The legal industry occupies a critical role in our society, and legal professionals face many demands and pressures. This naturally leads to lawyers expecting nothing but the best from the paralegals they work with. Accordingly, it’s important for a paralegal to put their best foot forward in their job application by crafting a top-notch paralegal resume and cover letter.
The good news is there has never been a better time to look for a paralegal job, with employment of paralegals and legal assistants expected to increase by 14% from 2021 to 2031. To compete in this growing market, paralegal job applicants need all their ducks in a row.
Here we focus on writing the ideal resume and cover letter for a paralegal job application. Review the below guidelines and tips to ensure your application stands out from the crowd.
What are the skills that employers are looking for in a paralegal?
Law firms look for a number of skills when hiring paralegals, including:
- Attention to detail
- Case management
- Legal research
- Administrative support
- Customer service
- Familiarity with legal practice management software programs
Be sure to highlight these skills—and other relevant skills, depending on the firm you’re applying to — in your paralegal resume and cover letter.
How do I write a paralegal resume?
When crafting your paralegal resume, be organized and concise. A paralegal resume details your career history, while your paralegal cover letter provides you with the opportunity to highlight more specific details that demonstrate why you are a great fit for the position.
Your paralegal resume should include your contact information, education and certifications, work experience, and other relevant experience or skills (for example, additional languages spoken, volunteer experience, or proficiency with various legal practice management software programs). Under each category, you can highlight job duties, responsibilities, achievements, and skills acquired through your experiences.
What should a paralegal put on a resume?
Your paralegal resume should provide law firms with a snapshot of your work experience, education, and abilities. It should also concisely highlight your relevant skills, such as the following:
- Client relationship management
- Teamwork and collaboration
- Research and writing
- Technological capabilities
Paralegal resume examples
While it’s critical to tailor your paralegal resume to your unique experience (and the firm you’re applying to), it never hurts to review paralegal resume examples to get a sense of what your resume should look like.
How do I write a paralegal cover letter?
When crafting your paralegal cover letter, first focus on the main purpose of the letter. While a resume details your career history, a cover letter provides more specific details and insights into why you would be a good fit for the role. A cover letter is also a great opportunity to get creative and highlight useful skills in the legal industry. This is especially important if you lack industry experience.
What should a paralegal cover letter include?
A paralegal cover letter should include an introductory paragraph, a main body, and a conclusion. Your main body should highlight your skills and experience. We delve into these different sections in more detail below.
In your introductory paragraph, you should both (1) introduce yourself and (2) provide a brief summary of why you’d be a good fit for the firm. Explain who you are—an experienced paralegal? Someone who was recently certified as a paralegal? Now is the time to mention any referrals or mutual acquaintances. Finally, include a few reasons why you’d be a good fit for the firm.
In the main body, you have one or two paragraphs to explain two things: (1) why you want to work for this firm and (2) why this firm should hire you. Avoid the trap of simply summarizing your resume. While you should provide an overview of your education and experience, you should primarily focus on answering the above two questions.
Specify what makes you excited to work for this firm in particular. Does the firm work in a practice area that interests you, or in which you have experience? Is it the firm’s stellar reputation?
Finally, elaborate on why the firm should select you as their new hire. Explain how your qualifications would assist in fulfilling paralegal duties at the firm. Look for the key attributes named by the firm in their job posting, and detail how you meet those standards.
The concluding paragraph of the cover letter should succinctly wrap up the letter and leave the reader with a positive impression. Thank the reader for their consideration and outline how and when you will follow up on your application. You can also specify how you can be reached, but preferably your contact information is already included in the letter’s header.
What do law firms look for in paralegal cover letters?
Here we summarize the main points employers are looking for in your paralegal cover letter. These items all relate to how law firms hire paralegals and how they assess candidates for paralegal roles.
Read more in our paralegal resource hub.
A personal touch
Ensure your cover letter doesn’t look like generic mass-mail correspondence. Include a personal touch that shows the letter is directed to the hiring firm in particular.
This could include writing about the firm’s specific practice areas. Not only does this show you’ve done your research, it’s sure to be more compelling for the hiring personnel reading it. Highlighting your interest in real estate work will not be appealing to a personal injury firm—so do your homework.
It’s also critical to outline your relevant experience. You can rest assured that attorneys will be checking your previous paralegal experience and the firms you have worked for.
Keep in mind even if your experience doesn’t line up exactly with the job description, it may still be worth applying. Just be sure to highlight what you bring to the table despite your lack of experience. For example, you may have copy editing experience, or you may have developed writing and editing skills in another role outside of the legal industry.
Be sure to highlight soft skills that aren’t the easiest to emphasize on a resume. Not only does this help the firm see you as a living and breathing human, it illustrates what it might be like to work with you day-to-day. For example, if you work well as part of a team, definitely let them know! And be sure to provide one or two specific examples that highlight these skills, as opposed to simply declaring “I am detail oriented.”
Make an attempt to let your enthusiasm shine through in your cover letter. Highlight why you’re excited about this job in particular. For example, has it always been your dream to work for a personal injury firm because you were injured in a car accident as a child and now want to help others? Personal touches like this can help, since attorneys want to be confident you will bring high energy levels to the job every day.
Tips for writing a winning paralegal cover letter
Beyond knowing the basic format and structure of the cover letter, you should also remember a few key points as follows.
Highlight what makes you unique (early!)
If you have any skills or experience that make you uniquely suited to this role, highlight those items early in the cover letter. It’s best practice to summarize the top things you want the firm to know about you in the introductory paragraph.
For instance, if you have experience with cloud-based legal practice management (LPM) software and the firm uses Clio, you should state this early and expand on the point further in the main body.
Get to the point
Your paralegal cover letter should be memorable without exceeding one page in length. This means you’ll have to avoid any temptation to be overly wordy or long-winded. Instead, get to the point quickly while adding enough polish and substance to be persuasive.
When trying to be compelling and concise at the same time, it’s important to also make sure to add variety to your sentence structure. Vary the length of your sentences, as well as how you start sentences, to keep the reader engaged.
Set the right tone
Any written letter conveys a certain tone, and you want to be sure your cover letter conveys the right one. For a paralegal position, you must definitely use a professional tone. However, making the tone a bit more personal may help in certain instances.
If you’re applying and wanting to work at a Big Law firm, you should err on the side of a more professional style. But for a smaller firm, check their website and see if they use a more lighthearted or conversational feel. Matching that tone in your cover letter could be a positive sign in the eyes of their attorneys. Plus, it’s yet another way to show you have done your homework on the firm.
You only have one opportunity to make a good first impression. Don’t let spelling or grammatical errors ruin an otherwise excellent cover letter. From the firm’s perspective, if you can’t catch these errors in your own cover letter, how will you avoid critical errors with their court filings and other legal documents? It may be worthwhile to ask a friend or family member to review your cover letter to ensure you don’t miss any mistakes.
Paralegal cover letter examples
Looking at paralegal cover letter examples can give you a sense of what your cover letter should look like. Sample cover letters specific to paralegals can also be helpful. If you’re a paralegal job applicant lacking experience, be sure to check out some examples geared to your situation.
While samples can be helpful, it’s important to remember the best cover letter emphasizes your skills and experience while being tailored to the firm you’re applying to. Feel free to look at cover letter samples for assistance, but don’t forget the guidelines above.
Final thoughts on paralegal resumes and cover letters
A well-crafted paralegal resume and cover letter can help you land the opportunity to fill a demanding role in our growing industry. Simply be sure to structure your letter properly, keep your mind on what firms are looking for, and follow the tips outlined above. With a great cover letter, in addition to experience with the right tools and a well-written paralegal resume, you’ll be well on the way to the successful paralegal career you deserve.
Law firms are looking for paralegals who know their way around the latest tech. Watch how law firms use Clio here to give yourself an edge.
Want more paralegal resources?