As a paralegal professional, you have training that is in great demand in law offices all over the country. However, as we always emphasize, this does not mean that opportunities will come to you.
A well-written, attention-grabbing resume can push your career forward or hold it back.
For starters, please look over our general article on how to write a resume. A paralegal resume is based on the same fundamental concepts as other types of professional resumes.
Now, here are a few pointers that are more specific to you as a paralegal:
1. Use the chronological format, but replace the objective statement with an executive summary.
The chronological resume format, which could more properly be called the reverse chronological resume format, is the most traditional way to present work experience, skills, and education on a resume. Thus, it is better suited to this traditional field than the new functional and combination resumes, which focus more on presenting career accomplishments than providing an employment timeline.
However, we would still encourage you to replace the old-fashioned objective statement with an executive summary. The objective statement has gone past the point of being traditional and is now essentially passé. In your executive summary, you can sum up your most competitive skills and qualifications to make sure your paralegal resume packs a punch from the very start.
2. Mention the skills that are in demand for paralegals today!
Mentioning competitive skills is always a great way to get your paralegal resume noticed. According to Linda T. Chin of Paralegal Today, these include:
- Proficiency with the Microsoft Office Suite
- Proficiency with Westlaw and Lexis as research tools
- Proficiency with CaseMap, LiveNote and Abacus Law
- Foreign language skills, particularly Spanish
- Knowledge of legal research and writing
- Familiarity with litigation
- Law office management skills
- Leadership skills (you may get a position with supervisory responsibilities)
- Knowledge of specific legal specialties (bankruptcy law, immigration law, and employment law, for example)
One of the best ways to keep up with employer preferences in terms of skills is to browse job websites, such as Monster.com and Craigslist on a regular basis. Look up paralegal positions and write down the skills that employers ask for most often. From that list, you will know which of your existing skills are the most valuable and which skills you could acquire to make yourself more marketable.
3. If you are just starting out as a paralegal, draw attention to any relevant experiences you may have had while in college or your certification program.
Internships are always important on a recent graduate’s resume, but especially on a paralegal resume, since practical experience in the law field offers so many benefits.
If you participated in an internship, name the organization that you worked with and emphasize your achievements an intern. Quantify these accomplishments with numbers, dollar signs, and percentages whenever possible.
4. If you have any special certifications, emphasize them.
Sure, you may not need a specific certification to be a paralegal, but having one can really give you an edge.
Here are some examples of prestigious certifications that look great on a paralegal resume:
- Certified Legal Assistant (CLA), granted by the National Association of Legal Assistants
- Certified Paralegal (CP), granted by the National Association of Legal Assistants
- American Alliance Certified Paralegal certification (AACP), granted by the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc.
- Registered Paralegal (RP), granted by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- Professional Paralegal (PP), granted by the National Association of Legal Secretaries
Now, although we have mentioned the abbreviations for these titles above, you should not use abbreviations on your paralegal resume, especially since these are all voluntary certifications.
Our advice would be to list the full name of each certification, either the year it was issued or the year in which it will expire, and the name of the organization that provides the certification, since there is no uniform standard.
All of the above certifications require you to take continuing education courses to qualify for certification and recertification. If you find that one or more of the continuing education courses you took is relevant to the position for which you are applying, mention it in a separate “career development” section to make sure it catches the reader’s eye.
The bottom line for your paralegal resume…
Paralegals have a wide range of experiences, skills, and training, from high school graduates who worked as legal secretaries for several years to recent university graduates with Baccalaureate degrees in paralegal studies all the way up to highly specialized paralegals with Master’s degrees.
It’s a wide field and you have to find your niche. If you have the specialized skills that come from work experience or a higher education, make them stand out. If you have a prestigious certification, like the ones mentioned above, use that to your advantage.
The field is just going to get more competitive as people flock to one of the careers that is still growing in this economy, so don’t get complacent. Make sure your paralegal resume makes a great case for you.
As a woman, choosing between a skirt or pants for a job interview can be tricky. On one hand, you want to appear powerful and assertive at the job interview. However, you also want to appear conservative enough for a professional environment. In this article, we will discuss whether skirts or pants are more appropriate for job interviews.
Before we start, please understand which types of skirts we are talking about. This article will discuss conservative skirts, generally knee-length, in the pencil or A-line style. We will not talk about miniskirts, high slit skirts, or other revealing garments. Everyone knows that a revealing skirt or pants that are too tight are not appropriate for a job interview.
Fun fact: A recent study showed that skirts make a better first impression in the workplace than pants.
A study carried out by the University of Hertfordshire in the U.K. found that women in skirts still make a better first impression than women in pants.
This study included 300 participants, both women and men, between the ages of 14 and 67. For the study, participants were asked to make snap judgments about businesswomen wearing different professional outfits, with their faces blurred out. Each photo would feature a woman in a skirt or pants—the color and fabric would be the same. Then, the participants had to rate each woman based on confidence, trustworthiness, flexibility, success, and salary.
Within 3 seconds, study participants showed they strongly preferred the skirted businesswomen.
Professor Karen Pine, one of the leaders of the study, commented that women “have to maintain an identity that balances professionalism with attractiveness and the skirt suit may achieve that balance without appearing provocative.”
Fun fact: In the U.S., you can sue an organization for discrimination based on “denial of right to wear pants.”
Well, at least in California! As part of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Government Code Section 12947.5, preventing someone from wearing pants is a kind of discrimination. The official FEHA complaint form provides a category titled “denial of right to wear pants.” Interestingly, there is no “denial of right to wear a skirt” option.
Other U.S. states haven’t officially protected a worker’s right to wear pants, but generally, women are almost always assumed to have the option to wear a skirt or pants in the Western world. As an example, this author’s mother wore formal pants to her own wedding! These days, an employer that requires all women to wear skirts could face legal and ethical issues, especially considering that the growing population of Muslim women generally require either ankle-length skirts and dresses or pants to preserve their cultural tradition of modest attire.
Honest opinion: While you have the right to wear pants, a skirt is generally the safest choice for a job interview, unless wearing a skirt would make you feel uncomfortable.
Ultimately, what you wear to your job interview should help you succeed in that interview, not serve as a fashion statement. Think about whether wearing a skirt or pants would help you during your job interview and choose accordingly.
According to educator Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., skirts are usually still the best choice for job interviews because they are traditional attire. A formal suit with a skirt and flat shoes or modest heels is still the standard business outfit. She especially recommends a skirt suit for conservative industries, such as law, banking, and financial services.
However, she warns that women who are uncomfortable wearing a skirt may not present well at a job interview. We agree that it is better to arrive looking confident in pants than nervous and awkward in a skirt. A skirt might also be physically uncomfortable if it is cold—tights can only do so much. You wouldn’t want to arrive shivering, right?
Dr. Hansen also stresses that a skirt or pants should always be part of a suit. That means a jacket in the same color and texture, worn as part of a coordinated outfit. Your overall appearance is much more important than a specific garment.
The bottom line: Keep both professionalism and your comfort in mind.
Whether to wear a skirt or pants to a job interview is ultimately a personal choice. There’s no right answer. You need to pick a job interview outfit that fits the environment of the company you’re interviewing with and your own level of comfort.
If you do wear pants, slacks with a crease are still considered the most professional. If you wear a belt, it also needs to look conservative. Obviously, flashy belts and big belt buckles are not acceptable.
For skirts, pick a hemline that hits your knees. You can go just above the knee if you’re short, or just below if you’re tall-or just don’t want anyone to see your knees. If you must cross your legs while wearing a skirt, do it at the ankle.
Hopefully, your interviewer will be too impressed by your excellent resume to pay attention to your skirt or pants anyway!