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Navigating Your First Paralegal Job: Essential Tips for Entry-Level Success

Published on: Jun 16, 2024

Entry-level paralegals are typically new to the legal field and often have less responsibility than more senior paralegals. This does not reduce their importance to a law firm or legal department. They can still assist lawyers with administrative tasks, research, and legal support. 

Our article below reviews the typical responsibilities, educational requirements, potential career paths, and job search strategies you can use today to begin your career as an entry-level paralegal.

Exploring the Roles and Responsibilities of an Entry-Level Paralegal

An entry-level paralegal is at the beginning of their legal career. Someone employed in this role is still learning the ropes. While entry-level paralegals are not attorneys and cannot practice law, they still work on legal tasks under the supervision of an attorney. An entry-level paralegal will be responsible for answering phone calls, scheduling cases for trial, opening mail, and other administrative tasks.  They will communicate with clients and other attorneys and take notes for an attorney during a meeting.

A Day in the Life of an Entry-Level Paralegal

An entry-level paralegal is typically someone who has recently completed their associate's or bachelor’s degree and does not have much relevant work experience. As a result, the day-to-day responsibilities of an entry-level paralegal will usually evolve. 

At the start of their careers, paralegals may assist lawyers and senior paralegals with various legal and administrative tasks. These paralegals may be tasked with opening mail for an attorney, making copies, and typing notes. As they gain more experience, they may research case laws or prepare legal documents. 

As law firms use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve workflow, entry-level paralegals must become familiar with AI capabilities. AI can be used for document review, contract analysis, and document drafting. For instance, Grammarly, one of the earliest forms of AI, began as a grammar and spelling check. It has expanded into a plagiarism checker and can provide alternate sentence structure, improved word flow, and even rewrite the entire page.

Entry-level paralegals may find that part of their job is to analyze AI output in their office.

Common Educational Requirements

There are several paths to becoming a paralegal. The usual route is to obtain a credential and pair academic and real-world experience. Completing an associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies or completing a certificate program helps individuals build their credentials for entry-level paralegal positions. 

While not required, national certification enhances a person’s qualifications when applying for entry-level positions. After obtaining a paralegal degree, individuals can pursue certification through organizations such as the NALA, The Paralegal Association, or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).

An entry-level paralegal position is suitable for individuals who lack experience in the legal industry or are still exploring which specific legal field they would like to pursue as a paralegal. Professional development helps during this process as it enhances your skills and expertise. Attending conferences and webinars lets you learn new skills and techniques that improve work efficiency. Drafting legal documents, conducting legal research, and effective time management are the classes that help you stand out for potential employers.

To learn more about these conferences or other professional development opportunities, check out programs accredited by the American Bar Association and other CLE Webinars by NFPA.

Career Pathways and Opportunities for Advancement

Becoming a paralegal is a rewarding career choice with numerous growth opportunities. There are two main paths for advancement as a paralegal: specializing in a specific area of law or moving into a managerial role.

Paralegals can specialize in various areas of law, such as criminal law, real estate law, family law, civil litigation, and more. Specialization opens up opportunities for career advancement, leading to positions beyond entry-level roles. As paralegals gain experience, they can take on more management positions, such as senior paralegal and paralegal manager. In a managerial capacity, paralegals will guide other paralegals and train new employees.

Employment Settings for Entry-Level Paralegals

An entry-level paralegal can work in various legal settings. While law firms are the most common employers, with almost 67% of paralegals working in such firms, there are opportunities in government agencies, non-profits, small and large firms, and corporate legal departments.

More importantly, the paralegal profession continues to grow. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 4% increase in paralegal employment from 2022 to 2023, resulting in around 38,000 job openings annually for the next ten years. The top states for pursuing a career as a paralegal include:

  • Washington D.C.

  • Washington

  • California

  • Illinois

  • Colorado

  • West Virginia

  • Oregon

  • Alaska

  • Nevada

  • Minnesota

Our Job Search Tips for Entry-Level Paralegals

Searching for an entry-level paralegal job can be intimidating, especially when you are new to the legal field. The process does not have to be as scary as you imagine. Below are tips to help you through this process and find entry-level paralegal positions right for you.  

Get Hands-On Experience

Gaining legal experience is crucial for securing an entry-level paralegal job. Employers seek candidates they can rely on to learn and commit to the role. They want assurance that investing time and resources into training will not be wasted if the new hire decides to leave, setting the employer back and having to restart a hiring process. That is why many entry-level paralegals try to obtain legal experience, as this can demonstrate their commitment, capability, and potential to require less training.

To gain this experience, consider volunteering, interning, or working part-time at a law firm or within a legal department. These opportunities will help you develop new skills, become familiar with legal terminology, and help you establish a network in the legal field. It is also important to remember that while being open to handling basic tasks such as answering phones, organizing paperwork, and making copies can help in your career advancement, do not hesitate to request more challenging assignments, as they offer valuable learning opportunities.

The Overlap Between Legal Secretary, Legal Assistant, and Entry-Level Paralegal

Certain legal positions, such as legal secretary, legal assistant, and entry-level paralegal, can often overlap. While this overlap can offer individuals a unique opportunity to develop legal skills and gain experience in the industry, it is important to understand the differences between these roles to decide which career path is the best fit for you. 

Legal secretaries, legal assistants, and entry-level paralegals primarily focus on administrative tasks within a law office. Each of these roles may also assist more senior legal professionals by handling tasks such as opening mail, taking notes, organizing files, and making copies. However, as individuals gain more experience in these positions, the main difference between the roles becomes evident—entry-level paralegals will soon start assisting with more complex legal tasks. While the other positions continue to handle administrative work, paralegals will be involved with case preparation, helping lawyers with trial preparation, and conducting legal research.

Consider Joining a Paralegal Association

Networking is important for finding employment, especially in the legal field. Joining a paralegal association can be highly beneficial. Associations such as the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (NFPA) and NALA, The Paralegal Association, provide opportunities to meet and connect with other professionals, attend conferences, further your education, build relationships, and secure job opportunities.

Obtain a Certification

Obtaining a certification can demonstrate your expertise in the legal field and make you more valuable to employers. Certified paralegals are often seen as more competent and less likely to require extensive training, saving the company time and resources. Additionally, having certifications can help you stand out from other job applicants. Two major national organizations that offer certifications for paralegals are the NFPA and NALA.

Try To Enjoy the Process

 Finally, when pursuing these jobs, try to relax and enjoy the process. While this is often easier said than done, you should remember that you have the knowledge and training to succeed in your first paralegal position. Please try to remain confident in your abilities, be bold, and talk about your previous work and how you are best for the position.

Get Started On Your Career Today

Paralegals have rewarding and exciting careers with plenty of growth potential and a solid job outlook for the next decade. If you are interested in starting a career as an entry-level paralegal, be sure to take the next steps by researching education programs, networking with others, and applying for positions that interest you.

About the Authors

Written by:

Kasia Nelson, Esq.

Kasia Nelson is a licensed attorney and skilled legal content writer with years of experience. With a background in corporate immigration law, she is well-versed in the intricacies of producing legally accurate and well-researched work. 


  • Michigan State University, B.S.

  • Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Law Licensures

  • Michigan

Kasia Nelson

Kasia Nelson, Esq.


Education: Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Knowledge: Corporate Immigration Law

Reviewed by:

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Ryan P. Duffy is an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey, North Carolina, and South Carolina. His practice focuses primarily on Estate Planning, Personal Injury, and Business law. 

Law Licensures

  • New Jersey

  • Pennsylvania (inactive)

  • South Carolina

  • North Carolina

Ryan Duffy

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Editorial Lead

Education: Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, J.D.

Knowledge: Estate Planning