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We asked four attorneys what a paralegal could do to increase their chances of being hired at a law firm. Each attorney shared their opinion on what a paralegal could do to increase their chances of being hired at a law firm. What would be your answer? Feel free to share it in the comments below the article.
This question deserves an entire article or book, but the answer is simple. The paralegal must bring real value to the law firm and to the law firm's clients. Real value that is hard to replicate helps the law firm build a completive advantage. Focusing on a very narrow specialty and gaining special competency in that area can bring real value to the law firm. Instead of being a 'paralegal' jack of all trades and master of none; bill oneself as highly competent litigation paralegal focusing mainly on the preparation and trial of wrongful death and brain injury cases or whatever core competency that the paralegal has developed. Or point out special skills as a trust drafter or in preparing complex wills. The point is that specialization brings a competitive advantage because you bring more value with your knowledge and experience. Smart lawyers would rather hire paralegals at a greater salary when they can bring more value.
Similarly, the paralegal can bring more value by excelling in client management, freeing up the lawyer to tackle other tasks. If interviewing with a general law practice offering multiple areas of practice, the ability of a paralegal to calm clients and free up the lawyer to focus on the case production can be a distinct competitive advantage as the paralegals actions allow the lawyer to produce more, leveraging the lawyer's time.
Another area in which the paralegal can get a competitive advantage is through disciplined organization. Many lawyers, me included, sometimes need a keeper. Trial lawyers like me can be especially in need of someone to organize our lives. Showing the lawyer at the interview that you are prepared and well organized by how you present, how you have organized and presented previous work product, how you have thought about the meeting in advance and brought well organized examples of items you might need (when no one asked for them) shows organization and preplanning that lawyers crave in their support staff, creating value.
Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization
Paralegals can increase their chances of being hired through the obvious education, certification and specific prior experience avenues. Impress your interviewer by being prepared with specific examples of work and experiences relating to the area they are hiring for. Attorneys love it when you are knowledgeable with the courts, court staff, judges and the related online systems. But all that may not be enough - present yourself as one that is well-spoken, friendly and professional in appearance so the hiring attorney(s) will be confident putting you in front of their clients.
-Brad Black www.jacksonwhitelaw.com
A paralegal looking to be hired by a law firm would do well to have strong research skills, an ability to write effectively, and excellent communication capabilities. That said, a paralegal is like an unlicensed junior attorney and would greatly increase their odds of being hired if they demonstrate they can emulate the attorney mindset. A paralegal that has a command of a specialized knowledge of law, is an inquisitive investigator, and observant of nuance, would be an asset to any law firm.
Depending on the area of law or job requirements, many firms may require a paralegal certification, however, it's been my experience over the past 32 years in the personal injury field, that if you present yourself as a cut above the rest, exhibit exemplary work ethic, professionalism and a strong desire to learn, you stand a good chance of landing an entry level position as a receptionist or mail clerk. From there, many firms prefer overall law firm experience and dedication over certification and are willing to develop paralegals from the ground up, mentoring them with skills specific to their practice.