to the particular company and position and revise your cover letter for each application
  • Address your cover letter to a specific person, if possible
  • Keep a record of each application. This will help if you are contacted for an interview.

See more tips on cover letters here.

Writing Sample
  • Have a writing sample ready before you start the application process
  • Find one that is a suitable length: 3-5 pages
  • Make sure it is a polished piece. Review/edit for any errors

The Interview

Visit our interviewing page where we provide some tips to assist you in framing your military career for civilian ears and understanding. We also provide some advice on how to avoid common pitfalls that may arise in negotiating cultural differences between the military and the civilian workforce.

this video to see what not to do in an interview.

Then watch our panelists discuss ways to improve your interview skills as they analyze what "Melissa" did wrong.


Don't underestimate the importance of networking! You never know when a contact will come in handy.

Visit our networking page for more in depth pointers about the benefits of broadening your network!

The Veterans Legal Professional Network (VLPN) is a central hub for discussions pertaining to the civilian legal field. The overall intent is to help military community legal professionals remove barriers of entry into civilian legal careers. Who should join? Military/Former Military/Retired Military and their spouses with experience in the legal profession are encouraged to join this group. Additionally, company representatives or military transitioning office staff are also invited to join if interested in helping to recruit/place legal professionals from the military community into civilian positions. This is a community that encourages sharing helpful information among attorneys, paraprofessionals, recruiting/HR staff and the military community members. Link with us on LinkedIn!

Benefits and Compensation

Visit our benefits page to learn more!

Watch this video to hear about the benefits of government work from a military lawyer who made the transition to the civilian public sector.


GPSLD's Military Lawyers Conference produces Reveille, a quarterly newsletter, featuring advice for military lawyers seeking to transition to civilian life. Please take a look at past issues of Reveille for practical advice from our military members.

Winter 2013
Spring 2013
Fall 2013
Winter 2014

For our latest interview with a military lawyer, visit our military profile page!

Additional Resources:

ABA Legal Career Central

Download Transitioning to Civilian Life: A Roadmap for Military Lawyers CLE program materials here.