The more you target your paralegal resume for the field you want to work in, the more effective it will be in getting interviews. But if you want to be a paralegal, what are you supposed to highlight in your resume? Doesn’t the person doing the hiring already know exactly what a paralegal does?
Show, Don’t Tell
The short answer is, no. It is a huge mistake to assume that the person who first screens your paralegal resume is a lawyer—to get it in front of the people who actually work in your field, you have to impress their office assistant, HR staff, or a representative from a third-party staffing company. You can’t leave anything off of your resume as a “given”, because the person wading through the slush pile likely does not know what you do for a living. That means that the strongest paralegal resumes are chock full of concrete details showing exactly what you do in the day-to-day.
What Does a Paralegal Resume Show?
According to The American Bar Association (ABA), a paralegal is “A person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.” They are sometimes also referred to as “legal assistants”, and the term is used interchangeably.
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations has identified these core work skills: recognition, evaluation, organization, analysis, and communication of relevant facts and legal concepts. Paralegals should also be good communicators, strong writers, and possess solid interpersonal skills such as conflict resolution and negotiation. Go take a look at their page for a really comprehensive list of core competencies, skills and expectations to give you ideas while you write your resume.
A Terrible Paralegal Resume Says:
- Excellent communication skills, strong writer.
- Possess solid interpersonal skills such as conflict resolution and negotiation.
- Organized and detail-oriented
You can’t just say that you have those skills. What reason do they have to believe you? Anyone can call themselves a “good communicator”. Same goes for ‘organized’ and ‘detail-oriented’. What did you organize? What details did you oversee? How did you use ‘conflict resolution’, and what does that even mean to you? You can’t assume they’ll give you a chance to back up those claims in an interview. If you hand in a paralegal resume that reads like that, you aren’t getting one.
…But What if I’ve Never Worked as a Paralegal Before?
Same rules still apply! You need to get a bit more creative, but you still just need to demonstrate that you have the skills that they want. Create bullet points that talk about how you used opportunities in your part time jobs, academic projects, internships and student groups to develop the skills needed by a paralegal. Let’s say you’ve worked as a Congressional intern:
- “Wrote response letters to constituents and executive organizations on current issues and policy changes.”
- “Created an original infographic detailing the economic impact of immigration reform.”
- “Prepared a comprehensive briefing portfolio on title insurance reform that included a policy background, identification of key stakeholders, geographic market share data, and legislative options.”
- “Wrote a letter to the SEC commenting on proposed corporate regulations.”
These bullet points demonstrate communication and writing skills, organizational ability, experience in collecting data and creating briefs. You can also check out Paralegal Today’s resources on writing paralegal resumes with examples. Just remember: the details make the resume. The more concrete, the better.