Graduation Cap

Tips to secure paralegal work as a soon-to-be law graduate

As with many law students who aspire to be a solicitor, you might be due to complete your law degree this spring but have no training contract lined up. Training contracts are notoriously hard to come by, which is usually why a lot of law graduates start working as a paralegal. Paralegaling is a great option as you can gain legal experience which will look excellent on your CV as well as being a great job in its own right, often with plenty of responsibility. However, as with training contracts, we still see very fierce competition for many paralegal roles. Trying to secure a paralegal role can be frustrating when you have no legal experience as you will usually be competing with candidates who do have prior relevant experience. 

I have outlined below some points to help you secure a paralegal role fresh from university.

Keep your options open when it comes to areas of law

It’s very important when you have no experience to keep an open mind when applying to paralegal jobs. We often see candidates who are fresh from university considering very niche areas of law only. Whilst there is nothing wrong with wanting to specialise in a niche area, you might struggle to find anything suitable with no experience. I would recommend broadening out your job search and applying to jobs that touch on this area or are related to the desired area, so you can gain transferable skills. For example, you may want to work in IP. Instead of only applying to roles in this specific area, also consider applying to more general commercial roles. The more general roles may involve an IP element but even if they don’t, it will look great to have on your CV for future applications to IP roles. Likewise, if you want to specialise in something like property litigation, apply to broader litigation-based roles. Again, these roles may involve a property litigation element but even if not, you will gain transferable skills which will help your applications to property litigation roles. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that any area of law is a gateway to progressing your legal career.

Consider different types of role

Another great way to help secure a permanent paralegal role is to consider temporary paralegal or document review roles. Many law firms frequently require law graduates/students to come in and join them for a few weeks to help with various projects. By carrying out this work, you will gain legal experience which will help ‘bulk out’ your CV and make your application stand out when applying to permanent roles. You should also consider legal administrator roles or other supporting roles in a law firm. Many law firms promote their admin/support staff to paralegals after a period of time, so these roles are a great way to get your foot in the door of the legal world.

Apply to jobs that you can demonstrate you’re interested in through your studies

During a paralegal interview, you must persuasively talk about why you are interested in the area of law you are interviewing for. If you have studied this area in your law degree, you will be able to go into much more detail on why you enjoy this area, what topics interest you the most, etc. If you have a high grade in this area, it will also be good to highlight this on your CV as this will help your application. If you’re interested in an area of law you haven’t studied, make sure you do plenty of research first, so you can demonstrate your passion for this area in an interview.

Bulk out your CV with extra-curricular and pro bono work

When you have never previously worked in a law firm, you may be wondering what to put on your CV to make it stand out when applying to paralegal roles. It’s a good idea to take part in extra-curricular activities and pro bono work (for example, joining groups at university that offer free legal advice to individuals). This will highlight to firms that you are a motivated and well-rounded individual. It will also show that you’re committed to progressing your career in law. 

Highlight your transferable skills

You may have never worked in a law firm before, but you may well have picked up some excellent transferable skills in non-legal employment. If this is the case, it is worth including on your CV and talking about in paralegal interviews. For example, lots of paralegal job descriptions ask for candidates who are confident communicators so if you have had any jobs where you’ve worked on your communication skills (e.g. a customer service job) then ensure you highlight this on your CV and in interviews.

Use a legal recruitment agency 

It can be very beneficial for law graduates to use recruitment agencies to find paralegal work. We have a good idea of what firms will consider graduates with no experience and what roles you’re likely to be successful with. We can keep you updated with any new roles as and when they come in, so you can be the first to hear about new opportunities. We also know about junior roles that aren’t even advertised on law firms’ websites.

The key thing is to keep pushing for your paralegal role. The legal world is full of fierce competition which of course comes with rejections. Don’t let them dishearten you… just keep applying and you will get there! 

For a confidential discussion, please contact Emily Lonsdale at Chadwick Nott.

(t) 0117 945 1632
(m) 0774 774 0499