Posted by Lisa Hamilton on Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 08:00
Q: I’m looking for a new paralegal job and was wondering what skills I should emphasize or, if I don’t have them, should acquire so as to make myself more marketable to prospective employers? And which practice areas are generating the most legal jobs?
It’s a great idea to get a lay of the legal landscape before launching your search. That way you can maximize your chances of getting an interview and a job offer. Here’s a brief overview of the hot practice areas and in-demand skills for legal support professionals.
Fifty-six percent of lawyers interviewed for the Robert Half Legal 2015 Salary Guide said their law firms or companies found it challenging to recruit experienced legal professionals for open positions. As a result, if you do have the right experience, be sure to convey that clearly in your application and during the interview. Here is what law firms and corporate legal departments look for when hiring:
- Previous experience with a law firm
- A background in litigation support, insurance, real estate, healthcare and financial services
- Bachelor’s degree and a certificate of completion from an American Bar Association–approved paralegal education program
- Ability to successfully perform multiple job functions and produce high-quality results
- Experience in compliance, contract and lease administration, and eDiscovery
- Advanced technical skills, including mastery of Microsoft Office and proficiency with software related to litigation support, billing and case management
Hybrid paralegal/legal secretary positions are more common than they were two years ago, so much so that colleges and paralegal associations now have formal training programs for this new role. This blended position is a good way for legal support professionals to take on more responsibilities and move up in the ranks.
Add to your skill set
If your expertise doesn’t quite match the in-demand skills or practice areas that employers look for, pursue additional training. Be sure to keep up with your continuing legal education (CLE), and consider getting a relevant degree to make your application more competitive.
And don’t overlook the importance of soft skills. To advance in legal careers today, professionals need to have a superb aptitude for client service. Also necessary are teamwork, flexibility, initiative and organization.
Good legal jobs are out there, and you will stand out in the candidate pool if you have what employers are looking for: experience in high-demand specialties plus the right set of technical and interpersonal skills. For more information on hiring trends, starting wages and legal careers, see our Salary Center.