How to Get a Job as a Paralegal What do I Need for Getting a Job as a Paralegal? What About Work Experience? Put your “Package” Together How to Get a Paralegal Job: Proven Tips The Bottom Line
How to Get a Job as a Paralegal What do I Need for Getting a Job as a Paralegal? What About Work Experience? Put your “Package” Together How to Get a Paralegal Job: Proven Tips The Bottom Line
Updated 07/12/2020

How to Get a Job as a Paralegal

Paralegals are in demand now, and this demand is expected to continue to grow. Regardless of your education and background, you have various options if you want to work as a paralegal. Start by getting an ABA-approved certification. Learn more below.

Paralegals are in demand now, and this demand is expected to continue to grow. Regardless of your education and background, you have various options if you want to work as a paralegal. Start by getting an ABA-approved certification. Learn more below.

Back in 2011, Forbes listed paralegal first among the most underrated jobs. With an average annual income of $47,000 and an average unemployment rate of 3.1%, paralegals placed ahead of accountants and loan officers, who ranked second and third, respectively. However, one must expect that a country once obsessed with a 20-year TV show Law and Order cannot leave such a busy and important profession underrated for long. Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook cites a 2019 median pay for paralegals as $51,740 per year and $24.87 per hour and a job outlook for the next ten years of 10%, which is much faster than average.

These numbers are good news for many college graduates and those who are contemplating a career change. Add to that the fact that paralegal salaries vary from state to state. According to Forbes, among the states offering the least money to paralegals are Montana, Mississippi, and Kansas, all paying significantly below the national average salary. Arkansas has the lowest average paralegal wage of $42,050. Meanwhile, Connecticut offers the highest average paralegal salary of $62,760, and has the most impressive growth rate in the country, 17% in five years. In turn, California, Washington, and Massachusetts all boast average salaries above sixty grand a year.

The beauty of a paralegal role is that it can be found in almost any industry and area of widespread interest. Regardless of what college education you have, you can try your hand at preparing legal documents, researching legal matters and case studies, or interviewing clients and witnesses. However, before you plunge right into the world of paperwork and office filing duties, you will need to get a paralegal certification, which is now required in all US states. If you’re getting cold feet about a job hunt in a completely new legal field, stick with us, and we’ll tell you the steps to take and the tips to use.

Want to improve your chances of getting a paralegal position? Use the GetCoverLetter builder and prepare a professional resume and cover letter that will prove you are the best candidate.
Create My Resume & Cover Letter Now

What do I Need for Getting a Job as a Paralegal?

You can come into a paralegal job from any industry or field. All popular areas of interest require legal representation and employ legal assistants who do paperwork and fact-checking. Real estate, hospitals, entertainment, immigration offices, government offices, non-profits, private firms, and definitely law firms all need paralegals. With such a wide choice, you should take the following three steps to determine your career path.

Decide What You Want

Andrea Wagner, the author of How to Land Your First Paralegal Job, shares her experience and suggests job seekers first understand what they want. Easier said than done, but she offers a blueprint too. For example, start by excluding the areas where you don’t want to work regardless of the pay. Do you think litigation is too stressful for you? Cross it out of the list. Continue in this manner over the entire list of law types - criminal law, family law, litigation, corporate, bankruptcy - and see what is left. It will narrow down your search to a few manageable options. Next, you will need to learn some details about a job’s particularities to make sure you can pull it off.

Although many job search guides highlight the importance of skills, figuring out what interests you should always come first. You may have skills applicable to a particular profession, but you may be highly reluctant to use them. As soon as you determine what exactly your interests are, you will know which skills you can transfer and which skills you need to acquire. Furthermore, only a rational understanding of your interests will give clarity and impact to your application documents.

Analyze Your Educational Background

See what education you have and what credentials you need. The most straightforward way for legal firms is to hire individuals with at least an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies. College graduates with any bachelor’s degree and certificates approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) also get hired. In such cases, law firms train them on the job and may even pay for their certification if they show great promise.

As for paralegal certifications, the Association for Legal Professionals (NALS) established the Professional Paralegal (PP) certification while the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (NFPA) administers the Paralegal Advanced Competency Examination. The two associations are synonymous.

So let’s sum up this information in a more concise way:

  • If you’re a high school graduate and you want to become a paralegal, you can get an associate degree in paralegal studies, which will take you only two years. Then you will need a paralegal certification.
  • If you’re a college graduate and you already spent four years earning your degree, enroll in an ABA-approved certification program, and you’ll be free to work as a paralegal.
  • If you hold a law degree, you can work as a paralegal under the supervision of an experienced attorney.

Assess Your Skills

Identify the skills you will need for the paralegal job of your choice and see if you need to get additional qualifications to get the job of your dreams. In a nutshell, paralegals uncover evidence for lawyers and legal teams. They are legal secretaries and assistants who maintain correspondence, work with clients, and track deadlines.

Depending on the company’s scope, you may need to develop either communication skills to interview witnesses and take down depositions or take on a more internal role researching laws and writing memos. If you are skilled in writing legal documents and handling interactions with process servers and courts, you can work with attorneys. If your skills align more with administrative tasks, you will work instead as a legal secretary, handling the legal office’s day-to-day functions. In any case, you will need to multitask and have a firm grip on deadlines.

Want to share your skills with a potential employer? Reflect them in your cover letter! Just pick your strengths in the builder, and it will combine them into your winning self-presentation.
Create my cover letter

What About Work Experience?

No one is going to contest the fact that experience matters. Those who are seasoned paralegals will make more than new hires. However, it is not true that entry-level paralegal jobs are impossible to find. Many companies hire based on candidates’ personal qualities and potential rather than matching hands-on experience.

Yet gaining some paralegal experience is a great way to solve many issues. You can start planning your paralegal future while still in school. If you are getting your paralegal training, ask your paralegal program about internships and job opportunities in local law firms. You can also check out national, state, and local bar associations and volunteer at local legal aid and pro bono organizations. Volunteering as a paralegal student will give you valuable experience and improve your resume significantly. Additionally, paralegal experience will help you decide whether you want to work in the legal field at all. Many students gain that experience before starting law school.

In How To Land Your First Paralegal Job, Wagner reminds us about another, very contemporary way to gain legal experience – freelancing. You can work as a freelance paralegal under an attorney’s supervision on a short-term or project-by-project basis. Wagner recommends candidates find a placement agency and build a reputation. “It requires self-marketing in an effective way,” she says, “but I have known people who have done it well.”

Furthermore, freelance gigs allow you to enlarge your professional presence to other states too. For example, remote paralegals are all the rage now. Employers can use them to cut down on costs while paralegals can find remote jobs in the highest-paying states to increase their earnings.

With the GetCoverLetter builder, you can create a customized resume and cover letter in about 23 minutes. Start now and apply for the chosen position today!
Create my application

Put your “Package” Together

In Real Resumes for Legal and Paralegal Jobs, Anne McKinney advises entry-level candidates to put together “an all-purpose resume and specific cover letters tailored to specific fields rather than using the approach of trying to create a different resume for every job.” This piece of advice makes a lot of sense for entry-level paralegals because job requirements will be more or less similar, and you will need the same set of skills and the same resume format for all of them. If there are any differences, you can address them in your cover letter.

Here’s what makes the complete content of your package:

  • Resume. Include all your paralegal- and legal-related volunteering and pro bono work. Your task is to make your resume as impressive as possible for you. If you have a superb education, mention your law school. If you already had some relevant work experience, make sure you quantify your achievements and accentuate your successes in bullet points. If you have no experience and so-so education, make your skills the focal point of your resume. For example, prove your problem-solving abilities or communication skills by giving examples of instances when you demonstrated them.
  • Cover letter. Reinforce your resume by accompanying it with a cover letter. Address your cover letter personally to a hiring manager. If you are entry-level, focus on your enthusiasm for working with the company and mention the job description skills that match your skills. If you have an impressive education, make sure you mention it. Composing a letter with the employer’s needs in mind, include only the information that highlights your hard and soft skills required in the job description.
  • Reference list. Some employers require candidates to submit a list of your references. It may be requested as one of the last stages of the hiring process. A reference includes contact information of individuals who work with you closely and can endorse your candidacy for a job. Two to five references are usually enough. Inform your references about their inclusion in your reference list.
  • Reference letters. Some companies require job seekers to submit reference letters from their previous jobs, confirming their performance in a similar role. A reference letter includes specific examples of times when you demonstrated various skills and traits required for the role you’re currently seeking.
A paralegal vacancy is waiting for your resume & cover letter. Thanks to the GetCoverLetter builder, their preparation will be quick and easy. Try it and see for yourself!
Get Started Now!

How to Get a Paralegal Job: Proven Tips

We have prepared the nuts and bolts on how to land a paralegal job. Follow them, and you will launch your career in no time:

  • Find a reputable information source, such as a law firm search (i.e., Martindale Hubble) or an attorney who went to the same college as you, and write to them asking for information;
  • Single out a few employers you would like to work for, having found them on job boards, job searches, or with recruiters;
  • Send out at least 4-5 resumes and cover letters per week;
  • If you’re contemplating on how to get a job as a paralegal with no experience, you can outsource the process of finding job offerings. Use a recruitment agency to find an entry-level paralegal position or a similar junior role in the legal field.

What Else?

More tips are always relevant in a job hunt.

  • Be proactive. It refers not only to working pro bono and networking tirelessly. But also to your approach to job search. Don’t wait for a recruiter to call you back. Make sure you follow-up with a call or email the next week after the job application or interview. Stay on the radar of a recruitment agency by asking them about new vacancies and internships from time to time.
  • Update your LinkedIn page. Upload a recent picture of you and add your recent accomplishments. Work on your summary: don’t leave it blank as it is a great chance to tell your story less formally than in application documents. Creating a compelling LinkedIn summary can serve as a free and effective tool in the job hunt.
  • Don’t make lists. Some candidates simply list their skills without giving more details. ‘Laundry lists’ are not fun to read. Don’t dump all your accomplishments in a bullet point list expecting a recruiter to make head and tails of it. Modern people are spoiled by interactive, attention-grabbing social media. Try to hold the recruiter’s attention by creating a detailed resume and cover letter where you quantify your accomplishments and give examples of where your skills are applicable.
  • Try different approaches. If time is going by and you still have no paralegal job, apply for other positions within a company you like: a legal assistant, a file clerk, or a records clerk. Get into the company first, then learn how to get promoted to a paralegal role.

The Bottom Line

Let’s see how the tips mentioned above translate into a real-life experience.

For example, you’re a law student specializing in media law, and you’re interested in technology and media disputes. It’s a perfect match. You’ll quickly find employment as a paralegal in that field. Or another scenario: you have a BA in English and MA in Theater, you want to work as a paralegal, and you will need a paralegal certificate to start practicing. You can already start looking for a volunteering gig in the legal field or at least enroll in a paralegal association.

Keep in mind that there are plenty of paralegals jobs. Therefore, you have every chance of getting a position with a proper commitment to professional development, a responsible approach to the application process, and outstanding perseverance when looking for a job.

Need an application for a paralegal position? Show that you perfectly fit a job description by using the GetCoverLetter builder to create your professional resume and cover letter.

You may also be interested to read