Entry Level Paralegal Jobs
As with most professions, entry-level paralegals often face stiff competition to get their first position. Often, it’s not just what you know, but who you know, and most importantly, who knows you. Joining your local paralegal association is an excellent way to network with experienced paralegals that will often have the inside track on legal assistant job openings, sometimes even before they exist.
Putting your profile on social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook is also a good way to showcase your skills and make yourself known to employers who are looking for paralegals. Make sure that the image you project is a professional one. Look for ways to network with others in your industry, explore law firms and other employers of paralegals that you are interested in, and make sure to provide updated contact information.
Create a resume that not only presents you in the best light possible, but also demonstrate to potential employers the types of problems that you can solve for them. Focus on the value you can bring to the organization, in terms of quality and affordable legal services. Recent paralegal graduates should have one goal when it comes to interviewing: stand out from all the other entry-level candidates. Be sure to highlight your work experience, no matter what it is – especially transferable skills such as multi-tasking, organization, and any experiences you’ve had working with the public or computer software you’re proficient in. If your job experience is limited, focus on the “real-world” skills you learned in college, such as promptness, the importance of a strong work ethic, and prioritizing.
During an interview, new graduates need to talk about why they chose to become a paralegal, and tell a story that illustrates their initiative or ability to be a “team player.” Practice interviewing skills, paying special attention to the tough questions hiring manager and employers (especially attorneys!) often ask, such as:
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What can you do for us that someone else can’t?
- Why should we hire you?
- How do you take criticism?
- Tell me about yourself…
- How long will it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our firm?
- What do you feel that this position should pay?
Your internship, which is typically a requirement in many paralegal education programs, is also a great way to transition into your first job. The “hands on” experience you gain as an intern will help you get around the challenge of “needing experience to get a job/needing a job to get experience.” Make sure you learn all you can while interning, do the best job possible, and make the organization that you are interning with believe that they cannot live without you once your internship is completed. An internship is also an ideal place to network with other paralegals, both inside and outside the organization, and begin to lay the foundation for your first job.
If you have an interest in a specific area of law, try to secure an internship with an attorney who practices in that area. Not only will this give you valuable experience, it will also allow you to network with other legal professionals who practice in that area, and help you to decide whether this type of law is for you.