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Internships for Paralegals

March 18, 2011

Today’s law firms agree that formal education or training may go a long way for a paralegal career. Aspiring legal assistants may pursue their Associate'sBachelor's, or Master's degrees from one of the many paralegal schools in the country. Although formal education may be considered important, there may be ways in which you may build your repertoire of skills and credentials, including certifications and internships.

paralegal internship may serve as a supplement to a traditional degree. For many paralegals, a position as an intern may lead to an offer of full-time employment from the firm after the program's completion.

  • Enhances your resume with relevant skills
  • Provides you with real-world experience to prepare you for your first "real" paralegal job
  • Helps you form valuable networking relationships with seasoned legal professionals, who can provide recommendations to future employers
  • Exposes you to different areas of law to help you decide which specialty you'd like to pursue
  • Earns you credits that can be applied toward your degree

Obtaining a paralegal internship is easier than you may think. If you have the ambition and desire, coupled with a strong work ethic, flexibility, and willingness to learn, you'll most likely have no problems.

Below are some tips for landing a rewarding position as a legal intern:

When choosing a paralegal school or training program, inquire about the opportunity for internships. Many educational facilities make it easier to find an intern position by maintaining relationships with legal-oriented employers in the surrounding areas. Ask the school's career counselor about the ratio of paralegal students who have been offered placements.

Start early. It's best to begin the application process as soon as three or four months before you'd like to start, especially if you have a particular area of law in which you're interested. For a summer internship, you should start talking to your school's career counselor and putting your feelers out sometime in late fall.

Although you're most likely eager to land an internship, it's perfectly okay to be picky. You may not necessarily want to accept the first offer you get - take your time and carefully evaluate all of your prospects before narrowing it down to one choice. After all, many interns are ultimately offered full-time positions after they graduate, so you could very well be choosing a long-term employer.

Create a stellar cover letter and resume. These are the two most important tools for landing a great internship. Shoot for a blend of thorough and succinct - you should include all pertinent information, but it should be concise enough to fit on one easily scannable page. If you don't have any professional work experience yet, use the opportunity to play up the coursework and projects you've completed during your schooling, as well as your inherent personal strengths. It's a good idea to have a trusted guidance counselor, teacher, or legal professional take a spin through your documents to make sure they're making the right impression. Whenever possible, tweak your resume and cover letter slightly for each applicant. Companies are turned off by generic form letters; they prefer candidates who have researched their business and created custom correspondence just for them.

Form a network. This could be as simple as reaching out to family, friends, and acquaintances that might have recommendations for companies seeking interns. In our modern, high-tech age, however, "networking" also encompasses the electronic social media. Creating profiles on social networking websites such as Linked In, Facebook, and MySpace can provide valuable opportunities to broadcast your skills, interests, and the type of internship you're seeking. As you acquire more "virtual friends" and more people view your profile, you'll increase the chances of being discovered by a potential employer.

Look for positions online. The Internet is a gold mine for internships and entry-level positions in the paralegal field. There are several reputable websites that specialize in helping students and recent graduates find placement. While it's good to have a few irons in the fire, do be selective about which firms or organizations you approach - any one of them could offer you a position, so be sure you have a serious interest before applying.

Request referrals. If you have a positive interview experience with a prospective employer but don't ultimately land the internship, politely ask them to share your resume and contact information with other firms who may have an opening.

Stay positive. An upbeat, can-do attitude is one of the most desirable traits in a paralegal. Even during an arduous interview process, keep a smile on your face and remain cool and collected. If you're easily frenzied by brusque phone calls, shifting appointment times, and tough questions, the interviewer may assume you'll be hard-pressed to handle the stressful situations that make up a paralegal's typical workday.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. The more information you gather, the better equipped you'll be to make a decision if you're offered the position. A good interviewer will always provide you with the opportunity to ask him or her any questions, usually toward the end of the meeting. Jot down a few basic questions beforehand, and also make note of any that pop into your head during the meeting. When it's your turn to fire away, do so politely and thoroughly. Listen carefully to the interviewer's answers - you're asking the questions not just to impress him or her with your interest, but also to help you formulate an informed decision.

Always follow up with a thank-you. A simple email will suffice. Make it short and sweet, thanking the interviewer for their time and restating your interest in the internship. You can also use this opportunity to call out the unique skills and characteristics that set you apart from other candidates, and to bring up any points or questions you may have forgotten to raise during the interview.

With the right amount of preparation and personal ambition, you should have no problems finding a paralegal internship in your desired area of law. A high-quality internship can go a long way toward boosting your resume, building your on-the-job skills, and helping you land a permanent position after graduation.

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