One of the many exciting aspects of working as a Legal Secretary is the fact that there is so much possibility for career progression. Experienced Legal Secretaries can become executives in their own right, but many also choose to move on to roles such as that of a Paralegal. Making the decision to move forward into a new role such as this is both exciting and rewarding, but you would be forgiven for feeling slightly daunted about beginning. You have made a successful career as a Legal Secretary, so how can you take that next step up to become a Paralegal? And how can you make sure that you stand out in a sea of other legal professionals and law graduates?
ILSPA partner Simply Law spoke to Millie Swaby-Pritchard, an LPC graduate and Paralegal. Millie shared how you can get involved in a number of extracurricular activities to make sure you stand out from the sea of applicants when applying for roles as a Paralegal. Her advice follows:
Like many other applicants seeking Paralegal roles, when I began job hunting I had to understand what set me apart from other candidates. Paralegal roles can be very competitive, with lots of candidates applying to one position. This sometimes means that good grades or work experience alone doesn’t always ensure success.
How to stand out from other candidates
I realised employers are usually seeking two key components to their candidates: character and knowledge.
Knowledge includes your ability to perform the role and includes work and academic experience.
Character is everything outside of your ability to complete the role and defines you as a person.
On the most basic level, a law firm is a business whose greatest asset is their talent. Employers for Paralegal roles will therefore be seeking the top talent for those positions. In this situation, standing out often depends on candidates successfully blending both character and knowledge.
Your character becomes important right from the start of the application process, during the consideration of CVs. For example, an employer could have 200 applicants whose knowledge appears perfect for the role. However, the employer doesn’t have the time or resources to interview all 200 candidates.
This is when an employer will look for other valuable aspects of the candidates within their CVs, i.e. their character. On a CV, your character is often evidenced by your extracurricular activities.
Paralegal job searching
When I was seeking Paralegal roles, I sought out a variety of extracurricular activities, which I believe was key to getting through to the interview stage of the application process.
Below are some ideas of extracurricular activities you could get involved in to help boost your CV.
- Additional certifications: For example, research certificates or intensive short courses about legal areas you are interested in. Undertaking additional certifications evidences your eagerness to learn independently and to develop skills. Employers desire candidates who will become more valuable, and gaining or refining skills certainly demonstrates this.
- Charity or volunteer work: This demonstrates a number of key attributes such as teamwork, empathy and a desire to help others (which is vital to client relationships). If you are seeking employment at larger firms, this also shows alignment with any corporate social responsibility they administer.
- Legal blogging or vlogging: This could include being featured on an established site or creating your own. This would evidence knowledge of the industry and technological literacy, which is becoming increasingly important within the industry.
- Participating in something you genuinely enjoy: Employers want to get to know you as a person to determine how you will fit within their firm. Displaying participation in activities you enjoy, such as sports or music, is often very good for showcasing your personality and your dedication to pursuing things you are interested in – in turn, making you more attractive to employers and hopefully increasing your chances of landing the perfect Paralegal role.
Generally speaking, varying the extracurricular activities you participate in is beneficial for demonstrating a broad range of qualities and transferable skills to an employer. And by being creative in choosing those activities, you can demonstrate strong character.