Building your legal CV: Retail and Hospitality Experience
I know what you are thinking…. That’s not relevant to a legal job, why would I put it on my CV??
Now, if you have 3 years litigation paralegal experience and you are applying to a litigation paralegal role, you should absolutely focus on that and your retail experience from 4 years ago probably isn’t going to be so relevant.
However, if you have recently completed your studies and your work experience is mainly in retail or hospitality, this is your guide how to celebrate this and use it to your advantage to gain that elusive paralegal or legal administrative role.
“But I don’t have legal work experience”
We should start this by addressing this first, as we hear it so often when meeting with recent graduates who are wary of applying for paralegal roles.
Getting legal work experience is hard, quite often you have to know someone (although luckily this is changing!) and as it is more often than not unpaid, so you have to be financially supported to undertake it if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity!
This has made some superstar candidates we’ve helped in the past feel inferior and that their experience isn’t as good, and this comes across on their CV. They come across apologetic about what they don’t have, rather than focussing on the good skills that they do have…
So if that is you, change this mindset right now! Start thinking about what skills you HAVE learnt and what you CAN do.
What skills are firms looking for?
Employers at entry level aren’t necessarily looking for someone with the exact technical skills for the role, but they are looking for someone who can demonstrate a number of skills that show the right aptitude and attitude. These include:
Adaptable Communication Skills
In a paralegal role you will be interacting with a wide range of people from trainees to partners, and in some cases clients. Often in a high pressure or time sensitive environment, so the ability to adapt communication style and to provide an excellent standard of customer service skills is paramount.
Partners, associates, trainees, paralegals, secretaries, legal administrators all need to work together as a team to provide a good service to the client. It is a skill to be able to work as a team and working in a team in a different environment will transfer across well.
The demands of a paralegal role can be varied and a “get your sleeves rolled up and muck in” attitude is what teams will be looking for. Some days you may be doing hands on legal work, but other days may require you to spend the day filing, therefore flexibility is key.
Attention to Detail
This is one of the most important skills a paralegal needs to have. For example, preparing bundles for court may involve collating bundles which are hundreds of pages long and creating identical copies. You will need to look out for anomalies when searching through thousands of documents to find the relevant information which requires attention to detail as one small mistake can cost your client hugely.
Deadlines are incredibly important in legal roles, if you miss them then the whole matter or deal can fall through. You may be completing work for more than one partner so managing your time effectively is key.
What's that got to do with retail and hospitality?
Let’s look at what a retail or hospitality role involves:
You will be dealing with a whole range of people every day (communication skills - tick) and you will be working in a team (teamwork - tick) often having to change shift to cover a colleague, or move from the till to the shop floor (flexibility - tick), maybe you are stock taking or had an awkward customer who wanted their sauce on the side (attention to detail - tick), and you’ve had to also do this while studying (time management - tick)
Without even knowing you will have developed a really good and relevant set of skills for law!
Hopefully this gives you confidence in how relevant your experience is, now on to how to put that in your CV.....
How to put this experience on a legal CV
Thinking of it as a two-step approach on each bullet point should help with this:
1. What was the task or duty
2. What skill did you learn from it
You can also add any praise you received, or achievements where you have gone above and beyond:
Hopefully you are feeling more confident that your retail and hospitality experience (or similar!) is relevant and are raring to edit your CV.
Your CV is your first chance to impress and to demonstrate the skills and experience you have. Do not underestimate the importance of having all aspects of this correct! See our other posts for more information on how to make the perfect legal CV.
Lunaria Partners are a specialist legal recruitment agency, to see our current job vacancies click here