Before you sign up for paralegal classes, there are 5 things that you really should do to increase your chances of finding a job and being successful as a paralegal. Doing these 5 things before, choosing your school and your classes can make starting your new career as a paralegal much easier and far more rewarding.
1. Learn about the different types of paralegals.
There are many different kinds of paralegals and knowing about each type’s responsibilities, required skills, and work environment can help you concentrate your efforts toward acquiring the proper qualifications for a job as the kind of paralegal that you want to be and at which you can excel. Some common types of paralegals include:
For more information about the various types of paralegals see What Kind of Paralegal do You Want to Be?
2. Look at paralegal job listings in your area.
Search the job listings on the major job sites and in your local newspaper to determine what types of paralegal jobs are available in your area. This way you can tailor your resume to fit the current market. Pay attention to the skills and education required as well as the job description. Also, look for jobs that interest you. Do they require skills that you already have, or can easily develop? Do the jobs in which you are interested prefer the level of education that you intend to acquire or are employers looking for a higher level of education? To find out, you can search the job board here at Paralegal Alliance and/or some of the most popular job sites such as:
3. Consider your current skills.
There are many skills that can come in handy when working as a paralegal. Some are general non-legal skills and others are specific to certain areas of practice. An honest inventory of your professional skills can help you determine what area of the law best suits your personality. Some useful skills for a paralegal to have include:
- Organizational. A law office must be organized in order to run effectively, but attorneys seem to be one of the most disorganized groups of people. Some of them realize that they are disorganized, and need help arranging the office, but many of them do not. Whatever the case, the office will not run without organization, and that task will very likely fall to you, as the paralegal.
- Communication. Paralegals often serve as a connection between attorneys, clients, and other parties involved in transactions or litigation. This makes the ability to communicate effectively with many audiences a very important skill for them to posses
- People. Professionals practicing any type of law will eventually have to deal with people. This may include clients, witnesses, Court staff, or other legal professionals. If you are uncomfortable around other people, or do not have certain skills that make others feel comfortable with you, you may not be happy working as a paralegal.
4. Think about what really interests you.
Are you passionate about helping veterans, the elderly, the environment, or domestic animals? You may want to work for a firm that practices elder or environmental law, specializes in assisting veterans in obtaining their benefits, or advocates for animal rights. Knowing what kind of law you want to practice and what kind of work environment best suits you, can help you to choose an educational program that will best advance your career interests.
5. Compare school curricula.
Taking into account the four considerations above; the type of paralegal you want to be, the jobs available in your area, your skills, and your interests, compare the curricula of the programs in which you are interested to find the one that best suits you. Choose a program that offers the elective courses that will help you acquire the skills needed to enter the area of law in which you are most interested.