In the competitive paralegal job market, you need to represent your skills clearly and concisely to stand out from the crowd. The transition to virtual operations in the legal industry has created more opportunities for legal support staff than ever. Equip yourself with the experiences you need to be more competitive and attractive to multiple employers and opportunities to show off your paralegal skills.
Here are some tips on how to market your skills and land yourself in a higher salary range:
1. Fine-tune your cover letter
An effective resume and cover letter should offer proof to potential employers that you can help legal clients obtain what they need, want, and value. While an attractive resume will help you stand out from the crowd, future employers want to know the answer to one crucial question: Why should they hire you? You can answer this question with an effective cover letter.
Your cover letter should be short and to the point, friendly and professional in tone, and show you have researched the firm to which you are applying. Because human resource officers can tell when candidates are using a generic letter, you should never send the same cover letter to every firm.
2. Perfect your elevator speech
Your elevator speech – a short, clear response you give when somebody you don’t know asks you what you do for a living – can be used to showcase your abilities, expand your network, and even get you hired. Here are some ways to build an effective elevator speech:
- Keep it short. An elevator speech should be no longer than 80 to 90 words and take 30 seconds or less to deliver.
- Cover the basics. Talk about who you are, what you do, and what your goals are.
- Go beyond your job title. Instead of introducing yourself as a paralegal, try introducing yourself who helps people solve legal problems.
- Be direct. Keep your statements brief, strong, and jargon-free.
- Express interest. Instead of focusing on yourself, explain why you are interested in others.
- Always smile whenever you are about to deliver your elevator speech.
Before giving your elevator speech to others, you should memorize it and practice delivering it in front of a mirror or friend. The more you practice, the more natural and sincere it will sound.
3. Promote your freelance paralegal skills
If you are a freelance paralegal, you should focus your marketing efforts on attracting quality attorneys as clients. You can do this with a professional website that will enhance your credibility and get your message out. You should position all your marketing efforts to attract potential clients to your site. Since many people don’t fully understand what freelance paralegals offer, another option is to conduct an educational campaign on your website to inform the public about the services a freelance paralegal provides. Marketing efforts should be consistent, and follow-up should be made for every opportunity that comes your way.
Although digital marketing is critical, there are times in-person networking is the better approach. To do so, you should look for networking groups in your local area. But before you attend an in-person event, make sure that you have something to hand to prospects. Professional business cards with your personal information and a link to your site are a smart choice.
4. Level up through education
If you want to progress in your paralegal career—even if you are already employed—keeping your skills sharp through continuing education specific to the legal profession is a great way to stay marketable in the fast-paced, evolving legal environment. However, continuing education should not be merely meeting annual paralegal CLE requirements. The more knowledge you have, the greater an asset you will be to your firm or legal department.
You should invest in your career through educational opportunities, whether you receive CLE credits or not. Technology is changing the paralegal profession, and if you become educated in new technological skills, you will become more efficient and your job will likely become easier. Whether you seek education in a specific practice management software platform, artificial intelligence, or some other type of legal technology, any such skills will keep you marketable well into the future.
5. Explore a new practice area
It can seem challenging to stay competitive as more paralegals enter the industry. However, branching into a new practice area can be a jumpstart for those who feel “stuck” in the area of law where they found their first opportunity. Training in a new practice area is helpful not only to advance your skills but also to assist a lawyer who wants to test the waters in a new area.
Being a successful paralegal is all about being proactive about every goal you set and every task that comes across your desk. If you’re not exactly ready to jump into any of these actions, use where you are to help you get where you want to go. Legal employers typically conduct an annual performance review for paralegals and other staff members. Consider setting your own performance review to determine what skills you want to work on in the coming year and how to best market those skills.