What Every Paralegal Needs To Know To Land A Job In Chicago
July 25, 2008
Chicago’s legal job market has been on a rollercoaster ever since the economy took a nose dive in 2000. However, things are looking up as law firms and corporations are looking to hire more and more paralegals each year. As many of you are beginning your job search, here’s what you need to know to find a great paralegal job in the Chicago market.
First, you are starting off on the right track because your school is ABA-approved. More employers now require candidates to have graduated from such a school. Upon completing the program, you should continue your education and pursue a bachelor’s degree since many law firms and corporations seek paralegals with this degree.
Most employers set minimum requirements that you must meet prior to being interviewed. All too often, I speak with students who are frustrated once they complete their paralegal training and cannot find a job. They say that employers seek “experienced” paralegals, but how do you get experience if no one will give you a chance? The key is to gain some practical experience while you are in school. I also recommend you network heavily at the firm or company where you have chosen to complete your externship. These relationships are invaluable when you are searching for your first job. At the very minimum, volunteer your time at a law firm or corporation that is willing to train you in certain areas of law. This shows initiative and that you are serious about your career. By doing so, you will open many more doors on your way to a successful and fulfilling career.
Many of Chicago’s top law firms typically hire entry-level paralegals as project/case assistants. This is a great way to jumpstart your legal career and gain the necessary training to survive and excel in a large law firm environment. Most project assistants move on to become paralegals after a year or two of adequate training. This will also enable you to decide which area of law most interests you. Currently, commercial litigation is the most lucrative and stable area of law. Most major law firms are constantly involved in litigation and look for paralegals with complex commercial litigation preparation and experience with a working knowledge of Summation and/or Concordance. However, I expect that in the near future, intellectual property (i.e., patent and trademark prosecution, and copyrights) will be at the top of the list. With the emergence of new technology, including computers, electronics, biotechnology, chemistry, e-commerce and nano-technology, the protection of inventions will become greater and greater each year. The areas of law where we see less frequent opportunities are environmental, tax, immigration and employee benefits.
Today’s legal staffing market changes daily. Your career decision should be made with the most accurate and up-to-date information available. Though it takes time and effort, researching potential employers on the internet and in various legal publications will provide you with the necessary information to choose the best position to achieve your career goals. I am confident that with a good education, a positive attitude and the determination to succeed, the job of your dreams is right around the corner!
About the Author
B. Simone Lyles
Legal Staffing Director
Simone is the Founder and Director of CLS Legal Staffing, and a graduate of the University of Iowa with a bachelor's degree in Sociology. She is a sustaining member of the Illinois Paralegal Association, National Association of Legal Assistants and National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc., and a member of the Northwestern College and Wright College Paralegal Advisory Boards. Simone has served as an invited speaker at several major university paralegal programs on legal recruiting and diversity matters. She has conducted mock interviews at the Institute of Paralegal Studies at Loyola University Chicago and was a Career Counselor for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin's resume critique program. Prior to joining Chicago Legal Search in 1997, Simone interned for President Bill Clinton during his tenure as governor of Arkansas and interned for U.S. Senator David Pryor. Simone is also a vocalist and has opened for the late Koko Taylor, George Clinton & the P-Funk All Stars, Joe Lovano, Maceo Park, Raheem DeVaughn and Roy Haynes. She is a member of SAG-AFTRA and has lent her voice to several award winning television commercials for Wal-Mart and has done projects for Charmin, Toyota, WVON, the Illinois Lottery and the popular dance video game Dance, Dance Revolution.