You are attending an excellent paralegal program and you have one concern: How difficult will it be to land your first paralegal position when you have no paralegal experience?
Having scanned paralegal job posts, you have noticed that even entry-level paralegal positions require paralegal experience. How can a newly minted paralegal without any experience land that first paralegal position?
5 Tips For Finding Your First Paralegal Position (and a bonus tip!)
First Tip: Find an internship
Many paralegal programs have an internship as part of their program. Make sure to take advantage of that opportunity. You will add your internship and the duties you performed to your resume. These positions are usually for college credit and are not paid positions.
If your paralegal program does not offer an internship program, you can find an internship yourself. Search on the online job platforms using the term “paralegal intern.” A search on Indeed revealed a number of paralegal intern jobs. If a search of your area on the online job platforms does not show any paralegal intern jobs available, there are remote paralegal intern jobs. Many of these positions are paid positions.
Many professors teaching paralegal courses are currently working in law firms or have a network of attorneys. You could approach your professors, who know that you are a diligent student, to see if their firm or if they know of any other law firms which offer internships.
You could also reach out to law firms in your area and offer your services as an intern. Unlike entry-level positions, there is no expectation that you would have paralegal experience prior to starting your internship.
Second Tip: Join local and national paralegal associations while a paralegal student
Paralegal association membership offers the benefit of networking and continuing education. Being part of these associations also demonstrates that you are serious about your paralegal career. You can join the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) and the National Paralegal Association (NPA), and NALS: The Association for Legal Professionals (NALS) while still a paralegal student. Local paralegal associations are often part of one of the national associations and by joining your local association you also become part of the national association.
Be active in your paralegal associations. Becoming known as a hardworking, dependable paralegal association member can help with finding your first paralegal position and your future paralegal positions. Having your fellow paralegals refer you to open positions within their law firms can assist you along your job search path.
Third Tip: Obtain and highlight your office skills
You will be expected to have high-level office skills for your entry-level paralegal position. If you have worked in an office environment, even if it was not in the legal field, make sure to highlight your office skills when seeking a paralegal intern position or your first paralegal position. If you do not have any office experience and are having difficulty obtaining your first paralegal position, consider finding work in an office, even as a temporary employee. You can gain valuable experience and be paid while learning.
Fourth Tip: Use the services of a legal recruiter
Many legal recruiters help law firms fill legal staff positions. Some legal recruiting agencies fill both permanent and temporary legal staff positions. One way to obtain law firm experience is to work as a temporary legal assistant. Your local paralegal association members will be able to help you find the legal recruiters in your area.
Fifth Tip: Your paralegal resume needs to shine
Whether you are seeking a paralegal intern position, your first paralegal position, or your next paralegal position, you need a resume that shines. Your resume is the first impression your potential employer will have of you, make sure it is a great first impression! This post discusses the 6 winning elements for your paralegal resume and this post reveals the 7 deadly resume mistakes.
To help you craft a paralegal resume which presents you and your skills in the best light, we created a resume checklist for you. Use the checklist to make sure that your resume helps you obtain an interview!
Landing your first paralegal position can be challenging, especially when you do not have any paralegal experience to showcase. Following the 5 tips above will help you find that elusive first paralegal position. Once you have gotten your foot in the legal field door, it will be easier to find your next paralegal position. Mind you, easier, not necessarily easy!
Bonus Tip: Join the Paralegal Club
In addition to joining a local paralegal association, you can find mentorship, information and support on your paralegal journey at the Paralegal Club. Receive a weekly newsletter filled with help to start and thrive in your paralegal career. Find hands-on sessions for growing your skills. For online support from fellow paralegals, join the community of paralegals in the Facebook group The Official Paralegal Club.