Q: What’s better atop my resume, J.D. or Esq.?
A: Actually, neither, in my view. Although there can be some geographical differences of opinion on this, and although J.D. is a term for your degree and for unlicensed law school graduates (while Esquire or Attorney-at-Law is for licensed lawyers), I don’t think you need either atop your resume.
It should be clear from your resume and cover letter that you went to graduate school, where you are licensed to practice, and where you have worked, both during and after law school. In my view, there is no need to aggrandize your header with J.D. or Esq. Employers need smart people who are also good colleagues, and initials after your name can be interpreted to suggest that you are stuck on your stature and standing. An exception may be in the South, where both are more extensively used or if you have a dual degree that distinguishes you, such as JD/MBA or J.D., M.D.
That said, if you are looking beyond the law at an alternative career, the advice to avoid using either designation is particularly apt. We all need to prove our specific worth in the workplace and in job search, rather than imply that once we have been to law school/are a lawyer we should be hired because can learn/do anything, that our value is implicit.
As Ross said in an episode of Friends, it needs to be plicit!