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How to Get a Job as a Paralegal

Successful paralegals are people who have a passion for the legal field - criminal, divorce, family, estate, or contract law - but prefer not to give legal advice. They love to perform research, complete forms, and keep records. They enjoy working in the back office and providing support. If that sounds good to you, read on to learn all about how to get a job as a paralegal. Paralegals and legal assistants support lawyers in their daily work:

  • Search, locate, and use information from legal texts, court decisions, and databases.
  • Use critical thinking to read and apply law to litigation and documentation for specialized areas of the law.
  • Draft and prepare a variety of legal documents, including correspondence, memos, working papers, and pleadings.
  • Learn, understand, and use general office and legal specific technology applications to prepare, sort, and archive documents and records.
  • Understand and comply with ethical standards expected of a paralegal.
  • Personal Job satisfaction comes from completing important work driven by deadline and accuracy requirements.
Where to go and how to get your job as a paralegal?
  • Complete your studies as defined by the state where you want to work and the type of law that interests you.
While the requirements for becoming a paralegal can vary depending on where you live and what kind of work you want to do, the first step is almost always earning a degree as a paralegal. An Associate degree in Paralegal Studies at Bryant & Stratton can significantly enhance your ability to acquire the best jobs and prepare you for a wide variety of paralegal opportunities.
  • Prepare a quality resume - no more than two pages - without typos.
Paralegals are expected to help draft important legal documents. A resume with typographical errors may cause a prospective employer to doubt your capacity to do this without making critical errors.
  • Post your resume on job search sites such as Monster, CareerBuilder, and Indeed, as well as networking sites, such as Biznik. There are also job sites specifically for paralegals including the Institute for Paralegal Education Career Center.
Hiring agencies regularly search the profiles of job seekers to fill available paralegal positions. Make sure your resume includes important keywords that these agencies might search for. If you have a degree, make sure to include the phrase 'degree in paralegal studies' as this is a term for which hiring agencies are likely to search.
  • Network with professionals in the legal field via social media or through career advisors to spread the word of your interest and to identify prospective employers.
Attending talks or other learning events sponsored by local bar associations or other legal services can give you the opportunity to meet and network with legal professionals. Popular websites for job networking include LinkedIn and Facebook. Join online groups or follow pages related to your area of interest to find potential contacts.
  • Join professional associations such as National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and The American Alliance of Paralegals. Better yet, join a local paralegal association that is a member of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.
Local paralegal associations are great places to network with other paralegals and hear about potential job opportunities. The National Federation of Paralegal Associations features a career center with job postings and helpful information on becoming a paralegal. The American Alliance of Paralegals distributes job information to its members from prospective employers. The National Association of Legal Assistants site features an online networking section where you can meet and compare notes with others in your field.
  • Approach law firms in your area or areas where you want to work with a brief cover letter emphasizing the skills and abilities that match their needs. Include your resume and a letter of recommendation from one of your paralegal studies instructors.
  • Find paralegal internships (some are paid) through professional associations, online or by word of mouth.
Law firms and non-profits do not generally advertise Paralegal Internships heavily. Such openings are more likely found listed by local paralegal professional associations, job sites, or through websites like Internmatch.com. While some internships are paid, many are not.  However the experience is invaluable and provides a "foot-in-the-door" in many cases. Do not underestimate the expectations of the professional world.
  • Arrive early for an interview and hold a friendly discussion with the receptionist.
  • Dress simply but conservatively. Reduce the visual distractions of too much jewelry, piercings, extreme hairdos, or loud clothes.
  • Reduce your makeup, perfumes, or cologne.
  • Interviews depend on eye contact; don't let your nails or accessories distract.
  • Carry a portfolio or folder for your resume.
  • Practice your handshake and sitting forward.
  • Develop and answer to the request, "Tell me something about yourself." That answer should summarize your skills and abilities not your personal life.
A career as a paralegal helps people fulfill their career dreams of becoming a semi-professional. CNN Money lists Paralegal among its top 20 job opportunities for those who want to make money or change their career, and Business Week lists it as #23 among Public Service Jobs. Job Outlook for those with Paralegal Certificates: The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an increase in demand for paralegals of 18% by 2020. They list the median annual salary at $46,800 (or $22.40/hour) with good potential for growth. Fully educated Paralegals can earn more income and prestige as they move into Legal Assistant positions offering legal services to groups and organizations that do not want to budget a lawyer. Paralegals benefit from a sense of professionalism in and out of the office, the benefits of solid and productive employment, and participation in a larger community. Apply to Bryant & Stratton College to take the first steps towards getting a job as a paralegal by earning the Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies. 

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