Now that school's over, here are six tips for landing your first paralegal job.
You have already finished your paralegal training and know enough about paralegal job descriptions to target a particular paralegal specialty or industry. But starting to hunt for a paralegal job can still be intimidating, especially when you are completely new to the legal field.
Every profession has its quirks, and the legal field is no exception.
Here are six tips for where to begin, ways to approach people, and conduct a job search that will help you find entry level paralegal positions that are right for you.
1. Start Planning for a Paralegal Job in School
During your paralegal training, make a point to get to know your school’s placement director. A good placement office will have law firm and business directories for your local area, information on job fairs, and recent issues of industry publications that advertise entry level paralegal job openings. An excellent placement office will maintain contacts in the legal and business communities and find out about paralegal job opportunities before they are made public.
2. Research the Paralegal Field
- If you want a job in a law firm setting, a good resource to identify local firms and the types of law they practice is the Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directory, available online at www.martindale.com. Martindale-Hubbell includes almost all U.S. law firms and attorneys by their location and specialty.
- Check with your state, county or local bar association. Most publish directories of member attorneys and law firms.
- The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) also maintains an employment site at paralegals.legalstaff.com.
3. Network with Other Paralegals
Networking is a great way to find good entry level paralegal jobs. You can also begin this component of your paralegal job search while still in school. Also consider joining a professional organization to further expand your circle of contacts. The National Association of Legal Assistants and the NFPA offer discounted memberships for students. Make sure whatever organization you choose has an active local chapter. You will accomplish more of your networking goals at the local level than through the national organization.
4. Craft a Great Paralegal Resume
- Shy away from advice to make your resume nontraditional. A common font, such as Times New Roman, and white or cream paper will convey a more appropriate image.
- Make sure that both your resume and cover letter are thoroughly proofread and contain no grammatical or punctuation errors.
- Keep it concise. Your resume should cover your past work experience and responsibilities, education and relevant skills. Effective resumes may also include job objectives and volunteer experience.
- Highlight information that makes you ideally suited for a particular paralegal job opening in your cover letter.
For your job interviews, there are a few specific things to keep in mind:
- You may first meet with a human resources professional or paralegal manager. They will be interested in your education, past work experience and determining whether you will fit in well at the firm.
- You may then meet with lawyers who will want to know more about your skills and how they make you the best candidate for the position. Do your research in advance of your interview. Find out about the legal practices and accomplishments of the attorneys you are likely to be working with. Come prepared with questions that demonstrate you have done your homework.
- Even if the law firm has a casual work atmosphere, dress formally for the interview. While attorneys may dress down for routine days in the office, if they appear in court or attend an important meeting they wear business suits and will expect that you do the same.
6. Relax and Enjoy the Process
This is often more easily said than done. But remember, you have the knowledge and training to succeed in your first entry level paralegal job. Be confident that you can answer their questions and engage in interesting conversation about the work and yourself. If you can always stay relaxed and answer questions honestly, you’ll have the best chance at landing the job.