Even earning a degree from an ABA approved paralegal program is no guarantee there will be a legal job waiting upon graduation. Joan Freeman, a December 2010 graduate of Phoenix College’s Paralegal Studies Program, approved by the ABA since 1989, has submitted 100 applications without success.

The Arizona Republic reports that Freeman, like many paralegal students, hoped a paralegal degree would open doors to an exciting new job in the legal field:

She studied to become a paralegal because she thought it could lead to a challenging new career. After graduation, she joined a crowded legal job market. Many companies want only paralegals with several years of experience.

Freeman’s prior work experience consists of 24 years working for the same employer, Fry’s Food Stores. Her last job was as an administrative assistant in the company’s human resources department. Her steady employment for almost 25 years and her clerical experience are pluses.

But despite the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ rosy projection of a 28 percent growth in paralegal and legal assistant jobs between 2008 and 2018, these jobs are still not easy to get, as Freeman and many new paralegal graduates are discovering. This projected growth is not going to be the same in every demographic area, and even the kinds of legal support staff jobs and annual salaries vary widely, depending on where you live.

New paralegal students need to pursue this degree with their eyes wide open. Enrolling in an ABA approved paralegal program is an excellent start, but landing that first job will take as much effort, if not more, than working at an actual full-time job does – and it may not yield results immediately upon graduation.

If you are a new graduate whose resume is not getting any bites, not even an interview, take it to a professional experienced in legal hiring for an honest critique and a possible revamp. The competition for every legal support staff job is stiff, and the slightest misstep on a resume or cover letter can send an application straight to the trash bin.

If you have an outstanding resume, but legal jobs are scarce in your area and relocation is out of the question, broaden your job search to related jobs well-suited to graduates who been successful in a paralegal degree program.

Source:  The Arizona Republic

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