articles by subject
How To Discover Business Assets
Criminal Motion Practice (with forms)
Trends in paralegal training & programs.
Getting Started as a Paralegal
ask the listserv
The Listserv is a free, e-mail discussion
group. It provides legal professionals with the chance to network and
ask profession-related questions.
Join the listserv
This long-running column examines ethics in
the paralegal profession. Do you have an ethical dilemma or question?
E-mail us today.
Ethics Roundtable Articles
The Internet has revolutionized the modern job hunt. Gone are the
days when a cover letter and resume were all you needed to get your
foot in the door. Today, tech-savvy paralegals are using the Internet
to post digital resumes, network with colleagues, search online
jobsites, research employers and more. Employers are using the Internet
for a variety of purposes as well, from locating talent to screening
job candidates. In fact, a recent CareerBuilder.com survey of more
than 31,000 employers found that one in five recruiters use social
networks in their hiring process.
New rules apply when job searching in the digital world. Read on
to learn how to master the new job search game.
Put on Your Game Face
Law firms, corporations, the government and other legal employers
are using the Internet to research your background and credentials.
The CareerBuilder.com survey also found that, of employers who use
social networks to screen potential employees, 34 percent rejected
candidates based on what they found. Common online faux pas include
poor writing skills, negative comments regarding employees or former
employers, inappropriate photographs, unprofessional screen names,
references to alcohol or drug use, and confidential information
about past employers.
Before embarking on any job search, it is important to take steps
to protect your online identity, privacy and reputation as well
as polish your online presence. To discover what others can learn
about you online, type your name into Google or another search engine.
Try numerous variations of your name, with and without your middle
name and middle initial. If you have a common name, you might also
add various qualifying terms such as “paralegal” or “legal assistant”
to narrow the search results. From college photographs and religious
affiliations to PTA notes and traffic tickets, you’d be surprised
at what a simple Google search can reveal.
Next, review your profiles on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and other
social networking sites. Make sure a search will yield only information
that you would be willing to disclose to an employer. Check for
typographical errors, misspellings and proper language usage in
your online profiles. Adding links to your online listing in a professional
or trade organization is a great way to increase your digital credibility.
Keep in mind that anything you publish to the Web may, at some point,
become searchable, including photographs, music downloads, Facebook
quiz results, listserv comments and Web links.
Because the online world does not grant the same opportunities as
face-to-face interactions – there is no way to firmly shake someone’s
hand or look them in the eye when you speak – it is essential to
make sure that anything published by or about you is polished and
professional. Each profile should contain a professional headshot
and, if possible, a link to your Web site or other Web page that
has more information about you. If you cannot invest in a professional
headshot, take a digital one yourself (see the sidebar for photo-
There are several ways to control what Web users find about you
on the Internet. According to Leora Maccabee, a law school graduate
and social networking consultant, editing your privacy settings
on Facebook is a simple way to protect your self from cyber sleuths.
Also, if you wish to delete your Facebook account, be certain to
follow specific instructions or the account will only be deactivated.
Navigate to http://www.facebook.com/ help/contact.php?show_form=delete_
account, hit “submit” and follow the directions. It takes about
2 weeks for an account to be deleted.
Another way to control what people see when they search for you
is by creating a Google profile. A Google profile is a free and
easy way to land on the first page of search results whenever your
name is searched through Google. Your profile will not display any
private information unless you have added it. To create a profile,
go to www.google.com/profiles, click on the Create My Profile button,
fill in the appropriate information and hit publish. You can also
create a Google alert for your name so that you receive automatic
e-mail notifications every time your name is mentioned on the Internet.
Playing With Others
Social networking sites that serve the needs of paralegals and other
legal professionals are cropping up in cyberspace. These sites allow
you to participate in online forums, share knowledge and practice
tips, post and distribute job listings, search for jobs, meet other
paralegals and more. Legal Assistant Today’s listserv (http://www.legalassistanttoday.com/lat-
forum/default.htm) is one example of a free email discussion group
that allows paralegals to network and share their ideas, experiences
Networking is key to a successful job search. The more people who
learn of your job search efforts, the more likely you are to find
a suitable position. One effective way to network is to use your
social networks on Facebook and other sites to broadcast your accomplishments
and job search efforts. By highlighting your professional accomplishments
or even just day-to-day details such as “serving a motion on 128
defendants” or “helping a client file the paperwork for a restraining
order,” you can let the world know what you do without being solicitous.
Twitter is another new way to network on the Web. Twitter is a micro-blogging
platform used by people across the globe to connect with others.
Posts, known as “tweets,” are limited to 140 characters and allow
users to instantaneously communicate with their audience, called
“followers.” Job-hunters can tweet about their efforts, connect
with potential employers and learn about open positions. You can
also connect with other legal “peeps” by searching relevant legal
terms, such as “paralegal,” using Twitter’s search feature.
Another networking strategy is to dispense information that others
will find useful. There’s nothing better than a great resource.
Over the years, I have connected with thousands of people by communicating
information about digital security and the tech options available
when working remotely or in tandem with another over the Internet.
By making yourself a resource, you significantly increase the likelihood
that you will get noticed and, in the case of jobseekers, the information
you provide may grab the attention of a potential employer.
In addition to dispensing useful information, giving out joy and
laughter is also effective networking tool. If you can make someone
smile, chances are they will recall you fondly. Moreover, give of
yourself. Everyone wants to connect, but that cannot happen unless
you’re willing to share. Let people know you knit, or have played
softball for the past 20 years or are a mother of five. Again, you
want to maintain your professionalism, but you also want to give
a peek into your world so people can connect.
To boost your online presence, business coach Sharon Williams of
www.The24HourSecretary.com recommends joining a variety of online
paralegal groups, listservs and forums. The point is to become known
in the legal online world. Also, don’t overlook local legal organizations,
such as your local paralegal association or local chapter of the
Association of Legal Administrators.
Another great resource for paralegals is LinkedIn. Many companies
use LinkedIn to recruit passive job candidates. LinkedIn’s unique
“Ask A Question” feature allows you to respond to other LinkedIn
member questions. “You can search for questions you believe you
are qualified to answer or post questions of your own to connect
with legal administrators and job recruiters,” Williams explained.
The more local legal employers are aware of your job search, the
better chance you have of finding your dream job.
Article writing is another way to boost your online presence and
establish yourself as an expert in certain areas. Writing articles
for industry trade associations, article writing distribution services
such as www.ezinarticles.com, and trade journals such as Legal Assistant
Today, is a great way to gain exposure for yourself and your writing.
Consider each article an online writing sample, so take care with
what you post.
The Numbers Game
Now that you have polished your online image and used the Web to
network, how can you leverage the Internet to land your dream job?
There are many ways a paralegal can use the Internet to find a brick-and-mortar
job. First, you can post your resume on one of the many popular
search engines such as www.monster.com and www.careerbuilder.com
and on legal-specific job boards such as www.FindLaw.com and www.IHireLegal.com.
The legal/paralegal job listings on Craigslist.org are another great
way to find local paralegal jobs. However, Williams warns that once
you publish something online you can’t take it back. “This means
if you are presently employed and post your resume, your current
employer may become aware of it,” she stated.
Searching for a job online is a numbers game. The more targeted
job positions you apply to, the more likely you will find a suitable
position. In searching for a job, choose key words that will produce
a broad range of positions that are relevant to your skills and
desired duties. Remember to use synonyms (e.g., paralegal and legal
assistant) to ensure that you don’t miss positions that may be of
Megan Power, a corporate paralegal with Lowenstein Sandler in Roseland,
New Jersey, applied to listings on job sites such as Monster, HotJobs
and CareerBuilder, and went directly to the employment listings
on local companies and law firms. “What landed me my current job
was posting my resume on Monster.com. A legal recruiter viewed it
and contacted me regarding a corporate paralegal position at a well-known
law firm in my area,” she said.
Kristina Duncan, a full-time paralegal and owner of Paralegal Associates
in San Diego, Calif., was successful in finding two law firm jobs
on Craigslist. However, she suggests verifying the legitimacy of
the ad before applying. “You have to be careful. A lot of the listings
have links to the firm’s website or have a fax number that you can
search on the state bar website to check and see if it is legitimate
and whether the association lists any disciplinary or administrative
action, such as license suspensions or court sanctions, against
the firm,” she said.
The Key to the Game
Resumes and cover letters have also changed in response to new technology
tools. As a general rule, Internet resumes should be only one page;
you can always provide links to published writing samples, your
personal webpage and other information if necessary.
To narrow the volumes of resumes received, legal recruiters and
human resources professionals often use electronic tools to scan
these documents for key words and phrases. Therefore, in drafting
resumes and cover letters to be posted on the Web, you might want
to optimize them for web search by sprinkling in relevant key words.
Examples of key phrases include the type of law you specialize in,
the position you seek, your desired geographic location and relevant
software proficiencies. For example, if you are a paralegal in New
York City specializing in worker’s compensation, you might incorporate
the phrases “New York City,” “paralegal” and “worker’s compensation”
in your online resume and cover letters. This strategy is helpful
because many recruiters will search by location, profession and
specialty. Keep in mind that your key phrases should be integrated
well but not overly used within your documents. Overuse of a word
or phrase may lower the document’s ranking in the search engines
and, in the online world, a higher ranking will make you more visible
In brainstorming key words, think of words that employers would
use in searching for the right candidate. The keyword suggestion
tool from Wordtracker (http://freekeywords.wordtracker.com/) is
a free online tool that helps you identify frequently used words.
Enter the word or phrase you want to use, and it will generate up
to 100 related key words and an estimate of their daily search volume.
In his article, “Resume Search Optimization,” David Seidl also recommends
using a widely accepted typeface like Times New Roman or Arial and
omitting personal pronouns and articles such as “I,” “me,” “my,”
“a,” “an” and “the.”
As most online communications occur through e-mail, e-mail etiquette
is essential in the online world. Therefore, it is important to
read through each e-mail message from start to finish before hitting
“send.” This last reading is crucial in catching any missing information
or attachments and allows you to fully gauge the tone of your message.
Sometimes a trip away from your PC will give you fresh eyes for
the final review and help you to catch errors even spell checkers
Formatting in professional correspondence also is important, and
every e-mail message should contain proper punctuation and grammar.
Structure each message with a greeting/opening, middle and closing
and add a digital signature. Every message should contain enough
information for the recipient to understand what you need or what
they need to do in response to your communication. As a courtesy,
your e-mail should also include copies of any documents or previous
communications referenced, if not too large.
Winning the Game
The evolution of the Internet has dramatically changed the job-searching
game. By polishing your online image, leveraging your online social
networks, using Internet job-hunting sites and tools and optimizing
your resume for web search, you can master this new game and increase
your chances of finding your dream job. [LAT]
Andrea Cannavina is an EthicsChecked™ Master Virtual
Assistant who helps attorneys and other service professionals understand
their technology options when working on or through the web. To
learn more about Andrea, visit her main site at www.legaltypist.com
or connect with Andrea at http://twitter.com/legaltypist.