Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Paralegal Voice: Finding Employment After Graduation

Following the first episode of The Paralegal Voice on Legal Talk Network , Lynne DeVenny and I were pleased to hear from one of our listeners. Hardin had a question about finding his first paralegal job:

"I am a retired 51-year old male. I have an associates degree and may participate in a 17-week Paralegal Certificate Program. Once I've earned my certificate, what would be the best source for help in finding employment? Thanks. I really enjoyed your first show.”

Lynne and I put our heads together to answer Hardin's questions:

Lynne: I recently answered a similar question on the Paralegal Gateway listserv for a former journalist that is changing careers and is currently enrolled in a paralegal program. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough, but if possible, all paralegal students should work in the legal field while they are in school to start gaining that all-important experience required by most employers. I’m assuming that you have strong communication, keyboarding and software skills and are well-versed in all MS Word applications.

If you cannot get your foot in the door in any paid entry-level capacity, such as receptionist, courier, legal secretary or administrative assistant, even part-time, I'd try offering your services as an unpaid intern, at least for a short period to get that crucial experience on your resume before you graduate. You might also want to investigate the possibility of temporary or contract work. Consider volunteering with a legal non-profit agency and joining your closest paralegal association to network and make area legal contacts. If you already know any area legal professionals from your previous career, call them!

Now is a good time to prepare a solid one-page "functional skills" resume, emphasizing your current skills that are transferable to the legal industry. Also develop a writing portfolio with your best work from your current paralegal program.

Vicki: Lynne’s suggestions are right on, Hardin! There are only a couple of things I would add.
First, do join paralegal associations that offer student memberships so that you receive their publications and can participate in educational events. Usually those programs are offered at a reduced cost to students. This is an excellent avenue for networking with paralegals already working in the field.

Second, it’s essential that you begin social networking now. Set up your profile on LinkedIn showcasing your experience and education. Then begin adding connections and joining paralegal groups. When you’re ready for employment, you can include that in your profile. The networking you do on LinkedIn (and also on other social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook) may help you land your first job. For more information on social media sites, see my articles ‘Why Tweet’ and ‘Are You Sabotaging Your Career’ in the article archives at

Listening to Podcasts such as The Paralegal Voice is a great start, Hardin. I would also suggest that you participate in forums such as
Paralegal Gateway and Legal Assistant Today. Many students post comments and receive valuable career tips.

We wish you the best, Hardin. Let us know if we can answer any other questions!

Vicki and Lynne

I'm wondering if any of my readers have addtional suggestions for Hardin? Please leave a comment...and watch for the next episode of The Paralegal Voice. Stay tuned!


Jules said...

I am interested in changing careers and becoming a paralegal (I've been a librarian for nearly 15 years). I am trying to decide between entering a program to receive a second bachelor's degree or going into an associates or certificate program. Do you see any significant benefit to a bachelor's over the others?

Paralegal Mentor said...

Jules...Since you already have a bachelor's degree, my recommendation would be to pursue a certificate in a paralegal program....either an associate's degree or a one-year post-bachelor's certificate, depending on availability in your area. Best wishes! Vicki

kshal said...

Hello. I already have my Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and have been doing administrative work for colleges for several years. I am interested in becoming a legal secretary. I have been considering pursuing my ALS through the National Association of Legal Secretaries. I have no experience in the legal field. Do you think I would be able to obtain a job in this economy without a background in law if I get my certificate