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Tips to secure paralegal work with no prior experience

As with many law students who aspire to be a solicitor, you might be approaching your graduation with no training contract lined up. Training contracts are notoriously hard to come by, which is usually why many law graduates initially start working as a paralegal. Paralegaling is a great option as you gain legal experience which will look excellent on your CV, as well as being a great job in its own right with plenty of responsibility. 

However, as with training contracts, we still see very fierce competition with 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. So, we have outlined some tips to help you land a paralegal role fresh out of university…

1. Be open minded with 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. We would recommend, instead, broadening your job search and also applying to jobs that touch on this area or are related to the desired area. This enables you to gain transferable skills. 

For example, you may want to work in Intellectual Property (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 regardless, you will gain transferable skills which will help your future applications to property litigation based roles. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that any area of law is a gateway to progressing your legal career.

2. Consider temporary or other types of roles

Another great way to help secure a permanent paralegal role is to consider temporary paralegal/ document review roles. Many law firms frequently require law graduates to come in and join them for a few weeks to help out with various projects. By carrying out this work, you will gain legal experience which will not only help bulk out your CV, but also help 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 over a period of time so these roles are a great way to get your foot in the door of the legal world.

3. Think carefully about what jobs you apply for – can you demonstrate an interest in the area of law?

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, challenges that arise, etc. So too, if you have a high grade in this area, don’t be afraid to highlight on your CV! However, 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. 

4. Expand 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 show law firms that you are a motivated and well-rounded individual. It will also highlight that you’re committed to progressing your career in law. 

5. Use a 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 firms’ websites—widening your access to different positions at varied firms.

Ultimately, the key thing is to keep pushing for your paralegal role and stay positive. The legal world is full of fierce competition, which of course comes with rejections, but don’t let them dishearten you. One firm may not have you, but others will!

Emily is an associate within the Chadwick Nott Permanent team and recruits Paralegals and Legal Executives in all practice areas within the South West and South East. Do contact Emily for any more information, T  0117 917 1868.

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