Unlike an attorney, there is no strict path to becoming a paralegal. Being a good paralegal comes with both experience and education, but the two do not have to go hand-in-hand. As a result, no two paralegal resumes are the same. With not many set requirements, it is understandable that paralegal hopefuls are unsure about how to approach their resume creation. To quell any confusions you may have, we have created a guide of helpful tips to adhere to when writing your paralegal resume.
Because paralegals do not serve the same function as lawyers, they are usually faced with different expectations as well. In many firms, paralegals can find niches which compliment their talents and interests, offering them a lot more flexibility that attorneys. To present your skills and interests in the best way, it is best to create separate versions of your resume for each opening. Nevertheless, there are a few general rules that are important for all of the paralegal resumes that you write.
Apart from contact information, you only need to include the your motivation, achievements and relevant work experience. If you do not have any paralegal experience, also acceptable to include other professional experiences, as long as you can speak about your contributions to the organization’s success. As a paralegal, you are meant to provide support to the legal professionals within your firm, so any experience with administration, research, and drafting paperwork is extremely marketable.
Focus on what recruiters want to see on your resume. Recruiters don’t want to see you mentioning irrelevant work experience, strange hobbies and … bad grammar.
There are two main formats - chronological and functional. For those with extensive and relevant work experience, the chronological format is the appropriate choice. Use the following order for this format:
If you are a recent graduate or are changing careers, you may find the functional format to be more suitable. The sections go as follows:
This format allows you to list your skills and provide achievements to verify them.
Get creative by adding extra sections if they help you demonstrate your competencies (e.g. Awards, Publications).
Be overly creative with naming those sections. Online scanners look for particular words and may not recognize a section named ‘Relevant Background’. It is better to use a more conventional heading like, ‘Work Experience’.
Double-check your grammar and ask somebody to proofread your resume.Use a simple resume template. Stick to a professional looking font such as Arial, Calibri, Verdana or Times New Roman and keep the font size within 9-12 points.
As an aspiring paralegal, you have likely experienced your fair share of challenges over the course of your professional and academic career. However, it is difficult to translate all of this work into a strictly formatted and concise resume. To ensure that this is no longer an obstacle in your career search, we have compiled a list of tips that will easily help you fill out our resume template and highlight your most notable achievements.
This is the first thing recruiters will see on your resume. The wording of this section is extremely important, because it has to demonstrate your ability to work in teams, and contribute to firm productivity.
As mentioned earlier, paralegals are expected to have the knowledge and expertise to aid other legal professionals within their firms. As both an administrative and support role, a good paralegal applicant should be able to prove his or her ability to aid in the success of larger operations. You will be working with many unique individuals, and your resume should demonstrate your ability to do so. Not only will you be working with the company’s entry-level attorneys, you will likely be reporting to a senior executive as well. As a result, it is recommended that you highlight your years of experience, your ability to engage with others, and most importantly, your comfort with the legal field as a whole. Keep your summary statement short, not more than 5-6 lines but compelling and engaging. Don’t hesitate to use specific legal jargon, as long as it makes logical sense.
Take a look at some of our great summary examples, and advice on how you can improve yours:
A competent and meticulous Air Force (AF) Paralegal Reservist and Litigation Assistant providing comprehensive legal assistance to the clients. Qualifications include 7 years of experience in military justice, international law, and homeland security. Demonstrated exceptional leadership skills by organizing, supervising, and instructing at the Air Force Security Forces Academy (military police). An ethical and honest professional who can dexterously adapt to the team and changing circumstances.
AF Paralegal Reservist and Litigation Assistant with 7 years of experience.
If you are submitting your paralegal resume online, it will most likely be scanned by an applicant tracking system. An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a robot that scans your resume and looks for necessary keywords, work experience and additional requirements if there are any. However, it is still important to use professional terminology and jargon when sending a resume directly to a recruiter, despite it not being relevant to ATS. Using professional vocabulary will demonstrate that you are familiar with this field.
Include a fair number of legal keywords like “preliminary evidence”, “powers of attorney”, “draft dismissals”, etc.
Overuse keywords which serve no purpose in your sentences.
Include all the relevant competencies and skills.
In the “Work Experience”, or “Employment history” section, you can use some action words that are popular among scanning software programs.
Use relevant action words, such as: analyze, assess, assemble, arrange, coordinate, develop, draft, maintain, review, schedule, summarize
It is also important that you present your skills in the best wording possible. For example:
Avoid including vague and informal statements like ‘Take notes’ or ‘Help attorneys’.
Use your academic credentials as additional evidence of your achievements and experience. Although a formal education in paralegal studies is not a prerequisite, any paralegal certifications will only bolster your qualifications.
If you have received a certificate from an American Bar Association (ABA) approved institution, make sure to mention this. Having a certificate from an accredited institution will clearly identify your education as meeting the standard. If you do not have a paralegal certification, make sure to focus on the relevant courses that you may have taken in your undergraduate degree. Even if you did not study law specifically, try to pinpoint the specific courses that may help you succeed as a paralegal. These can include any courses involving research, writing, or analysis.
Drop your technical experience. In today’s companies, every employee is expected to have technical skills.
Although you are free to include any general technological skills you may have, specialist experience working with the special software will be an impressive addition to your resume. Even if your company does not use the same software that you have experience with, showing your employer that you have worked with similar platforms will translate to your employer being much more confident in your technical skills and your ability to learn quickly.
Here is an extract from one of the paralegal resume, a great example of the excellent wording.
Another great example of the work experience section.
To prove that you brought value to the companies you were a part of, it is extremely important that you quantify your work. As a paralegal, you must show that you can do more than just trivial administrative tasks, but that the way in which you approach your work will bring real change and improvement to the company - whether this is in efficiency, or organization.
So, it is not enough to say you helped your attorneys. Instead, you should include the number of cases that you have assisted with, and if possible, the results of the work that you have done. This rule can be applied to any of your achievements.
Here are some examples:
Here are some of the most used words for filter scan.
|legal and factual research||judicial decisions|
statement of net worth
|attorney client conferences||
electronic filing systems
|request to produce||
The paralegal profession grows a lot faster than average, and the figures show that the number of openings has grown by 22% between 2006 and 2016.
Paralegals are present in every step of the legal process, starting from legal research to interviewing clients. They do almost everything attorneys do, except taking a case to court. Without paralegals, attorneys would hardly be able to handle the immense workload.
Since the job of a paralegal requires doing a lot of research, the knowledge of diagramming, e.g. Visio is of utmost importance. The successful paralegal utilizes the knowledge of computer software at an advanced level, especially Word, Excel, and Power Point. Adobe would be a huge plus.
Legal Research systems:
Paralegals are frequently asked to draft numerous types of legal documents. The knowledge of board portals (e.g. BoardVantage), electronic signature applications (e.g. DocuSign) will facilitate the process. Paralegals should consider getting acquainted with matter management & legal e-billing systems like Serengeti if their aspirations lie in the corporate realm.