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By: Tammy Essing, ACP, PHP

Welcome back, TPS readers! We hope today’s post finds you well-refreshed and partially sane, following a fun and fabulous weekend! The way we see it, today’s post is for everyone. Yep, true story. Whether you’re in search of your first paralegal position or a senior paralegal living the dream, today’s post is making its way onto the TPS blog with the intention of bringing us all together. (You know, like we’re all a part of some elite, super cool “paralegal society” or something!)  

Paralegal Students & Recent Grads: This post is for you!

Experienced Paralegals: We need your help! Read today’s post and offer any additional suggestions you may have for those in search of their first paralegal position.

So, you did it! You’re a new graduate of the paralegal program! Congratulations! Now, here comes the hard part…how and where to begin to get yourself that first paralegal job.

Now, before I offer up some suggestions, I feel that something needs to be said here. Please do not be discouraged if you find the job market to be a little tough, and you don’t find the paralegal job of your dreams right away. I’m not trying to negative here, so I don’t want you to think that I’m trying to be Debbie Downer. However, realistically speaking, just don’t be surprised if you find a lot of employers are looking for those paralegals with experience these days. It has nothing to do with how good you were in school, or how good your computer skills are, or your writing skills, it’s just that the paralegals that have been through the hard knocks of working in a law firm for years, know what is expected, what’s involved, and know the industry like the back of their hand. The plain truth is that the majority of law firms just do not have the time to train new paralegals because of the fast-paced world in which they work.

With all of that said, here’s a couple of suggestions. First, be OPEN and WILLING to start where ever you can with a law firm. If you get that call for an interview at a law firm, but they tell you the position is for a file clerk position, in a mailroom, or copy room position, BE WILLING to start there. I say that from experience! I started out my career in the mailroom, and now here I am some 20 years later working as a senior paralegal!

If you prove yourself to that new employer that you are willing to work hard (no matter the position), plug-in and learn about the ins and outs of working in a law firm, you can get your foot in the door, and work your way to the paralegal track. Then, after some time working in the copy room, the file room or in the mailroom, you find yourself with some down time during the day, ask the senior paralegals to give you some starting projects you can work on and learn from. Make sure you ask questions, ask questions, and ask questions! It shows your enthusiasm and willingness to learn! Let the senior paralegals mentor you. (You only learn about 10% in school of what you will face in the job, so the senior paralegals are a treasure trove of information!) As you are allowed to take on those projects during your spare time, you will gain the trust of those who entrust you with the projects.

Another suggestion – think about using a recruiter! Granted, they do make commission from your placement at a job, but they also have great contacts out in the field, too. A friendly contact of theirs just may be the ticket to that first job because they may know someone who is willing to give you that first break.

There are some firms willing to hire paralegals right out of school because they are willing to invest the time and training, but these type of positions are so few. So, if you are lucky enough to find those positions posted, apply for them.

Consider joining your local paralegal association(s), network with other paralegals in the industry, and pick their brains for leads and advice. They have amazing contact information and career expertise! Also, go to the association’s CLE seminars and learn as much as you can, including areas that you might be interested in.

You’re going to find that first job…just be patient, realistic, open and willing to start anywhere! By eating the elephant one bite at a time, you’ll soon find yourself on the track to earning your paralegal position!

Tammy Essing, ACP, PHP is a senior litigation paralegal with 20 years of litigation experience, with a primary focus on litigated matters.  She has handled a wide variety of litigated matters in oil and gas, commercial, complex commercial, construction, environmental and tort matters in both federal state level courts.  She is advanced certified in trial practice through the National Litigation of Legal Assistants.

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Have an additional tip to share? Hit that lonely comment button! Have a question to ask? Post away! 

We’ll see you on Friday. Until then, sip those tall, caffeinated beverages of happiness, maintain the sanity, and charge into the first events of the weekly Paralegal Olympics, my friends! All in the name of glory. And as an added bonus, a pay check! For the first round, we’ll be participating in a favorite paralegal pastime called “Paper Shuffle,” followed by “Esquire Round Up” and ending on a more relaxing note with an enthralling game of “Hurry Up and Wait!” May you find yourself on the metal stand at the end of the games.

We’ll see you soon!