One of the most frustrating parts for paralegal students is finding that first job. There’s a lot of information out there online about finding a professional job in an industry. The problem is that not all of the information available is written from the perspective of someone who went through the process of finding that first job in the legal field. Because of that, we’ve put together this list of the top 5 paralegal job search questions and answers!
When Should I Start Looking for My First Paralegal Job?
The sooner, the better. At first you might not feel that you’re ready to make the switch. However, it’s important for you to realize that there are some things that your paralegal classes just can’t teach you. Paralegal classes are taught from a broad perspective. When your instructors talk to you about a concept related to law, they may talk about it from the federal level or the state level. If they choose the state level, there’s no guarantee that they’re going to choose your state. In fact, review your research projects and the projects in your textbooks. Are you supposed to use your state or does it seem to just pick some random state? While there is a method to the random state madness (because it still emphasizes research skills), you won’t learn as much as you need to know about your local laws and court rules unless you find a job in a law office. Even working as a file clerk or a receptionist can give you valuable learning experience.
Where Should I Look for My First Paralegal Job?
There are lots of resources that you can use. Talk with the career services office of your college and find out if they have any job openings from local law firms or corporations for paralegals or legal assistants. If there’s a paralegal association for your state, find out what you need to do to get access to their job postings. Your state and county bar associations may also have online job posts for legal support.
Of course, the Internet presents lots of options for you. You can check Craigslist (but be careful!), Facebook groups for your city that are used for “help wanted” posts, LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Monster, and Indeed. Indeed is a great resource because you can search by your area and you can also get jobs emailed directly to you.
You can and should also look up the websites of businesses and law offices that you’re interested in. Often, you’ll find job openings listed directly on those sites. This is great because you can read about the firm and learn to whom you should address your cover letter.
Will Law Offices Really Check Your Social Media Profiles?
There’s a good chance that they will. Social media is used by many law offices for researching adverse parties, opposing attorneys, and even expert witnesses. So, there’s a high likelihood that the hiring manager will look for you online, too. Make sure that your social media profiles are private and that you’re not posting anything publicly that could affect your ability to get a job. To learn more about how social media may affect your job search, check out this post.
What Should I Do Before I Go to an Interview?
Even if you know that the law office or business you’re interviewing with has a business casual dress policy, dress up. If you wear jewelry, it should be understated. Remember that while the legal industry is changing, it still remains quite conservative.
After you’ve chosen your outfit, make several copies of your resume and a writing sample. It’s likely that there will be more than one person in the room. My personal experience is an average of three to five people in the room in addition to me. Have a nice folder or portfolio to keep your documents in.
Look up the business or the law firm and review their website. Get familiar with their mission statement and their objectives. Be ready to answer the question: why do you want to work with us?
Make sure that you have your photo identification, social security card, paper for notetaking, and two ink pens. You’ll have everything you need if they hire you on the spot and you’ll look prepared even if you never have to take any notes.
Arrive 15 minutes early for your interview and remember to send a thank you note.
Should You Consider Other Openings?
When you go to school to become a paralegal, you really want the title and the responsibility of the job. If there’s not a paralegal position open, should you apply for (and accept) another opening? Maybe. Consider the likelihood of whether a paralegal position will open up. Think about whether you’d be happy with the responsibilities of the other position. Keep in mind that the work you perform in that position would be used to judge whether you’d make a good paralegal. It’s also important to consider the pay that’s offered. Is it something that you could live on?
The paralegal job search process can be frustrating, but stick with it. Start early and attend networking events to improve your chances of landing the paralegal job you really want!