Applying for paralegal roles successfully will require a strong CV; but if you are new to the industry, you may not have a huge amount of legal experience to write about.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything valuable to offer, because you probably have a wealth of transferable skills you can demonstrate.
By focusing your CV on transferable skills, you can significantly increase the chance of your CV making its way to the ‘yes’ pile, even without years of legal experience.
So, what transferable skills that you already possess can make your paralegal CV shine?
A huge proportion in your role as a paralegal will be communication-based. Recruiters will be looking for excellent communication skills so that you can successfully cover duties such as contacting people for research and writing statements for witnesses. You may also be asked to interview clients which means both written and verbal communication skills are essential.
Of course, every candidate will say they have great communication skills, so how can you evidence this in your CV to stand out? The best way is to give examples such as mentioning presentations you have completed (and state audience numbers too). You may have also conducted research for university projects that can showcase your communication. Where possible, bring the examples to life with facts, figures and statistics.
A paralegal will be responsible for numerous tasks that need to be juggled at the same time, with this in mind, organisation is critical. Evidencing your ability to classify, order and organise quickly and efficiently will be essential. Explaining administrative duties in your employment history can help to show your organisation. Furthermore, explaining the tools, software and techniques that you use when organising can really help. You can demonstrate these skills through a number of outside-of-work activities, such as studies, volunteering or hobbies and interests.
Whether you are scheduling court meetings or organising your workload, you will need to be able to plan and prioritise. University assignments can be an excellent way to show how your plan and prioritise. Using planning software and tools in your past work experience help to evidence your planning skills. You may also consider a project that you were involved in that took a great deal of planning such as event management or complex assignments.
As a paralegal, you will have to tread a careful balance between the lawyer and the client. Negotiation is critical for the success of your own job as well as for the business and client. Knowing how to be flexible as well as being able to stand your ground is essential, in order for you to achieve the most successful outcome.
You can evidence your skills for negotiation through any debates during your studies as well as examples of implementing process changes or adopting a different way of working that was initially met with resistance.
Attention to detail
Throughout your law studies, you’ll know that accuracy and attention to detail are critical for any paralegal job so this must be clearly evidenced in your CV. Most paralegals will state they have ‘great attention to detail’ on their CV. However, to prove this in your application, there are several things to do;
- Ensure your CV is immaculate with absolutely no mistakes
- Evidence any proofreading activities you have undertaken, such as fact-checking and editing
- Explain any numerical tasks you were responsible for (such as cashing up, or cash flow management)
- Examples of drafting policies and procedures.
In any paralegal role, there will be complexities that you will need to unravel and resolve. However, most people will have plenty of experience in overcoming obstacles during their studies or professional life. Make sure to demonstrate at least one example of when you have personally found a new way to conduct a task that is better than the previous method. Consider improvements customer satisfaction, speed, efficiency and the ability to managing deadlines when issues crop up.
When providing a problem-solving example, it can be tempting to explain it as a team effort. However, recruiters will want to see your personal contribution to problem-solving, so make sure to make that clear in your CV.
Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.
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