9 Ways to Keep Moving Forward on the Paralegal Career Path

As a paralegal, you are fully aware that you’re part of the backbone of your law firm. You keep the attorneys organized and make sure everything happens when and where it should. You’re busy, that’s for sure, likely answering to many different people and certainly juggling numerous different tasks all at once. But that doesn’t mean you’re not aspiring to take that next step on your career path. The trick is to take steps to ensure you’re well positioned when those opportunities present themselves!

To help, we’ve pulled together nine ways you can prepare and enjoy the career journey that you are seeking.  Review these ideas and consider committing to at least two or three of them (most especially the last one). Put them on your calendar so you feel more pressure to make them happen.

1) Network

This might sound old school, but networking works. By growing your sphere of influence, you can learn new things as well as make new connections that might lead to an opportunity later. Make it a goal to reach out to a new contact per month. That person could be another paralegal, a legal assistant, or an attorney. It doesn’t have to be an in-person connection; it can be an online-only connection via LinkedIn.

2) Join associations

Joining an association is a great way to meet new people you can later network with. As a paralegal, you can choose from several national organizations with local chapters, such as the American Bar Association, the National Association of Paralegal Assistants, and the National Association of Legal Assistants. You must do more than pay the membership dues in order to benefit from these associations, however. Attend events and strive to get to know people. Volunteer with the group. Consider joining the board. If time constraints are an issue (and they often are!), look into ways to participate on your own time, such as writing blog posts or helping with event planning.

Also look into groups on LinkedIn. You’re less likely to find local events you can attend in person, but you can become part of an active online community and grow your network, knowledge and even reputation that way.

3) Volunteer

As we just mentioned, associations often have volunteer opportunities that will help you get to know other members. You can also move forward on your paralegal career path by volunteering with non-industry groups that might need your help, such as local nonprofits. These groups are usually seeking attorneys as volunteers so they might not be looking for a paralegal, meaning you’ll need to be proactive in making them aware of the free service you can provide. Your local bar association might be able to help. How does this help your paralegal career? You gain experience, grow your network, and build your resume.

4) Pursue Continuing Legal Education (CLE)

Paralegal continuing education is one of the best ways to accelerate your career, and you have many options for fitting this into your already busy life. You can attend live webinars or learn from on-demand ones on your own time. You can choose from live courses or do self-study. For a quick look into what is available for CLE, check out the’s continuing education page.

If the cost is an issue, ask if your company will either cover the cost or reimburse you for your learning. After all, they will benefit from your increased knowledge too!

5) Specialize in one practice area

According to one survey, 66% of lawyers said knowledge of a specific practice area makes paralegals much more marketable. Have you specialized? If not, maybe now is the time. It might be family, civil, contract, criminal or some other kind of law, but if it interests you, consider taking a deeper dive into that area to become more knowledgeable about it.

6) Participate in multiple legal practice areas

In contrast, your paralegal career might benefit more if you’re a generalist with knowledge in several legal areas, like litigation, real estate, bankruptcy, corporate, criminal and others. You could both specialize in one area, but also increase your knowledge in the others—or one or two of the others. And remember to consider CLEs and the knowledge to be gained that way too!

7) Find a mentor

A mentor can help with your paralegal career because he or she has already walked that path and can give you guidance based on past experience. Plus a mentor can make key introductions to people who might become part of your network. Finding a mentor can take time.  Be clear on what you want from a mentor then seek out that person who can provide the guidance you seek.

8) Stay abreast of industry news
Speaking from experience, we know it can be hard to keep up with what is going on in our industry. There are so many other pressing matters demanding your attention that reading blog posts or newsletters simply never happens. However, staying on top of what’s going on in your field is a sure way to boost your paralegal continuing education—for free. Plus being current on issues makes you a more valuable asset as an employee, and it shows prospective employers that you’re proactive.

To make this happen, first find those publications that offer the most value, like Paralegal Today, and next create a schedule for reading them—and stick to that schedule. Maybe every Tuesday and Thursday at 3:30 p.m. you devote 30 minutes to keeping up with the news, for example.

9) Take care of yourself
Warning: This last step might be the hardest, but it’s also the most important, because you can’t advance in your career if you’re not taking care of yourself. As a paralegal, you’re under a lot of pressure at work, managing multiple tasks, answering to various people, meeting all kinds of deadlines. That can take a toll on you and wear you down. So in addition to scheduling time to keep up with industry news, try adding a few of these self-care tasks to your schedule as well:

  • Give yourself 10-15 minute breaks throughout the day to go for a walk.
  • Eat healthy brain food and workout a few times a week.
  • Take up yoga or meditation to de-stress and work out at the same time.
  • Drink lots of water to keep your brain happy and healthy.
  • Listen to music that makes you happy.

A burned out paralegal won’t move too far down the paralegal career path. Do this last thing if you don’t do anything else on this list. However, if you do want to advance in your career, commit to at least two other action items on this list and make them happen, as you grow your network, your knowledge and your career potential.