You’re a paralegal. You’re smart. You’re trusted.
You draft crucial legal advice.
But when it comes to writing your own resume, you need advice from someone else.
What does a good paralegal resume look like, anyway?
In such a competitive industry, you can’t leave any questions answered.
But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
- A job-winning paralegal resume example
- How to create a paralegal resume that hiring managers love
- Specific tips and tricks for the paralegal job industry
To start with, here’s a paralegal resume example, built with our own resume builder:
Follow the steps below to create a paralegal resume of your own.
How to Format a Paralegal Resume
Did you know that the average legal job attracts hundreds of applicants?
As such, you need to do everything in your power to stand out.
The first step is to select the correct format.
You see, even if you have the best skills and a wealth of experience, you won’t get very far if the hiring manager is having difficulty reading the content.
With “reverse-chronological” being the most common resume format, we recommend this format for paralegals. It shows the peak of your work experience first, and then works back through your history and skills.
You could also try the two following formats:
- Functional Resume - This format focuses on your skills, which makes it the best format for paralegals that are highly-skilled, but have little in the way of paralegal work experience.
- Combination Resume - This format mixes both “Functional” and “Reverse-Chronological” formats, which means it focuses on both your legal skills AND work experience.
- Keep your resume to one-page. This shows the hiring manager that you can keep information brief and precise. Feel free to check out our one-page resume templates.
Once you’ve picked the correct format, you need to choose the correct resume layout.
We recommend the following layout:
- Margins - One-inch margins on all sides
- Font - Pick a font that stands out, but make it professional
- Font Size - Font size of 11-12pt for normal text and 14-16pt for headers
- Line Spacing - Use 1.0 or 1.15 line spacing
- Resume Length - Don’t go over the 1-page limit. Having trouble fitting everything into one page? Check out these one-page resume templates.
- As a paralegal, the recruiter will expect to see a highly-professional resume. As such, try not to be too creative with the font and layout.
Use a Paralegal Resume Template
If you’ve ever made a resume, there’s a high chance that Word was the program of choice.
There’s also a high chance that you had a formatting nightmare!
Whether you experienced issues or not, Word is far from the best tool for the job.
To make your life easier, you may want to use a paralegal resume template.
What to Include in a Paralegal Resume
The main sections in a paralegal resume are:
- Contact Information
- Work Experience
For a paralegal resume that stands out from other applications, add these optional sections:
- Awards & Certification
- Interests & Hobbies
We’re now going to talk about each of the above sections, and explain the best practises for writing them.
For an in-depth rundown on which sections to use, check out our guide on What to Put on a Resume.
How to Write Your Contact Information Section
As a paralegal, you should be aware that every word matters. This couldn’t be more of the case with your contact information section. One small misspelling of your phone number or email can render your whole application useless.
For your contact information section, include:
- Full Name
- Title - Make this specific to the exact role you’re applying for, which in this case is “Paralegal.”
- Phone Number - Triple-check this. One small error can really mess up your chances.
- Email Address - Make sure to use a professional email address (email@example.com), and avoid that email you created back in 7th grade (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- (Optional) Location - Applying for a job abroad? Mention your location.
- Jim Fakester - Paralegal. 101-358-6095. email@example.com
- Jim Fakester - Paralegal Master. 101-358-6095. firstname.lastname@example.org
How to Write a Paralegal Resume Summary or Objective
Here’s a question…
What is less than 6 seconds?
It is the amount of time each hiring manager spends scanning your resume.
Shocking…but what does this mean?
Well, if you don’t catch their attention in a few seconds, you’ve missed your chance.
Now, the question is, what can you do to hook the recruiter the moment they look at your resume?
Simple: use a resume summary or objective.
These are brief, sharp paragraphs that go on top of your resume, just under the contact section.
The main difference between the two sections is that:
A resume summary is a short summary of your professional experiences and achievements. It is the best option for individuals who have multiple years of paralegal experience.
- Detail-oriented paralegal with a strong background in drafting legal memorandums, motions, and correspondence. Has a passionate and professional work ethic that requires no guidance from attorneys or supervisors. Adept at working as part of a legal team, including secretaries, associates, and partners.
On the other hand, the resume objective focuses on your professional goals and aspirations. It is ideal for entry-level paralegal candidates or individuals who want a change in their professional career. Although you’re talking about your goals, it is important to relate the objective to your future employer’s gain.
- Motivated Paralegal Studies graduate looking for a paralegal role at Law Firm X. Experience drafting legal documents at University X. Enthusiastic to support your legal team, where I can use my skills to assist with real estate deals.
So, which one is best for you?
Well, a summary is suited for paralegals with work experience, and an objective is suited for those who are new to the field (student, graduate, or switching careers).
How to Make Your Paralegal Work Experience Stand Out
There’s no easier way to build confidence in your resume than with a rich work experience.
Sure, your legal knowledge and personal skills are super important, but so is your professional experience. Follow this layout in your experience section:
- Position name
- Company Name
- Responsibilities & Achievements
05/2017 - 06/2020
- Implemented a standardized billing practise to give 15% increase profitability in 2017.
- Hand-selected by top attorneys to proofread their reports for trial.
- Regularly drafted correspondence and legal documentation under extreme time pressures.
To really highlight your qualities, you should focus on your achievements, not your daily responsibilities.
Instead of saying:
“Hand-selected by top attorneys to proofread their reports for trial”
So, how are the two different, and why do we suggest this?
Simply put, the first statement doesn’t mean much. How many times do you think the recruiter has heard those exact words today – 200 maybe?
On the other hand, the second statement gets more specific and shows the clear benefits to hiring you for the job.
- Use the job description to your advantage. You can see if there is anything in the job description that matches your work history. If so, definitely include it!
What if You Don’t Have Work Experience?
Maybe you’re a law graduate who hasn’t worked before?
Or maybe, you’re transitioning from a different position?
Whatever the situation, don’t threat, there are always options.
The main option is to use a portfolio.
If you have already drafted legal documents, you should link to them in your resume (we’re going to explain how in a bit).
If you don’t have a portfolio, it is never too late to get one.
Here are several ways to build a paralegal portfolio (and get paid for it):
- Use a freelance platform (UpWork) to pick up some gigs
- Offer your services to your friends & acquaintances
For the students read this, you’ll enjoy our guide on how to make a student resume!
Use Action Words to Make Your Paralegal Resume POP!
- “Responsible for”
- “Worked with”
You’ll find these same words on nearly all paralegal resumes.
And since the aim of the game is to make your resume stand out, we’d recommend using some of these power words instead:
How to List Your Education Correctly
The next section in any paralegal resume is the education section.
Now, there a number of different paths you can follow to become a professional paralegal.
All you need to do in this section is describe your educational path to date.
- Degree Type & Major
- University Name
- Years Studied
- GPA, Honours, Courses, and other relevant achievements
B.A. in Law
Boston State University
- Relevant Courses: Constitutional/Administrative Law, Criminal Law, Contract Law, Equity & Trusts, EU Law, Public Law, Land Law, Tort Law
- GPA: 3.6
Now, you may have a few questions, here are the most frequently asked questions:
What if I haven’t finished studying?
Whether or not you’re still a law student, you should always mention all of the years that you have studied.
Should I include my high school education?
Only if you don’t have any higher education. The hiring manager won’t care about your high school education if you have a law degree.
What goes first, education or experience?
If you’re an experienced paralegal, your work experience should come before your education.
If you still have questions, you can check out our guide on how to list education on a resume.
Top 10 Skills for a Paralegal Resume
Being a professional paralegal requires having a certain set of skills. As such, the hiring manager will need to make sure the person they hire has enough skills to do a good job.
You may be the most skilled paralegal in the world, but it is vital to make these skills clear on your resume.
Here are some of the skills a hiring manager will be looking for from a paralegal...
Hard Skills for a Paralegal:
- Westlaw and Lexis/Nexis
- Legal document drafting
- Adobe Acrobat
- Practice Panther
- eDiscovery experience
Soft Skills for a Paralegal:
- Excellent communicator
- Confident & professional manner
- Act with integrity and honesty
- Although soft skills are incredibly important, they are hard to prove on your resume. As such, try not to go too overboard with soft kills, especially the more generic ones. Just about anyone can say that they’re “professional”, but not a lot of people are professionals at writing trial reports for top attorneys.
Looking for a more comprehensive list? Here’s a mega-list of 150+ must-have skills.
Other Resume Sections You Can Include
By this point, you’re likely ready to save your resume and start sending it to your potential employers.
After all, there’s nothing more to add, is there?
This is not exactly true, especially if you want to create a winning resume.
Remember, the #1 goal in the application process is to stand out.
And a resume that looks a carbon copy of all the others is not going to do that.
If you’ve got your skills and experiences sorted, the following sections may be the deciding factor.
Awards & Certifications
Did you win a university competition?
Have you completed professional courses on Coursera?
Whatever the recognition, awards and certifications make a good resume great.
Awards & Certificates
- American Contract Law Coursera Certificate
- A Law Students Toolkit Coursera Certificate]
Are you passionate about law?
Hopefully you said yes, because that is what your future employer wants to hear.
The best way to show your passion is through a project.
Whether you’re working on a side-hustle or enjoyed a university project, there are only benefits to putting projects on your resume.
Don’t have any projects? Here are some of the potential projects you can start today:
- Starting your own law blog
- University project where you assisted with the drafting of documents for fake business
- Side-hustling on job boards, like UpWork, Fiverr, Freelancer, etc.
Whether or not the paralegal job requires knowledge of a second language, the ability to speak multiple languages is an impressive skill.
If you have a proficiency in any language, and space on your resume, feel free to add a language section.
Order the languages by proficiency:
Interests & Hobbies
Now, you may be wondering, “why is my rock climbing hobby worth mentioning when applying for a paralegal job?”
Well, because it says more about you as a human.
And you’re not a robot, are you? (I hope not).
Companies are looking for someone who they’ll get along with.
And what’s something that makes you relatable and enjoyable to work with? Yes, hobbies and interests!
If you want some ideas of hobbies & interests to put on your resume, we have a guide for that!
Match Your Cover Letter with Your Resume
Yep, more writing!
But it’s for good reason: cover letters are still very important.
You can write the best resume in the world, but if you don’t include a cover letter, you’re only helping your competition.
Cover letters offer the opportunity to talk to the recruiter with more depth and personality.
Even better, the recruiter will know that you want THIS position in THIS company, and you’re not just randomly sending resumes to every law firm within a 10 mile radius.
Just like with the resume, the cover letter needs to be structured correctly. Here’s how to do that:
And here’s what goes in each section:
Your personal contact information, including full name, profession, email, phone number, location, website (or Behance / Dribble).
Hiring Manager’s Contact Information
Full name, position, location, email.
Your introduction should be very strong. If you don’t manage to hook the hiring manager here, they’re not going to read the rest of your resume. So, mention…
- The specific position you’re applying for.
- Your experience summary and top achievements.
Once you’ve got the hiring manager hooked, you can go through the rest of your work history and personal background. Some of the points you can mention here are:
- Why you want to work for this specific company.
- Anything you know about the company’s culture.
- What are your top skills and how are they relevant for the job.
- If you’ve worked in similar industries or positions.
This is where you:
- Wrap up any points you missed in the body paragraph.
- Thank the hiring manager for their time.
- End with a call to action. Something like, “I’d love to further discuss how my experience as an X can help the company with Y.”
To keep everything professional, use formal closing, such as “Best regards” or “Sincerely.”
Creating a cover letter is a craft. But don’t worry, you can call on our how to write a cover letter for guidance.
If you have followed all of the advice in this guide, you’re now in a great position to create a winning resume that lands that dream paralegal position.
Before you go, let’s quickly cover everything we’ve covered:
- Select the correct format for your paralegal resume. Use a reverse-chronological format, and follow the best layout practices to keep everything clear and concise.
- Instantly grab the reader’s attention with a summary or objective.
- Prioritize talking about your achievements, instead of your responsibilities.
- Build a portfolio of your best pieces of work.
- Match your paralegal resume with a cover letter that follows the best practices.