No Paralegal Work Experience? 5 tips to Find and Make the Most of it

Paralegal Work Experience

No Paralegal Work Experience?
5 tips to Find and Make the Most of it

So, you have your paralegal degree, but still cannot find a job because all of them require previous experience? You are not alone. While it is hard to predict how long a job search after college should take, some reports, according to Forbes, say that 53% of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. What is it you can do, then, to gain the experience you need to get a job, when no one will hire you because you have no experience? Here are some tips to find paralegal work experience and make the most of it.

1. Do an Internship

If your college or university can find you an office or company to do an internship for, great! However, while many offer a semester long internship for college credit, most leave you on your own to find a place where you can do one. And if you have been out of college for a while, you definitely won’t have any assistance finding an internship.  Possible ways of finding one when you are not in college or yours does not offer help include:

  • Asking local attorneys. Don’t be afraid to mail your resume along with a cover letter to attorneys in your area, asking for an opportunity to gain experience by working for them for free, for college credit, or not.
  • Contacting government agencies. Government agencies such as county prosecutors and state departments of justice sometimes have internship opportunities available. Run a search at your favorite search engine to find contact information and call ask.
  • Networking. The social networking site, LinkedIn, was invented for just this kind of thing. Professional social networking is what will get you jobs and get you ahead in your career, and LinkedIn is the place to be when it comes to professional networking.
  • Advertising your services. Mail some flyers, put your resume on job sites like Monster and Career Builder, post an ad on Craig’s List, or make a website with your qualifications, education, resume, and a cover letter asking for an internship opportunity, and then buy some Google ads. Whatever you have to do to get the word out that you want to work for little to nothing in order to gain experience, do it.

2. Volunteer

Volunteering is an excellent way to find paralegal work experience that will also allow you to help people and make a difference in your community. To find volunteer opportunities for paralegals in your area:

  • Contact your local bar association. Many bar associations have volunteer opportunities available for both attorneys and paralegals or can direct you to a local organization that does. You can find your bar association’s contact information by using the interactive map provided by the American Bar Association (“ABA”).
  • Check with your county courts. Some state courts have volunteer positions available in self help or other divisions of the court system. You can find your state or county courts website on the National Association for State Courts’ State Court Web sites listing.

3. Network

Anyone looking for a job should be networking. To get started, create and/or complete your profiles on:

When creating and completing your profiles, be sure to include your work experience, information about your education, and any publications, websites, or social profiles you maintain, as well as your complete contact information, and a picture of you. Yes, a photograph, of you. It makes your profiles more personable and less creepy. A professional photograph with you behind a desk or in front of a bookshelf full of reporters is nice. So is a family picture. Just be friendly and classy and use your judgment about the pictures you post on your public accounts.

After that, just have fun on the site. Add friends, interact with people, post interesting updates, articles, and status changes, and be professional. Let people know you are looking for job opportunities and learn to use hashtags to locate the information you want and target your posts to the audience you want.

4. Settle for “Relevant” Experience

While work experience as an actual paralegal is ideal, you may have to settle for something less: relevant work experience. So, how do you get relevant work experience? Well, you may already have some. Think about all of the jobs and life experiences that you have had so far. Have you ever had a job or experience where you were responsible for or did well at any of the following tasks?

  • answering incoming calls
  • scheduling appointments
  • creating, maintaining, and/or organizing files
  • preparing invoices and/or performing collection activities
  • bookkeeping, accounting, or tax preparation
  • drafting correspondence, taking dictation, or typing documents
  • performing general office duties
  • working with computers, hardware, software, and/or networks
  • creating presentations, spreadsheets, or multimedia documents
  • preparing legal or business documents
  • conducting research
  • formulating arguments and counter arguments
  • working with strict deadlines
  • calculating interest and/or performing other basic to advanced mathematical operations
  • working independently, with little to no assistance or guidance
  • communicating with others
  • multi-tasking
  • solving basic hardware, software, and networking/internet problems
  • operating office equipment such as copiers, fax machines, and postage meters

If so, then you already have relevant work experience, even if your job title was not Paralegal or Legal Assistant. If not, consider a job or volunteer opportunity where some of the above duties will be yours, regardless of the actual job title.

5. Learn How to Sell Yourself

How you format and word your resume and what you say and do in a job interview is how you are selling yourself. Learning how to tailor each resume and job interview to fit each job and convince each potential employer that you are best man or woman for the job they are offering is the key to landing your first, or any, paralegal job.  Think of both your resume and a job interview as an advertising opportunity. If you have to, hire a resume review company, marketing specialist, or personal job coach to help you create the best resume possible and learn to really sell yourself in a job interview.

A resume no longer has to, and generally shouldn’t, contain an objective, job descriptions, or any personal information. Resumes should describe your achievements, skills, and best qualities, not list all of your previous employers in chronological order or describe the objective of the document. Of course the objective of your resume is to get the job for which you are applying. Use your resume as free ad space not a boring description of the fact that you want the job and have had similar ones in the past. And in the interview, make it clear that you have not just had similar jobs before; you have excelled at them, made your previous employers money, and been an asset to the companies who have had the privilege of employing you.

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About Shelley Riseden

Shelley M. Riseden is a freelance paralegal providing research, document preparation, and writing services to both attorneys and non-attorneys. She is an expert at conducting legal research and has a natural ability to grasp complex legal issues.Phone: 765.667.5139, E-mail: smriseden@earthlink.net or shelley@virtuallylegal.net, Skype: shelley.riseden, Yahoo: Virtually_Legal

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