While law schools will still consider accepting you without work experience, it certainly does not hurt to have some professional legal experience under your belt when applying.
Paralegals, according to the paralegal association NALA, work under the supervision of an attorney. Typically, paralegal responsibilities range from conducting client interviews to performing legal research.
Experts say that tailoring your paralegal experience can also be beneficial.
“You can make a paralegal position seem more tailored to you if it is in your specific field of interest in law,” Padya Paramita, of InGenius Prep, writes. “For example, if you wish to specialize in environmental law, working as a paralegal in an environmental law firm can lead you to relevant cases, work experience, and help you build contacts within your chosen field of law.”
Additionally, Kuris says, working as a paralegal can give an applicant valuable experience in behind the scenes legal work – such as negotiation, time management, and legal research.
While these aspects of law are narrow, they can be helpful topics to highlight in a personal statement.
“Not every paralegal gets to ride the emotional roller coaster of collaboration on a riveting, high-stakes case,” Kuris writes. “However, there are certainly times when paralegals feel like their contributions made a difference. Perhaps they managed to pull a key piece of evidence from a mountain of research. Perhaps they sensed important details in a phone interview and were able to direct potential clients to the right help. Perhaps they persuaded a peevish bureaucrat to expedite a critical records request.”
Paralegal experience can also be highlighted in the form of a recommendation letter.
“Many schools like to see at least one letter of recommendation from a supervisor outside of an academic setting,” Kuris writes. “It is hard to beat a letter from a practicing lawyer who can speak to your legal skills. If a supervising lawyer attended or has a connection with a law school you plan to apply to, consider asking for a school-specific recommendation letter in addition to a more general letter.”
Working as a paralegal also helps applicants get a head start in building valuable network connection in the field of law. Paralegals working in law firms often have the opportunity to connect with a variety of practicing lawyers.
“By working as a paralegal, you may gain critical connections that help you secure an internship or summer position in law school and ultimately give you a head start in your legal career,” Kuris writes.