December 22, 2021
5 Tips On How To Get Entry Level Paralegal Jobs
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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 five tips for where to begin, 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 While 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.
You’ll also want to make sure your program offers internships, which can be a valuable asset in making community connections. Many paralegal programs will have contacts within the community to connect their students to legal offices willing to take on interns. While these for-credit internships are sometimes unpaid, they do provide valuable experience doing actual paralegal work and provide you with legal connections.
Some paralegal programs even offer virtual internships. These allow students who need flexibility in time and location to still make these connections and learn real-life paralegal skills.
2. Research the Paralegal Field
Dust off your research skills and hit the virtual pavement. Searching available online resources, like your local bar associations, can unveil local firms, different specialties near you. While many positions for paralegals are with local or semi-local firms, that doesn’t mean that’s the only kind of entry-level paralegal position. While you are online, check the career sections of the websites for nearby corporations for paralegal or legal assistant listings.
- 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. 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.
- Federated legal organizations like the ACLU also have listings for various chapters and affiliates, as well as their national offices.
3. Network with Other Paralegals
Networking is a great way to find entry level paralegal jobs. You can begin this component of your paralegal job search while still in school, thankfully. Remember to get contact information or LinkedIn links for your classmates before graduation, as well as any instructors, teaching assistants, or even guest lecturers you connect with. And many programs will advertise networking events, so pay attention to the flyers in the hallways.
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 by attending their events.
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 for the legal space.
- 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, internships 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 particulars that make sure 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.
5. 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.