New paralegal graduates often lack sufficient experience when they encounter job opportunities. Even seasoned paralegals have a hard time standing out from the crowd when applying for positions with thousands of applicants. If you are running into these problems, staffing agencies or recruiters can help you polish a resume, gain legal experience, network with law firms, and ultimately find a job. So what are the top paralegal positions available right now and should you use a recruiter to find them?
In this episode of The Paralegal Voice, Vicki Voisin interviews Katie Clark, J.D., senior legal staffing consultant at Beacon Hill Staffing Group, about how paralegals could benefit from working with a recruiter, the current nature of the paralegal job market, the best resume length, and how to get legal experience. The top paralegal positions are in litigation and corporate law, Clark explains, and those who work with staffing agencies are given exclusive job opportunities and interview consulting for free (the agency is compensated by employers). She goes on to discuss how to balance your resume with the right amount of detail and how to present your skills acquired from non-paralegal jobs and education. Most importantly, she says, job-seeking paralegals should not limit their mindsets to a specific result.
Katie Clark, J.D., is a senior legal staffing consultant at Beacon Hill Legal staffing group in Detroit, Michigan. Beacon Hill Legal actively sources attorneys, paralegals, and legal assistants for direct hire and temporary job opportunities within law firms and corporate legal departments. Clark is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law.
Special thanks to our sponsors, Boston University, NALA, and ServeNow.
Paralegal Voice: Legal Staffing Agencies and Your Paralegal Job Search – 5/27/2015
Advertiser: Welcome to the Paralegal Voice, where you hear the latest issues and trends in the world of paralegals and legal assistance by one of the best known paralegals in the industry, Vicki Voisin. A paralegal for more than twenty years, Vicki is dedicated to helping legal professionals reach their goals. You’re listening to Legal Talk Network.
Vicki Voisin: Hello everyone, welcome to the Paralegal Voice here on Legal Talk Network. I’m Vicki Voisin, the paralegal mentor and host of the Paralegal Voice. I’m a NALA Advanced Certified paralegal. I publish a weekly e-newsletter titled Paralegal Strategies. I’m also the co-author of the Professional Paralegal, a Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success. You’ll find more information at ParalegalMentor.com. My guest for today is Katie Clark, J.D, senior legal staffing consultant at Beacon Hill Legal staffing group in Detroit. Beacon Hill Legal actively sources attorneys, paralegals, and legal assistants for direct hire and also temporary job opportunities within law firms as well as corporate legal departments. So Katie, welcome, I’m glad to have you here.
Katie Clark, J.D.: Thanks, Vicki. Thanks for having me as your guest today.
Vicki Voisin: Now before we begin, I want to thank our sponsors. That would be Boston University. Boston University offers an online certificate in paralegal studies. Check it out if you’re seeking a professional credential, or just want to further develop your skills. It’s an affordable, high-quality 14-week program. Visit ParalegalOnline.bu.edu, for more information. Also we have NALA sponsoring us. Nala is a professional association for paralegals, providing continuing education and professional certification programs for paralegals at NALA.org. NALA is a force in the promotion and the advancement of the paralegal profession. And there’s also Serve-Now, a national network of trusted, prescreened process servers. Work with the most professional process servers who have experience with high-volume serves, embrace technology, and understand the litigation process. Visit Serve-Now.com to learn more. The goal of the Paralegal Voice is to discuss a wide range of topics important to the paralegal industry and share with you leading trends, significant developments and resources you’ll find helpful in your career and everyday job. Guests are usually included to help explore timely topics. For that reason, I’ve invited Katie Clark to join me today. Now Katie, I know you’re a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law, but I’d like for you to tell me a little bit more about Beacon Hill Legal and where your offices are located.
Katie Clark, J.D.: Sure, Vicki, that’s a great point to make. Beacon Hill is a company that’s headquartered in Boston and we have several arms of our business, one being legal. Within the legal division of Beacon Hill, we have offices in most major markets. I am actually located in the Detroit office here in Michigan, but we have offices in Wisconsin, Washington DC, Texas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Ohio, as well as North Carolina, New York and Missouri. And of course Massachusettes where our headquarters are, and Iowa, Indiana, Chicago and Georgia and Florida. I could go on and on, Los Angeles and the Colorado area as well.
Vicki Voisin: So you’ve pretty much got the nation covered there.
Katie Clark, J.D.: We do, yeah.
Vicki Voisin: What motivated you to enter the recruiting field?
Katie Clark, J.D.: Well Vicki, I was recruited to be a recruiter after pairing up with a recruiter who had placed me as a contract attorney. There was a need, internally, and the rest seems to be history. In hindsight, I was drawn to job hunting even as a law student and figured in addition to my legal education, I needed to really zero in on finding employment. And if you can’t find a job, what good is all the education that you have and the training and the skills that you’ve acquired along the way? That said, I found that I just simply enjoyed helping people find career options for themselves. Some people don’t know where to turn and it was something that I then became passionate about after being steered in this direction by my own legal recruiter company about 13 years ago now.
Vicki Voisin: I always thought it was a good idea for a paralegal who’s looking for a job to partner up with a recruiter. But could you back up my belief that it is?
Katie Clark, J.D.: Absolutely. The reason being is I think that partnering with a recruiter, first off, is free. There’s no cost to you. We are compensated for our efforts by way of the employers who seek our services out when they have staffing needs. Secondly, some of these jobs come to us and we may have an exclusive on the opportunity and you otherwise wouldn’t necessarily know about the position. Another good reason is we happen to have our inventory of candidates, as well as go hunting for candidates that might fit the bill of what employers are looking for. And we will present, say, our top five candidates. Therefore, you’re being showcased a bit by way of the recruiter. And instead of applying to something that may be an online posting that gets millions of applicants, you’re really given to the decision-maker and I guess in the spotlight, if you will, versus going into the blackhole of candidates that may be the pool that one may acquire by way of just a posting for the masses.
Vicki Voisin: Well, once you’re doing that, can you tell me how exactly the paralegal job market is looking, in your opinion of course, and are there jobs available? Are salaries increasing? Does this look like a good time to be a paralegal?
Katie Clark, J.D.: Absolutely. I think we’ve had some tough times with our economy across the nation, yet we’re rebounding and we are seeing jobs; I am very busy. We’ve got a good variety of opportunities available now and it’s hard to see what will come into the future, but plenty of jobs available. A lot of opportunities available for folks within the litigation arena. It is a good time to be looking, I think it’s hard to find good talent and there still are a lot of candidates looking, but I think it’s a situation where most folks are a little bit more comfortable adding on to the team. Business is up and, of course, a lot of firms going through a growth mold. And with that, the need to hire more support staff personnel.
Vicki Voisin: That’s always, always good news. It’s time to take a short break for a word from our sponsors. That would be Boston University, where you can get an online certificate in paralegal studies. NALA, the association of legal Assistants paralegals, and Serve-Now, a nationwide network of trusted, prescreened process servers. And when we come back, we’ll continue our discussion with Katie Clark, senior legal staffing consultant at Beacon Hill Legal Staffing Group.
Advertiser: Are you looking to advance your career? Do you know someone who wants to enter the paralegal profession? Boston University’s fully online certificate in paralegal studies is a fantastic option. It’s affordable, takes just 14 weeks to complete, and is led by accomplished faculty who teach employer-focused skills like legal research, writing, technology, and more. Visit ParalegalOnline.bu.edu for more information and to download a free brochure. That’s ParalegalOnline.bu.edu.
NALA means professional. NALA offers classroom and web-based continuing education at professional development for all paralegals. NALA’s certified paralegal credential has been a gold standard of professionalism for over thirty years. More than 15,000 paralegals have this certification, and nearly 2,000 have achieved the demanding advanced certified paralegal. NALA works actively with others in the legal field to promote the value of paralegals and to advance paralegal professionalism. See more about why NALA means professional at www.nala.org.
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Vicki Voisin: Welcome back to the Paralegal Voice. I’m Vicki Voisin, the paralegal mentor, and my guest for today is Katie Clark, senior legal staffing consultant at Beacon Hill Legal Staffing Group. Now Katie, before the commercial break, we were discussing the reasons for using a recruiter in your job hunt. But I’m wondering now what practice areas are in the highest demand.
Katie Clark, J.D.: When I hear that question, the first practice area that comes to mind is litigation of all sorts. It just seems like there’s a lot of work in that area and that one is first and foremost. Secondly, I would say folks that have corporate skillsets; that background seems to be on the rise as well.
Vicki Voisin: Do you get many quests for someone who has intellectual property background?
Katie Clark, J.D.: We do. And as you know, Vicki, that is a niche area and an area where we don’t see a lot of paralegals who are interested in making moves. So it does seem like it’s a tougher search for us, but it is a good one that we still entertain and I find that those that have experience in that area versus entry level type folks are most successful with landing jobs in that practice groups.
Vicki Voisin: Okay. Now we always wonder and try to keep up with the latest technology and all of that. So are employers asking for technology skills and what would those skills be?
Katie Clark, J.D.: Technology skills are always key in any job. What’s interesting is we often don’t have employers say we need folks with prior experience in XYZ technology. I think being open to learning what specific software package the firm might be using or the corporate legal department is good. I find that technology’s always changing and firms are evaluating their needs and offering different trainings and such. So I think being open to learning new processes and new technologies, depending on what firm environment you are and is key more so than learning one area and not knowing how those skills may transfer into a similar piece of technology at say, another employer, if you’re making that transition.
Vicki Voisin: So you always have to be open to learning new things.
Katie Clark, J.D.: I would say that’s more important than knowing a specific technology, because it’s constantly changing from what i hear. And to just be open to adapting to a different technology may be key. Things are getting outdated, we’re constantly trying to move to be most efficient and simple economics come into play where if there’s better technology available, firms are maybe moving towards that and then here we are with a support staff trying to learn a new system and new trainings coming out. So I don’t know if there’s one area of technology that I would say employers are zeroing in on, there’s various different platforms out there. Most are pretty similar and I think if you know one you can adapt to another, but the key is to be flexible and open to learning new systems and technologies.
Vicki Voisin: Okay, now when we talked before about the fact that there’s no charge to the job hunted to use of recruiter, would I’d like to know is could you use a bunch of recruiters? Could you go to several different companies?
Katie Clark, J.D.: It is not. We do not have any agreements that a candidate will exclusively use us. Obviously, the choice is up to the job seeker. We like to have loyalty from the candidates but they’re welcome to use us as a resource and use other resources via another recruiter or a paralegal school of career service directors and other tools that might help them. I’m an advocate of cast a wide net, and so if that means dabbling into different resources, I think a candidate should do that. Yet, we do have a really good handle on what opportunities are out there and I think that we do a good job in helping a candidate learn what the market is and kind of coaching and guiding them along the way.
Vicki Voisin: Okay. Now I know you must see a lot of resumes, right?
Katie Clark, J.D.: We do.
Vicki Voisin: Let’s talk about some tips for those resumes. The biggest one that I run into is someone who sends me maybe a 2 page resume and asks me what can be improved. And they’ve used big spacing just to make it look like they’ve got a lot on there
Katie Clark, J.D.: I get that question all the time, one page, two pages, five pages, and I say it’s really dependant on the candidate and what your experience has been. I am one that likes a lot of detail so I think that people shouldn’t be scared to move a resume into two pages if your career and past experience may merit just that. However, I’m not saying put a lot of fluff in the resume to have it drawn out and it’s about the content. The thing that I don’t like to see is after talking to a candidate and kind of flushing out what their background is then coming to the conclusion of wow, this person, by way of their resume, their marketing tool for who they are and what their education and experience is, they are really selling themselves short. I really think a candidate needs to come to a happy medium and that you don’t want to be too detailed and to lose somebody’s interest because there’s too much going on. But you also don’t want to be so brief that you’re not selling yourself in the best possible light.
Vicki Voisin: Now I know that you’re working with people who may not have a job. What does a job hunter do with a resume when they have gaps during their unemployment?
Katie Clark, J.D.: If you’re working with a recruiter, I think that that really serves you well because when we’re partnering with the employers looking to hire, we don’t just send out a resume and say good luck, here’s a candidate, tell us your feedback. Part of the advantage is we try to sell that candidate and market them in the best possible light, given that we know what the employer’s looking for. So a lot of times when we send out a resume – in fact all the time – we kind of want to fill in the employer as to what do we know about this candidate. So it may be, okay, Bob is out of work. So why is he out of work and why is there a gap between these two jobs or what happened in his last place of employment? And so it’s my ability to kind of cast that individual in the best possible light and kind of fill in the blank and let the employer know, here’s somebody who may be out of work and this is the reason why. And lots of times it’s just not a good fit or there’s a personal issue, or let’s face it; here in Detroit, we’ve seen a lot of cutbacks and a lot of decisions made just out of pure necessity just to reduce workforce. And with that, we can still promote the candidate and kind of fill in the employer of the unfortunate circumstance or the reason why somebody may not be currently working.
Vicki Voisin: Now what if the job hunter has completed their paralegal education but they really don’t have any experience? Say you’re taking a young person who’s just out of school. I know that’s a detriment and then not, but I hear from them and they say, “Well I can’t get any experience unless I get a job and I can’t get a job because I don’t have any experience.” What advice do you have for them?
Katie Clark, J.D.: I say don’t always have your mind so set on one end result. And by that I mean you’ve got to get experience somewhere. So perhaps you have a paralegal background, paralegal schooling, that’s great, but maybe there isn’t a paralegal job right now. But instead, maybe be open to starting out as a file clerk so that you can kind of build your experience and think outside the box as to how can I get a leg in at a legal employer. By that, the hope might be that there is a means to climb the ladder a bit and maybe segway into a paralegal job. But there are certain law firms we deal with as well who specifically say, “Wow, we would really be lucky to find somebody who’s got some good skills. Maybe not a lot of experience, yet we’re willing to train and train somebody to our way.” Sometimes the veteran paralegals we find aren’t so trainable, so I think it’s the younger, newer paralegal graduates that may have that mix that a certain firm might be looking for. So it’s really dependant on the employer, their preferences, and their willingness to train somebody. Another factor that comes up is the cost issue. Sometimes those that have less experience may fit into the budget better than somebody who has 20 years of being a paralegal who would then require more compensation and maybe that’s not the right fit for a certain employer. And by way of using the recruiter, I think we know that and we can match people up accordingly. But being flexible and being open to other maybe non-paralegal positions that could allow you to get an opportunity to just shine by way of a lesser opportunity to maybe ultimately a couple of steps backwards to take five steps down the road.
Vicki Voisin: Okay. Well I always urge anyone who is in school and they need a part-time job to get a job in a law office and do anything; file clerk, for instance, receptionist. Because that gives them the experience of working in a law office so they can be sure they really like it. But also, it’s just all part of networking, because they’ll meet people when they’re there, so I think that it’s important to do that. Sometimes they can get an internship, that might help, but those aren’t always available. Now you just said something that was really interesting and it would be a category that I would fall into and you said that older paralegals are not as trainable, which I disagree with. But I think you probably meant that sometimes we’re not as willing to change. What we were doing worked fine, why are we doing it this way? And so I think that’s something that we have to be open to adapting when we get into a new job, because there’s a lot of experience and knowledge there. But if you won’t fit in and try to fit in, that’s just not going to work, am I right?
Katie Clark, J.D.: I agree. I think having the flexibility is key and willingness to adapt to the way that the firm may want you to do certain things versus how one may have done it in the past. Sometimes there’s a better way and sometimes I think just having that open mind is what’s most important, so I agree with that.
Vicki Voisin: Okay, now what if you’ve held jobs and you have skills that will transfer to a paralegal job. How can you stress that in your resume?
Katie Clark, J.D.: I think folks need to put their thinking cap on and say, “I may not have the requisite experience that an employer is looking for, but I sure do have certain transferable skills” that you may have picked up in different areas. Trying to highlight those by way of maybe a summary at the top of a resume or using the proper word choice to connect the dots for somebody that at first glance may say, well this person doesn’t have any experience. But drawing upon those skills that you’ve obtained may be from a different area or a job outside of legal that would translate would be key to do.
Vicki Voisin: Well, Katie, all of this information has been really important, so if our listeners wanted to get in touch with you, how would they do that?
Katie Clark, J.D.: That would be great Vicki, I could be reached via email. My email address is [email protected].
Vicki Voisin: Okay, I will put that up on my blog too so that they’ll be able to find that. Well thank you very much, I appreciate your taking the time to be with me and I will hopefully meet you at a paralegal meeting one of these days, okay?
Katie Clark, J.D.: Sounds good, Vicki, thanks for having me.
Vicki Voisin: You’re welcome. Let’s take another short break now, but don’t go away because when I come back I’ll have news and career tips just for you.
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Vicki Voisin: Welcome back to the Paralegal Voice here on Legal Talk Network. I’m Vicki Voisin, your host for this program, and I’m going to give you my practice tip for today. That would be along with all that we’ve been talking about with the recruiting and so forth. When you’re looking for a job and you don’t have a whole lot of experience, remember that your previous experience will count. Things that you’ve done, maybe you’ve sold real estate, maybe you’ve been a policeman, maybe you’ve worked at a title company. All of those skills are really important and they will work into a paralegal job. So don’t sell yourself short, think outside of the box because your experience doing something could be really useful in the practice area or maybe what the law firm is looking for or the corporate legal department. So don’t ever think, “I don’t have any experience” when you do. And also, don’t just walk in and tell someone when you’re going for an interview that I don’t have any experience. Be prepared to tell them exactly what you can do for them. So that’s my tip for the day. You can get more information at my website, which is ParalegalMentor.com. If you have any questions, please email them to [email protected]. Don’t forget to check out my blog; this is an easy address, that would be Paralegal Mentor.com/Blog. I have a lot of resources for you that have been designed to help you move your career in the right direction, and that would be forward. This is Vicki Voisin, thanking you for listening to the Paralegal Voice, and reminding you to be sure to make your paralegal voice heard.
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Thanks for listening to the Paralegal Voice, produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network. Join Vicki Voisin for her next podcast on issues and trends affecting paralegals.
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