Thinking Outside the Firm: Job Search Help for Paralegals

Posted by on January 21, 2015

Written by Michael Collins, paralegal student

paralegal student job search

Michael Collins

Paralegals often think about job opportunities in one of two categories: either a job at the firm or a job at the courthouse.

But these are not the only areas open to enterprising paralegals. There is an entire realm of careers that are often overlooked by a paralegaland likely more so by a paralegal student.

Careers with paralegal as a job title

Some paralegals will think of jobs with the government. Every branch of the federal government employs paralegals. There are careers available in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, General Service Administration, Veterans Affairs, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy and Department of the Interior, as well as civilian contractors to the Department of Defense. All of these careers offer benefits and excellent work environments.

The government and law firms are not the only places where paralegals are hired. An often-overlooked field is the private sector. Companies ranging from oil and gas, utilities, retailers, nonprofits, manufacturers and higher-education institutions all hire paralegals. 

Careers without a paralegal title

There may also be career opportunities for a paralegal graduate that exist outside of the title of “paralegal.” These careers often involve legal skills that a paralegal can bring to the table. Possible job titles can include:

  • Legal assistant
  • Case assistant/case clerk
  • File clerk
  • Collections assistant
  • Contract specialist
  • Corporate legal assistant
  • Docket specialist
  • Title closer
  • Legal recruiter
  • Litigation support specialist
  • Legal administrative assistant

Find what’s right

Find what is right for you, but do not be afraid to search outside a law firm for a career. There are many good jobs out there. Determine what you want to do, inside a firm or out, then search for the job that best fits you.

Landing the job

To land the job, ensure that your resume is well polished, you’ve practiced interviewing skills, you’ve researched the company, you have thoughtful questions to ask the interviewers and you know what your salary expectations are.

Research average salaries in your area and have a salary expectation in your mind. Gather any questions you have about benefits before you enter the interview. Have more than one person review your resume, and if possible, ask a lawyer you know to review it. In the legal field, there is considerable emphasis on communication and attention to detail. Having a misplaced hyphen could be a deal breaker.

Practice interviewing with a friend or family member and limit your use of filler phrases such as “uh” and “like.” Take a short pause before answering if you need to collect your thoughts. Get to know the company by finding their mission statement, learning about their market and understanding what they do. Learn enough about the company to ask thought out questions about the position, the company as a whole and their expectations of you.


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