Monday, November 16, 2009

The Paralegal Voice: Getting Back on the Right Track

By Vicki Voisin and Lynne DeVenny

Following a recent episode of The Paralegal Voice on Legal Talk Network, Lynne DeVenny and I were very pleased to hear from one of our listeners, Andrea, who had a question about getting into the paralegal profession after graduating several years ago, and then experiencing difficulty landing a job post graduation.
"I earned my A.A. Degree in Paralegal Studies in 2002 from an ABA approved school. Unfortunately, I ran into several road blocks since I had no experience in the field. The legal field is what I see myself doing as a career. I do have experience in the Criminal Justice field. For the past four years I have been a volunteer officer. How do I get back on the right track? Do I need to go through NALA to obtain a certification that will update my educational background? I appreciate any advice you can give."
Lynne and I were happy to provide Andrea with this advice:

Andrea, thanks for listening to The Paralegal Voice and for sending a question about your paralegal career.

We are not sure if you are currently working in a law office or not. If not, we recommend that you obtain an entry-level job in a law firm so that you can acquire on the job experience. Consider legal secretarial, administrative assistant and/or receptionist positions.

If you can't find a job immediately, look for a volunteer or internship position with a small law firm or a legal non-profit organization. Work on obtaining practical skills and getting current references.

We also recommend that you further your education by working toward a bachelor's degree. You might also consider taking computer classes if you do not have the technology skills that employers are seeking. If you do have a strong set of computer skills, including advanced knowledge of Microsoft Office, emphasize them on a well-done one-page resume.

You should be sure to join a professional paralegal association to take advantage of networking opportunities and continuing legal education classes. If you are a student, those classes are usually offered at a substantial discount.

We urge you to consider professional certification (you mentioned NALA's CLA/CP program) some time in the future when you feel comfortable taking the examination. This credential certainly won't hurt and will offer you the credibility you are seeking. However, locating a law-related job and obtaining legal experience should be your first priority.

Andrea, be sure to let us know if you have any other questions. We wish you much success as you pursue your paralegal career.

Do you have questions for Lynne and me? Send them to And be sure to stay tuned for our December podcast featuring the world's most famous paralegal and environmental activist, Erin Brockovich!

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