Targeting Your Resume for Employment as a Paralegal

The resume you write for a paralegal--otherwise known as a legal assistant--job is going to be different from the resume you write for some other type of position. Such a statement may seem like a no-brainer, but there’s one very good reason why you really want to dedicate your resume to specifics when it comes to landing a job in this field. Between 2002 and 2012--according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics--the median salary for paralegals rose from less than $38,000 to nearly $47,000. If you want to get in on that expanding wage rate for paralegals, you need to start with a resume targeted to the specific requirements and qualifications of the job. 

Opportunities for Those with Non-Paralegal Degrees

The legal assistant resume needs above all to exhibit as strong a grasp of the legal system and the manner in which it operates as possible. If you are not yet a grad, but still a grad-to-be, this means getting some courses under your belt related to law as soon as possible. A two- or four-year paralegal degree would be the ideal academic entry to have on our resume, but the good news is that it is not a requisite. So, if you still happen to be pursuing another degree, but have discovered an interest in the paralegal profession, your targeted resume that highlights those courses in law could be just possibly enough to get your foot in the door. 

Paralegal Experience You May Not Even Realize You Have

Any indication that you have some legal knowledge in your background--either academic in nature or through your work experience--should be highlighted on a resume targeted for paralegal jobs. The duties of a legal assistant covers a broad spectrum of tasks, skills, abilities and duties. This is doubly true when working as a paralegal in a small law firm where you can expect to handle responsibilities that only actual attorneys might be trusted with in larger firms.  For this reason, the resume targeting a paralegal job must give preference to any experience specific to law-related duties above any other responsibilities your job may have included. At the same time, if you do already have some experience working for an attorney, make sure you do not include on your resume anything that only a lawyer is legally allowed to handle.  If you do not have legal experience at all to draw upon, highlight experience in the sort of tasks that you might be called upon to do as a paralegal, such as conducting interviews, maintaining agendas, handling accounting and managing billing.   

Two-Year, Four-Year or No-Year Degree Required

The academic requirements for a legal assistant vary from state to state in the U.S. Even those requirements may be negotiable since the requirements also vary from one law firm to the next. Many law firms will hire a graduate of a two-year paralegal degree institution while others won’t even look at the rest of your resume if you do not have possess a four-year degree. Then there are those smaller law firms willing to hire you on at least a part-time basis with only a high school diploma. The number of schools in the U.S. offering a two-year diploma in legal assistant studies has grown alongside the number of jobs and increase in wages in the 21st century. If you have graduated with a degree make sure you place this prominently on your resume. Also make sure to include any certifications you have received and affiliations to which you belong. 

Certification and Affiliations

Paralegals have quite an extensive selection of affiliations and associations providing certification from which to choose.  There are national affiliations such as the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. There are also state associations the Paralegal Association of New Jersey and more increasingly localized organizations like the Paralegal Association of Northwest Ohio and the Fresno Paralegal Association.  In addition there are affiliations dedicated to more field-specific areas that apply to legal specialties like real estate, finance and criminal investigation. Placing these associations prominently on your resume indicates that you have achieved some objectively measurable expertise or that you have met qualification standards that those competing for the same job may not. Do not bury any affiliations in a section that contains other information, but rather set it off by itself so that it stands out even if you only belong to one. 


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