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What specific transferable skills will be beneficial for selling myself in an interview following completion of a Certificate in Paralegal Studies, but with no prior work experience in the field?

For an adult-learner with no prior work experience in the legal field, but completing a Certificate in Paralegal Studies, what specific life skills might I use as transferable skills both on my resume and during an interview? #paralegal #legal #law #women-in-law

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Kim’s Answer

Hi Rachel! Let me answer this by asking a question: What transferrable skills do you have?

Much like doing research, think in terms of analogous and distinguishable. Mostly analogous. What skills do you need to work in a law office? Read some job announcements. If you have not done what they are asking for, have you done something similar? What skills do you think are needed in a law office?

What do I think? Having been around lawyers, and law offices, and new paralegals, I think it is important to not be overly sensitive, and not take things personally. If someone yells, or doesn't say "please," because things are going crazy, let it roll. If it is a litigation firm, you would possibly need to be willing to work some incredibly crazy hours when facing deadlines, or in preparation for trial. Ability to handle clients tactfully (customer service), maintain confidentiality, etc. But most of what I hear attorneys complaining about has to do with the administrative skills. You need to be able to set up filing systems, be super-organized, and be very comfortable with technology -create exhibits, trial notebooks, etc. So any jobs you have done that highlight these things would be good.

Don't just simply list your skills, demonstrate how you have used them: "created spreadsheet to track all office supply inventories and expenses, using formulas", or something like that.

Resumes are constantly being revised, so don't just make one and think it is done. Every time you apply to a job, read the announcement, and if it asks for something you have not covered, try to find a way to work it in.

Also, please keep it conservative! While there are many creative resume templates out there, the legal field is not the place for them!

Let me know if I can be of further help!
Kim
Thank you comment icon Hi Kim, I think that you answered my question. Your example of "created spreadsheet to track......" rather than describing my former job and using their posted job description to determine what to include on my resume is great advise. One would think that at this stage of life that I would have known that. I've still got that old fashioned out-of-date yet current work information style resume. Thank you for helping me channel my focus with this. Rachel
Thank you comment icon Rachel, Don't beat up on yourself for what you don't know! So, do you want to see other people's resumes? They are public. If you go to Indeed.com, there is a link at the top of the page that says "find resumes." The more time you spend preparing your resume, thinking about past jobs and how they relate to the legal field, the more prepared and confident you will be in an interview! It all flows together! Also, the fact that your school's program is ABA-approved is a really big plus. You want to include that phrase, "ABA-approved" on your resume. If you don't mind my asking, what is your previous work experience? Kim Kim Igleheart
Thank you comment icon Kim, The ABA-accreditation was a "must-have" when researching schools for myself. I am a warehouse supervisor in a package sorting and shipping company with a very diverse workforce. Prior to this, Reimbursement Specialist for local biotech companies and also for a reimbursement outsource company. I worked at a non-profit company downtown and fulfilled my retail stint in the Cash Office & Customer Service counter at Kohl's. That's been the last 10 years, at one point working 3 jobs simultaneously. I also worked as a teller at a bank, admin for an avionics in-flight entertainment company, admin for personal lines division of insurance company, billing specialist at a telephone company. I've have many jobs in my many years. Thus, my question of "transferrable skills". Rachel
Thank you comment icon Wow! So, a lot depends on the type of firm. I see a lot of analytical skills in there, as well as math/financial skills. Good from an office mgt perspective (in small firms Paralegals do everything, manage client funds, etc!), bankruptcy, insurance, workers comp, social security, all come to mind. I'm looking for a way to work in reading and interpreting complex regulations. The 3 jobs at once shows that you have real determination. Don't assume they will see the years and figure it out - point it out in your cover letter! I think you're going to be just fine! Kim Igleheart
Thank you comment icon Thank you Kim! Rachel
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Lara Lynn’s Answer

Rachel,

Kudos to you for deciding to become a paralegal! I have been one for almost 29 years.


Attorneys want first and foremost a strong work ethic. Any professional references you have that will say that about you will give you a significant advantage. The references do not have to be former supervisors. They can be co-workers or professionals you have interacted with as part of your previous work.


Ability to multi-task is the most consistent phrase seen on paralegal job descriptions. Be prepared to go into an interview describing an incident where you have had to multi-task. In reality, paralegals do not just need to multi-task. They need to handle constantly shifting priorities. This requires good judgment and a strong sense of responsibility.


Fast-paced environment is also a common phrase seen on paralegal job descriptions. Ultimately, what that usually means is that deadlines must be met with not enough time to meet them. The best way to successfully meet deadlines is to be efficient. If you have a history of implementing procedures to make work flow more efficient, this would be an excellent marketable skill for a paralegal job.


Team player is often thrown out there as a job requirement for a paralegal position. But be prepared that some law firms claim to have a team environment, but are not actually team-oriented, especially well-established, "old school" practices, where a paralegal is assigned to a specific attorney or attorneys rather than assigned to specific cases or projects.


Being a quick learner may be more important than knowing a particular area of law. In a fast-paced environment, no employer wants to invest time to train someone who does not learn quickly. Not only does this cost the employer the time that he is paying you, but it costs the employer the time he is paying the staff member who is training you. Therefore, list ALL software applications you have learned during the course of your work history. Give examples of training you have received and how quickly you have progressed as a result of that training. That tells a future employer that you learn quickly.


Finally, being an effective communicator, both verbally and in writing, is essential in your role as a paralegal. You might consider including a writing sample with your job applications. I recommend a one-page business letter addressing three key points. It is not uncommon for paralegal job applications to require a writing sample.


Best of luck to you in finding the right job!

Lynn Massey



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