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Why Job Hunting for Paralegals is Different than Others

published February 21, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left

( 28 votes, average: 4.5 out of 5)

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Effective job strategies and "first moves" that get attention are invaluable for some very obvious reasons. It helps to rehearse, though, because looking for a job is the most difficult and arduous task most people can imagine.

Public speaking is said to be number one on most individuals' "fear list," and being unemployed is most likely number one on their "dread list." (And public speaking during a job search in an interview combines fear and dread.)


Losing your job and being unemployed is the thing that most people truly fear as a possibility. Other fears may be visceral and subconscious or may be about sudden physical calamity. But the fear that lives with the populace on a daily level is the one surrounding the issue of employment.

Seen in a more positive light, we can say that humans are made to be busy. As a species, we want to be engaged in some enterprise. Americans tend to define themselves by what they do. Besides answering survival needs and financing American culture's wonderful amenities, getting work of any kind often makes the difference between self-respect and feeling lost. In fact, many paralegals choose part-time or temporary legal employment while they are looking for that "ideal" full-time legal position simply because having a job gives security and experience. Finding employment is plainly our most significant response to the challenge of living, and working "in the paralegal field" gives the worker identity, meaning, and momentum.

The Paralegal Job Hunter Employed versus Unemployed

The unemployed paralegal job hunter's task is challenging. The professional effort of looking for openings, writing letters and interviewing is taxing, and the need to be poised and at your best while being unemployed is a constant requirement. In effect, you must be at your best when you really feel at your worst. Have you ever looked for a job when you had a job? It is a completely different experience. As an employed job hunter, you may not feel fulfilled or you may fear impending unemployment, but you interview with security; you hold yourself with confidence. The expression "relaxed, but alert'' really means something to you. Try to look for a job when you have a job. It is a wholly different experience.

But those who are entry level in any profession must start at the beginning. The entry paralegal must start at the entry-level hump. This is the most difficult part of your career. And you face it in the very beginning, for it is now that you must look your best, feel your best, interview your best and be at your best, overall. Yet it is now that we do not have work and are wondering how to pay our bills. Every night our fears tuck us into bed as our hopes shoo them away and make plans for tomorrow.

Job hunters without employment-and that is how we will think of job hunters in this book face a daily challenge to be effective. They must marry their ambition and positive attitudes to effective strategies that work and to plans that are designed for an extended job search. People who can do this will begin with effective first moves, because they have a whole array of activity to bring to the job search playing field.

The Paralegal Profession Is Filled with "Transitionals"

Because the world of law is as diverse as society itself and therefore can utilize many kinds of past experiences, the paralegal profession embraces generalists and potpourri backgrounds. This cuts both ways. The paralegal profession is filled with people with past employment experiences, knowing different interview protocols, different rules for resumes, and different expectations of the job-hunt in general. Paralegal graduates need to think about how the legal job search differs from their past experience. Those new paralegals who are simply young probably need to educate themselves about the professional job hunt itself. In either case, both groups must prepare to mount a proper job hunt based upon the professional world they are attempting to enter, not the one they just left.

Many people are rejected for reasons that would amaze them. Many rejections occur because of a lack of sophistication and understanding, not because they are unqualified or make a negative impression. We all have our particular pride. Some say: "I am a great natural interviewer." Others say: "I do not need lessons on how to write a cover letter

Still others say: "Just give me the paralegal certificate. I've been writing resumes for 10 years, and I just spent $75.00 on this one."

Sometimes we do not equate our transition with our need to develop skills to persuade people that we can be a valuable employee. You are transitioning to a new career, and your job search skills also need transitioning. It is as if we declare: "All right, I'll admit I need a special education to prepare for this new world, but I won't admit I need special training to enter this new world."

One troubled job hunter asked me, after several interviews had ended with no offers, why she was not getting into the second or third interview stage. I had her rehearse her "bio" (personal story, education, skills, and benefits) to me. When she covered her past 15 years she talked about her life as an administrator. She emphasized her supervisory skills, her hiring and firing of personnel, and her ability to direct the working lives of 20 other people. I asked her, "Did it not take tremendous organizational ability, a persuasive personality, and a dedicated work ethic to attain that level of responsibility?" She replied in the affirmative. "Then stop emphasizing your titles and start emphasizing your skills." This is one of the biggest mistakes people make in search of paralegal employment. They forget that entry paralegals will most likely not be hiring and firing, directing other people, and performing duties related to the personnel department. People make these mistakes simply because they have not thought long enough about the differences between the legal world they are hoping to enter and the world they have just left.

Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

More about Harrison

About LawCrossing

LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.LawCrossing.com.