Updated 8 March
Previous relevant experience is often a requirement from job applicants applying for paralegal roles. However, if you have no experience, this requirement can present a major challenge when drafting a cover letter. Here are eight ways you can ensure your cover letter has a maximum impact in spite of lack of experience.
1. Have a punchy opening paragraph
In the first paragraph be clear the role you are applying for and mention where you have seen it advertised. If you are a law graduate, make sure you mention it. You will also want to finish this paragraph strongly by listing out two relevant skills that you have which are required for the job.
2. Showcase transferable skills
Before you start listing out your skill set, you will need to understand the skills required for the role. By outlining only relevant skills will spark recruiters interest to read on, so always keep it relevant to the role applying. Given you have no previous experience, it is very likely the recruiter will also be looking for evidence of adaptability and flexibility, therefore, if you have any examples where you have used or even developed such skills make sure you mentioned it. Remember you could have gained many useful transferable skills from studying or as part of your part-time job. Match those skills with the skills and attributes required for the job.
3. Be clear why you applied to this firm
Make sure you research into the firm is through enough, so you can put a compelling case why you have chosen this firm. You will want to be specific with your reasons and always link back to your skills, experience and how this can contribute to the firm.
4. Informal work experience
If you have taken part in any workshops and other career fairs whilst at University make sure you include it in your application. These workshops demonstrate a willingness to learn and to hone your skills further, which are must-have attributes particularly for paralegals with no experience. Highlight how this experience and skills can be brought across in the next role and help you succeed.
5. Showcase your achievements
Achievements cannot be underestimated and indeed they are at
6. Can you use degree subjects?
If you have studied any modules at University related to the role, this is an alternative way to back up your answer and highlight to the recruiter why the opportunity presented of interest. Equally, if you have obtained high marks for a specific area of law related to the role this is a great way to impress the recruiter.
7. Avoid typos and spelling errors
This advice applies to everyone no matter how much or how little experience you may have. As harsh as it may be if you get this part wrong its game over. Do not let something of this nature to get on the way to your success. Check your letter multiple times before submitting it and ideally have checked by someone who has never seen it before.
8. Top tip
Remember when you are applying for paralegal jobs you are competing with other experienced paralegals, therefore, you need to stand out in the job search. One simple but effective way to stand out is by being proactive. Do not be afraid to submit applications to firms that are actively hiring. Speculative applications are usually well received by recruiters. Also, be sure to apply for entry-level paralegal jobs, as those jobs have more flexibility surrounding past experience. Our friends at Law Careers have put up this helpful video on how to secure a paralegal role without experience.
Lack of experience does not spell the end of finding a paralegal job. As long as you apply for jobs where you can justify your reasons be it through transferable skills or achievements and you aim for entry-level jobs, it will not be long before you secure your first entry-level paralegal job.
Legal recruiter and blogger @purelegaljobs