There is no simple answer to how to become a paralegal, and whilst you may think that law school has prepared you for a career in the legal profession. Studying law is so much more different to putting the law to practice. Whilst you may be aware of academic arguments and comments put forward, studying the law doesn’t equip you for the simple clerical tasks or litigation duties involved in paralegaling. I have learnt this the hard way, having attended paralegal interviews and being unsuccessful in attaining such roles. I learnt that on feedback from the interviewers my failure to achieve such role was not because I didn’t have the necessary academic background but rather because I didn’t have the practical background of litigating or even the complete knowledge of the area of law practised in the firm and this is because what they teach you at university is not wholly of what they do in practice. For example, I had applied for a role as a Motor claims paralegal, but at university, there was no module choice to study this nor did I cover any of this law in any of my 7 compulsory modules. And whilst studying tort law may be useful to provide some background to the legal sphere, what is even more useful is having experience in a customer facing role talking to clients and empathising with their issues rather than remembering a few cases.
I am currently due to begin a temporary paralegal role at Gordon Dadds on the 28th of May and I have previous experience in applying for paralegal roles and attending interviews and as such, I have decided to write about 6 things to consider when deciding to apply and successfully gain an interview and hopefully a paralegal role.
- QUALIFICATIONS- Whilst being a paralegal doesn’t actually require any formal qualifications, lots of places require you to have completed your LLB or LPC. Your chances of attaining a job or even an interview are increased if you have an academic background, particularly law because it shows dedication to the field of practice. I would recommend finishing your degree and getting the best grade you can because applying for a paralegal role can be competitive and this is just one of many ways you can stand out.
- PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE- Many paralegal roles don’t require a vast paralegaling background, but some do and if you have recently graduated from university gaining experience in any role is better than no experience, so even working at a bar or restaurant is good experience because it shows that you are able to work effectively within a team and have good communication skills.
- KNOWLEDGE- It is important to research the firm you decide to apply to and the areas of law they deal with before applying and attending an interview, because this will help you tailor your covering letter and interview to suit the firm and make it seem like you truly know your stuff and are keen to work at the firm. Recruiters like it when people research the business they intend to work in because it shows that you know what the firm does and still applied because you think your capabilities fit well with the firm.
- NETWORK- One of the questions that I was asked in my interview was ‘How do you network with people’ and I think networking is such a valuable asset in the legal profession or any profession, not only does it help grow the firm but also it helps you gain contacts within other firms and knowledge of companies and individuals. Networking is also good because it may provide you with opportunities to gain work experience and also may get you a foot in the door when applying for certain roles. Linkedin is a very good site to utilise.
- TAILORING YOUR COVER LETTER- It is very important to tailor your cover letter to the firm to show that you have researched the role and the firm and that you know what is required of you. Furthermore, it is necessary to ensure that there are no mistakes grammatically or otherwise, recruiters and firms will notice the mistakes and especially in a paralegal role attention to detail is vital and if you aren’t meticulous in your cover letter, recruiters may think that you won’t be so attentive in the role and therefore, not choose to hire you.
- APPLY- And finally just apply, you will most certainly not get the job if you don’t apply!