What can paralegals do to improve their chances of working at a law firm they want to work at?

Conduct some research on the firm at which you seek employment. Some of what you would be asked to do when you are working for a law firm is conduct factual, and legal research. Demonstrating that ability at an interview is impressive. Furthermore, you can ask more intelligent questions about the firm if you have some information in advance. It also shows that you cared enough about the job opportunity to do some searching and reading, and that apparently you think you are a good fit for the firm. You should at least know the areas of practice of a law firm walking into an interview. If you are interviewing and you don’t know whether the firm does personal injury or tax law, you will be embarrassing yourself. You should also know enough not to ask to meet the senior partner who died years ago.

Focus your resume, cover letter and interview on your relevant experience. Nothing impresses a hiring manager or partner more about a paralegal than relevant experience. Show that you have been in the trenches, and that you understand their specific environment and what will be expected of you right away. Show that you can hit the ground running on your first day once you are assigned a computer password. As a hiring partner of my law firm, I am far more impressed by experience than with educational achievements and paralegal degrees. I mainly want to know: 1) What have you done; 2) Where have you worked; and 3) Who trained you. If you don’t have the experience, expect to be offered a lower salary. If you will receive significant training and experience at the firm, it is well worth the pay cut. Even intern for minimum wage if the right training, opportunities and experience are put within your reach.

Use social media in a smart way. If you are applying for a job at a law firm, or seeking to work in any professional environment, or the public sector, remove the party shots from your Facebook page – No trashy club photos with your friends holding drinks, no glamor shots, no overtly promiscuous images. It is commonplace for prospective employers to search for you online and view your public photos, blog posts, etc. Employers are looking for people that represent the image of their law firm, in which real people and real companies place their trust for their most sensitive of matters. Clients of law firms will be less than impressed with questionable photos of the paralegal assisting with their cases, and are not impressed with how hot you look on the weekends, or what you like to drink. This is what a hiring partner will be thinking about when (s)he sees those photos. Therefore, do a search on yourself, scrub all websites over which you have control, and create a very professional Linked In profile or other form of online professional resume. …and be sure to include a photo, but one that is professional and puts your best foot forward. Keep your weekends private.

Create a good resume and cover letter. As a paralegal, you will be writing, reading, formatting and organizing. Your only opportunity to actually demonstrate those skills is in your resume and cover letter (online or otherwise). Be sure they are flawless – Impeccable – Absolutely perfect. Show the prospective employer what their documents are going to look like if they hire you. Avoid clichés and overly wordy statements also. Show that you can get right to the point and that you understand what information is relevant and what is meaningless, fluff and duplicative. Your resume should be intelligently formatted and organized so that it is very easy to read the pertinent information. Show that you already know what the employer wants to know, but serving it up in a very easy to read, easy to reference format. Use intelligently worded, but simple, short headings and bullet points under. Look at many other resume styles before you pick yours. No fancy fonts or catchy colors. Keep yours clean, conservative, clear and concise. That is what law firms want.

Michael I. Santucci
Santucci Priore, P.L.
Managing Partner

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