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Beware of Online Sample Paralegal Resumes

Beware of Online Sample Paralegal Resumes

You have to take many of the online sample paralegal resumes with a grain of salt (sometimes with an entire Morton’s Salt container). The quality is not consistent among the many samples I reviewed, and using some of them is a great way to never get an interview.

I’m listing quotes from the worst examples of qualifications and experience I found from googling “sample paralegal resumes” today. I could still be copying and pasting unbelievable quotes hours later, but at some point the exercise stopped being funny and was merely disturbing. I was getting the creepy spinal shivers at the thought that newbie paralegals (or anybody) might be using them as go-bys.
The following is a list of statements not to copy from many different online sample paralegal resumes:
  • “Passionate about research” “Avid investigator and researcher of facts and law” (This sounds like someone’s been reading too many romance novels. Emphasize expertise, not intense emotion.)
  • “High sense of commitment” (Again, this is your resume and not a dating questionnaire.)
  • “Draft appeals for the attorneys to look over” (The problem with using colloquialisms such as “look over” is that it sounds pretty casual and unimportant. An attorney is going to do a great deal more than merely look over an appeal drafted by most non-lawyers.)
  • “Have proven capacity to adopt with the new concepts and measures” (This phrase remains vague and completely uninformative even if you do replace “adopt” with “adapt”. Oh, heck, I’m not going to pretend I have any idea what this means.)
  • “Have over 6 years of experience in common application” (If any of you know what “common application” means in regard to paralegal job duties, I beg you to comment.)
  • “Provide listening mediations as well as appeasements” (Huh?)
  • “Call upon witnesses to testify at hearing” (This sounds a bit Victorian. Does this mean that you make house calls, even to the hostile witnesses, and leave an engraved calling card in the parlor?)
  • “Interacting With Computers” “Interfaced extensively with clients” (Maybe these verbs should be interchanged? Or not used at all?)
  • “Worked as an accountable for providing office help to 48 software engineers” (Even if this wasn’t a completely awkward statement, “accountable” is not a noun.)
  • “Carried out the confirmation of entire manpower hours” (“Carried out” is a colloquial term that offers no clarification at all for this statement. What does this mean you actually did with those manpower hours?)
  • “Capacitated with first-paced functioning and persuasive work environment” “Capacitated in taking heavy workload” (I was almost incapacitated from finishing this blog entry when I read the second definition of “capacitated” is “to cause (spermatozoa) to undergo the physical changes needed to penetrate and fertilize an egg.” Another definition was “archaic: to make capable”. Even if you want to give it the benefit of the doubt and say it means “enabled”, it makes absolutely no sense in either of these statements. “First-paced” is the kind of typographical error that sends resumes flying into trashcans faster than the speed of light. If you know what a “persuasive work environment” is, please enlighten me.)
  • “Obtained associate workshops on paralegal studies” (Did you take the workshops home with you? Also, it’s unclear as to exactly what skills, if any, you learned. If you’ve attended workshops relevant to the jobs you are seeking, you can list the titles of the continuing legal education seminars you attended, such as “IPE Civil Litigation Basics (2009)”.)
  • “Conversational in Spanish” (This is the incorrect usage of “conversational”, which isn’t a verb or an adverb. You can speak conversational Spanish.)
  • “Outstanding reputation conducting research” (If you have awards or certificates for research, list them under “Awards” and/or “Education”. This sounds a bit conceited; normally other people talk about your excellent reputation. It’s like I tell my kids, if you are the one saying you’re cool, you’re probably not.)
  • “Interviewed client” (Just the one?)
  • “Proven ability to work with the least amount of supervision” (How do you prove this? Did you know the very definition of a paralegal is someone who performs substantive legal work under the supervision of attorneys?)
  • “Paralegal Certificate – legal concerns in the 20th century – 2001” (First, seminar titles are capitalized. Also, include the seminar provider. (It makes a difference if it was your local library versus your state bar association.) 2001 is also a long time ago, especially for a seminar with a title that sheds no light on what you learned.)
I did not make any of these up, and I didn’t include the links for obvious reasons. Plus, you can easily locate them yourself with a simple Google search, which is scary. Don’t look for them! If you see one, look away immediately.

I’m really disappointed that many of the sample paralegal resumes that I reviewed today are more “don’t” than “do”. I did find one that has a nice simple format (although “career” is misspelled) that is good for students and inexperienced job seekers (that may be tearing their hair out with the plethora of sample resumes online). This sample includes paralegal course work, which can be a good idea for new graduates with little to no experience – and a lot of white space to fill on a resume. However, the objective is a little awkward and can be improved. Customize the objective for yourself and be more direct. I’d simply title it “Objective” and change “Qualification Highlights” to “Career and Academic Highlights” (depending on your career and academic experience).

Also, I love the Resume Wizard included in my Microsoft Word package. What did I do several months ago when I was asked to submit a resume to a legal professional association and could not locate my old resume from many computers ago? (Yes, that’s what I meant.) I let my Resume Wizard guide me through the modern functional resume template, which is just as easy as letting TurboTax do my taxes. I love the final resume, which is clean, direct and easy on the eyes. 
The other piece of key advice for new resume writers (or those who aren’t getting responses to their resumes): let someone who either prepares resumes for a living and/or screens them regularly proofread it. And unlike the creative but unpredictable Kenley Collins from Project Runway (remember the “fish tail” dress?), who steadfastly ignored all the good advice that Tim Gunn tried to give her, only to implode on the runway more than once, take the advice from the experienced professionals and apply it to your resume.

8 Responses to Beware of Online Sample Paralegal Resumes

  1. Awww, but I love using that I am passionate at research. It’s a true statement. I would love to set myself up to be a freelance, well, law clerk I guess. I just want to research issues and send back memos. Well, I guess I will have to use a different phrase. Darn it. Good post though! 🙂

  2. Hi, Vicki — Thanks for the compliment. I'd appreciate it very much if you include the link in your next ezine. There are too many poor sample resumes out there for the unwary! 🙁

    Peace & grace,

  3. Kris — I think it's great to say you're passionate about research in an interview. On a job application, I think you have to describe your research training and experience, and even better, corroborate it with good writing samples and letters of reference which include kudos for your research abilities.

    Peace & grace,

  4. I’ve been MIA and it’s so good to have a chance to catch up reading your blog.
    In creating my resume, I used the format suggested by the career center at the community college I attend. I then had my resume critiqued by a professional (I’ll omit naming her because I didn’t ask for permission to name her) and she provided valuable and much appreciated feedback on suggested changes.
    The listmate from LAT would probably appreciate reading the blog on this subject matter.

  5. Hi,Deborah — I’ve been a bit “MIA” myself! I hope you are dong well. Thanks for the positive feedback about the blog. It sounds like you did exactly the right things in getting your resume reviewed and proofed. I do collect grammar bloopers, and what started out as kind of a fun review of resume samples turned out to be a bit shocking! 🙂

  6. I recently located an online resume which seemed perfect. So I copied and pasted the summary section, because it appeared to be a generic of all the topics covered in my paralegal course. Then I sent it out.
    Highlighted in bold up top.

    "Matrimonial and Medication"

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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