advice, article, best, employment, experience, find a job, get a job, how to, how to find a paralegal job, karen george, pointers, search for paralegal job, seeking job, the paralegal society, tips, top
By: Karen George, FRP
No, this isn’t a real job posting, but don’t you wish it was? There’s a reason you don’t see this kind of ad for a paralegal. For all of you new paralegals out there of all ages, I’m going to attempt to explain the one thing you should probably know and that is why. I write this for those of you who graduated from high school and attended a paralegal program and also, for the career changers among us, who wish to enter the legal realm as a second or third career in life. This one’s for you. We’ll consider it a “friendly” professional reality check from me to you.
A paralegal is a professional position. By becoming a paralegal, you have stepped away from the subordinate positions in the work world and stepped into a new realm on the employment list. You are a professional and that means there’s a new and harder set of rules in the “game of employment” for both sides: the employee and the employer.
As a newly minted paralegal, you come to the interview table with certain expectations: an office, a better salary, some autonomy, to be treated with a little more respect in the office and in society, in your new capacity as a paralegal. Perhaps, you even expect to have your own assistant. Whatever your expectations, you have them because you are A PARALEGAL. You now hold a certificate or a degree, you have studied long and hard, and incurred loans to become and be able to call yourself A PARALEGAL.
The employer seeking a paralegal has certain expectations as well: that the paralegal dress in a professional manner, conduct himself professionally, not have to be micromanaged, and to not be directed in an assignment the same way his legal assistant or receptionist or file clerk is directed. The attorney expects the paralegal to come to have those abilities and knowledge that are instantaneously helpful to the attorney. In sum, he is seeking a partner, not exactly an equal partner, but a partner in the representation of the client.
Certainly a certain amount of office specific training is expected: how their computer system is set up, how they use certain programs which you are expected to already be experienced in using (part of the pre-employment process), how they handle certain elements of their practice but , essentially, that you can walk in and start working from the moment you enter the firm. After all, you have been provided an office, a better salary, some autonomy, you are treated and regarded differently, you may even have your own assistant.
So, all of the above having been laid out for you — you are a new paralegal. You hold in your hand your paralegal certificate, your Associates degree or Bachelors degree and you can’t understand why, “Oh why” you can’t get a job. You wonder why every single paralegal position you come across on planet earth requires, requests, and demands at least two years of paralegal experience. You wonder: “Did I make the wrong decision?”, “Why is it so hard?”, “Where can I get the experience?”, “I have been unemployed for __ years because no one will hire me without experience.” The list of frustrations and questions is endless. I, and other paralegals, try to answer these questions the best way we know how: we offer suggestions for internships (which are few and far between), tell you to volunteer, join paralegal groups/associations, get involved, get your face and name out in the legal community, any way you can (except as a newspaper headline!)
The bottom line is this: by becoming a paralegal you have stepped out of the regular job market. You are no longer looking for the “regular job” you may have previously held. You are now a professional and the playing field is different. You bring not only your education to the application table, but you must also bring proof that you can fill a very important role in the firm from the moment you enter it – and for the most important person in the office — the attorney. A paralegal is not hired to be “taught” how to be a paralegal. A paralegal is hired to fill a position that is intricate to the process. The position requires critical thinking based on experience, which is knowledge.
You work under the attorney and all of your work must be overseen by the attorney, but gone is the step-by-step-by-step-by-step instruction for each assignment. The professional realm demands more. Many of the things you will do as a paralegal aren’t even “assigned” by the attorney, but instead fall on your desk in the form of a pleading or letter and you must simply pick it up and know what must be done with it, i.e., draft a response and hand it to the attorney for review and finalizing…and usually without a prefabricated “form” to work from. You must be able to review files and make sure things are moving along as they should be or recognize and do what needs to be done so that it does move along as it should.
The attorney isn’t going to tell you “all the time” what needs to be done – that’s why he hires a paralegal who knows what to do, what should be done and most importantly, how it should be done – and then gets it done. You must know how to talk to clients, opposing counsel, opposing paralegals, witnesses, interview potential new clients to bring needed information to the attorney.
You must think for yourself, for the attorney and on behalf of the client’s matter. You must make suggestions and keep abreast of new case law to make the correct move and right suggestions when the need arises. You must not only know the ethics of being a paralegal, but keep an eye open for attorney ethics as well, so he doesn’t step over the ethical line inadvertently. You guide the attorney based on your knowledge. You must be current on all court rules and let the attorney know of any changes, so there are no issues with your filings. You must keep your own paralegal education up-to-date by attending CLE’s (continuing legal education) and being a part of your professional associations. You must know all that is happening outside your immediate office that could help or hurt your office. You are the alter ego, an extension, if you will, of the legal team that is the attorney and the fight for the client’s cause. Much is expected.
Therefore, based on all of the above, it is clear – or should be – why finding a paralegal position is more complicated, more time consuming, more demanding, and has higher expectations than any of the other “jobs” you have held or sought in the past. Is it a great field to work in? Yes. Absolutely. Can it be more difficult to find your way into than a “normal” job? Yes. Absolutely.
How does all of this help you, as the new paralegal? It explains why the employer is looking for at least 2 years experience and why it is so hard for you to get your foot (or even a toe) in the door. But what can you do about it? As I have said many, many times on the various paralegal forums to many, many other paralegals who asked these same questions — this is my advice:
1. Take any position you can in order to get your foot (or even a toe) into a law office. Don’t necessarily look for a paralegal position. Look for a file clerk, runner, receptionist and junior legal assistant position.
2. Get inside a law firm and observe, read the letters, peruse the files, listen to what is happening around the office, listen to the attorneys and paralegals, offer to drag the files to the court for a trial, take the documents to the printer for trial exhibits, drive witnesses to deposition and trial, to a hearing, make the coffee and make the copies (all the time reading what you are copying) and learning why so many copies are needed and who they are being given to.
3. Ask questions of everyone. I can tell you that your new best friend is the legal assistant. The legal assistant knows all the details, the courts, the judicial assistants, the bailiffs, the judges and how they like things, knows what is happening on a case, why that many copies needs to be made, why a check must accompany that paper, why that is important and about a trillion other details that you will need to know.
4. Always, always, always dress professionally and conduct yourself professionally. Don’t be a snob, but know that where you are today is the training you must go through for your future as A PARALEGAL and you will need all of those people you are working alongside today.
All of these things will give you the knowledge, the understanding and the EXPERIENCE you will need 2 years down the road to say – “Yes, I have 2 years experience in a law office: I have attended depositions, I have helped at trial, I am familiar with how many copies are needed for filing “x,” I know how to have trial exhibits made, I am familiar with this court, this judge, this JA, this bailiff, how this judge wants this or that or doesn’t want it, I have been in that courtroom and how it must be set up for trial, where the plugs are, where the plaintiff sits and the defense sits, where the witnesses sit outside the courtroom waiting to be called, what it is like to attend a deposition, examination under oath, where the papers are filed and how to pull a court file, how to research a file, how papers must be filed…” Am I making my point?
With two years experience you aren’t going to get the senior paralegal position. You will probably get a junior paralegal position or a legal assistant/paralegal position — the best position you could actually hope for, as this will give you the absolute best training and opportunity to transition to a senior paralegal position in the future.
Is it fair to get all the education, incur the education loans and hold a paper that identifies you as A PARALEGAL and have to settle for another, lesser position? Is it fair to expect an employer to hire A PARALEGAL who doesn’t really know what the position entails and has to be trained on each step to be taken? Would it be fair to get the job and not be able to do the job and have endless nights of cold sweats and fear that tomorrow you will arrive at the office only to be fired because you couldn’t do the job?
Being a paralegal is a professional position, and one that doesn’t likely match up with your pre-conceived notion of what “a job” was to you in the past. You have stepped out of the “job” market and you have stepped into the market of seeking “a professional position” and legal career. Just as attorneys do summer internships and doctors do internships before they become attorneys and doctors, you too must go through an internship because you are now among the professionals.
Welcome paralegals, one and all, to the Profession of Paralegalism.
Remember TPS members — we’re always here to provide help, support and guidance. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have a question or there is something we may be able to help you with. After all, this is “your” blog and “your” personal paralegal network!
The Paralegal Society said:
Karen, thank you so much for taking the time to write this article and sharing it with our fellow TPS members. It’s great and much needed!! Keep the good stuff coming…
Polly Hall said:
Thank you Karen, for the article.
As I was reading the article, I was wondering why there is a disconnect between what the lawyers are looking for a paralegal to know coming in the door and what is being taught at the colleges. I attended a legal studies program that was approved by the ABA and 90% of the program was learning to write briefs .
I honestly don’t know the answer to the question you ask. I ask myself that same question sooooo many times. We discuss the same question between us at TPS. This question was one of the reasons Jamie started TPS. Our’s is a new profession (in the scheme of professions) and I can only assume the “gap” is part of the growing process. ABA of course is the best. How many real briefs you will get to write for a long time, I am guessing won’t be many but when the time comes You’ll Be Ready!
It’s been several years since this comment was posted, but I just saw it now and thought I’d weigh in. I too went to an ABA paralegal program, and yeah, the stuff I learned there had little to do with what I’ve since come to understand is paralegal work. It’s more like the Cliff Notes for a JD.
I think the main problem is that paralegal classes aren’t taught by experienced paralegals — they’re taught by attorneys, as dictated by the attorneys who run the ABA.
And let me tell you: they may not realize it, but lawyers don’t actually understand most of the stuff that paralegals do!
It’s simply a different profession. I do a bit of legal writing, to be sure, and a bit of case law research — substantive stuff that I was certainly taught how to do in paralegal school.
But the vast majority of my work involves procedural and administration stuff that I wasn’t trained at all for, because the lawyers who taught me weren’t either, and they have no experience with it.
When a lawyer goes to teach paralegals about one topic or another, she’ll typically have spent years or decades working in that field without ever remotely comprehending what her *paralegals* were doing all that time to keep the ship afloat.
In my experience, attorneys typically don’t know how to e-file; put together and maintain a tickler; keep physical and digital case files (or even their own desks) organized; convert electronic document formats; put together PowerPoint presentations, do background checks; or find and manage vendors like legal printers, court reporters, process servers, e-discovery providers and private investigators.
Many of them also lack basic technology skills — I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to help incredibly skilled lawyers switch out their own monitor, update the signature block on their email account or even send a text from their own phone.
What the paralegal profession needs are instructors who are *paralegals*, people who have actually been doing the job for years and know exactly what their students are getting into.
Until that happens, the sad truth is that even the best formal paralegal education is a bit of a joke. Attorneys aren’t really training you for your own job — they’re training you for their own, because that’s all they know.
On the plus side, once you get the hang of your job, you’ll understand what they do far better than they understand what you do. And that makes it a lot easier to establish a decent reputation as a miracle worker.
I wrote this so many years ago but every word still holds true. Thank you for reading the article and your spot on comment.
Misty Sheffield said:
Excellent advice for the entry level paralegal. I graduated from paralegal school in 1992 when everyone found jobs after graduation. Today, recent graduates must worked harder to find that first job. Your advice will come in handy to those frustrated by the job market.
Misty (great name), thank you for your comment and observation. Yes, gone are the days of easy hire upon graduation or simple “morph” from really good legal assistant to paralegal.
alex hardesty (@alex_hardestyMI) said:
1) I can’t get an interview for ANY position at all in a law firm…including legal assistant, legal secretary, receptionist, file clerk, or runner…because
2) My professional experience outside a law office is considered irrelevant (never mind that I was responsible for all of a single commodity for an Automotive OEM with 15 suppliers and a annual spend of $100 million dollars), but
3) Too much experience for the lowest rung of entry level positions;
It’s hard to not feel that two years of full time school at taxpayer expense (tuition and unemployment benefits = $40,000) was useful only for sitting out the worst of the recession.
Alex: You look and sound to be a mature man. You know life sometimes is hard and not fair. The question is, how are you going to deal with those obstacles – give in and give up or use the adversity to create a success. I say, really Alex there is no choice – you must succeed and you will. These are difficult times everywhere. It is out of difficult times and adversity that the greatest inventions and success stories come. Don’t get locked in with the obstacles and what was and how much – move forward and away from those thoughts, they will only hinder your advancement and clutter your mind. Instead, with your cleared mind, think creatively how you can make all that Alex is into something that Alex will enjoy so very much that he will never work a day from that point forward. WE have all had difficult times, many of them, but here we sit today, on our computers, in the greatest country in the world with every opportunity available to us that we can imagine and dream of. I know its hard, I know its frustrating. It’s hard on the ego and its probably hard on your relationships but you can’t give up and you have to get up, dust off those negative feelings and find the path that’s right for Alex. Then you’ll get an offer for a paralegal position and you won’t even care any more because you have created Alex’s best position!
alex hardesty (@alex_hardestyMI) said:
Sometimes, the “brave face” slips because, for this job searcher (and long term unemployed), there are good days and bad days. The former is embraced and shared with the world while the latter is simply endured or managed.
In the commencement speech by late Steve Jobs that was all over SocMed after his passing there was an interesting point: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” This suggests that in a job search I’m looking for my next dot, wherever it may be. And wherever that dot is will get a capable and dedicated team member.
Alex: I know the brave face is hard, and gets harder with each passing day and each time you don’t get hired. I have been there, all of us has been there at one point or another. I remember, a long time ago, when I was young, just out of high school and determined to get a job – not in a restaurant or store. Every ad I read asked for “experience”. I was so frustrated, I asked my parents: “How am I supposed to get experience if no one will hire me so I can get experience?!” So, whatever they asked for in an interview, I could do it. Oh yeah, I knew it, I had done it, I could do it! I got hired and learned – F-A-S-T! I got some experience under my belt. You never know what job might be your first step to where you want to be. Don’t get hung up on titles, duties and positions. You now have the education that will move you forward in whatever position you take no matter if it is in a law office or anywhere else. You will stand out. Broaden your horizons, don’t restrict your search to just one thing. Make the situation as it is work for you. It will take creativity, it will take compromise but it will first, get you employed and second, get you some self confidence.
littlecurrentlion (@littlelegallion) said:
Hey Alex, I would welcome you to chat with me. I sympathize and TOTALLY APPRECIATE your challenge since I am sure I am close to you in age. Many times!! others have told me..(when I’m in my 40s) I must suffer too. They chastise and belittle me by saying I must “do my time”, and experience the harsh challenges that others face in a new career, as they did (I’m sorry but-struggling in a new career at 40 or 50 years of age is NOT the same as a career struggle in your early 20’s). The difference for us is that we have HAD other careers (and BRAVO to you Alex that you had an accomplished career in the automotive sector!! Few 20 year olds seeking their first job can lay claim to what you can!) in the last 20 years of our lives, and we CAN for SURE say we HAVE done our time struggling. There are many opportunities for YOU out there. NEVER DOUBT that your previous career will not give your new career momentum-be PROUD of those accomplishments and never doubt that they WILL get you into the career that IS waiting for you. The achievements you mention would lend well to Corporate Law and more definitively, Corporate Law with a MAJOR automotive manufacturer that NEED your diligent and discerning judgement for what would constitute a great contract agreement befitting an expenditure of 100 million dollars. From what you previously mentioned, you were already doing similar tasks to what a Paralegal does. I CONGRATULATE YOU!!! I wish to empower you and see that you have many skills and talents to offer your next employer. If there is another way to contact you, please mention. I would be glad to communicate with you, Alex, and continue to inspire you in this moment- your adventure of a promising career in the legal field. I wish you well: )))
Mariana Fradman said:
Don’t give up! This is a tough economy, but it can’t be like this forever. You did a right choice by going back to school and studying a new field. One of my college professor’s used to say that there are people who lose jobs in a better time and people who get jobs in a worse time. There is a time for everyone.
Where are you located? Did you try to reach out to your local paralegal association? Or a paralegal division of your Bar? Does your school provide job assistance? What about tutoring paralegal students? Networking with other legal professionals? I know that it is easier to say then to do, but, as Karen said, you have no choice but succeed. You worked hard to just give up. I will be happy to take a look at your resume. Sometimes, it is a matter of a word or two and your resume will look differently. If you would like me to take a look, please feel free to e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taye Akinola said:
Karen, thank you for a great article! I am currently in an ABA-approved paralegal studies program and even though, I will graduate from the program in May 2012, I worry on how I will find my first job as a paralegal.
You are probably the first person (for me, anyway), to honestly explain the outlook of the professional market for paralegals and how it has changes over time, thus forcing new paralegals to adapt in this new professional landscape.
It was interesting when you paralleled this profession (paralegals) with other professions (i.e. lawyers and doctors, etc). I could not help, but wondered about the similarities (or should I say differences) between paralegals and lawyers. You said, “Just as attorneys do summer internships and doctors do internships before they become attorneys and doctors, you too must go through an internship because you are now among the professionals.”
Now, I can understand about the doctors doing internship (or in their case, residency), but with lawyers. Usually, they would do one internship during the summer between 1L and 2L or 2L and 3L and they would be offered a position with the law firm they interned for with starting salary of $160,000+ a year. I guess, the point I am making is the lawyers are often, not always, would do an internship and they would be offered a position. Whereas, the paralegals would do an internship and often times, it is not considered enough or as it is stated on the job postings and boards, ‘required minimum 2 years of experiences’ I do see a discrepancy in the expectations between lawyers and paralegals when it comes to their first job.
And speaking of internships, the lawyers, while attending law school, are getting paid for their internships, while the paralegals, it is unpaid – again, another discrepancy I noticed.
I know the economic climate has changed for both paralegals and lawyers, but in my view, I still feel the lawyers have the upper-hand, in most cases–not all. I believe the private and public sector would do a great service if they initiate formal internship programs for paralegals as they did for lawyers (law students). It would help both of their bottom lines: for law firms, corporations, and government agencies, they would have someone help their caseload and do the work with them and for paralegals, they would gain work experiences. But it comes back to the degree of expectations they would expect from lawyers and paralegals when it comes to offering their first job offer. Lawyers equals one or two internships (which usually is about less than a year of total legal experience) and offered a job, whereas paralegals equals one internship (or two, if can find another one) and is not offered a job. It would demand that the paralegal to gain additional a year and half of experience as a professional paralegal.
And not only that, I know some people with law degrees (JD, LLM) are applying and working as a paralegal – that’s another great concern of mine. The landscape may change when they would required a law degree to work as a paralegal. I know there are some firms out there that would refused to hire a person with a law degree to work as a paralegal with the fear of that person leaving for a better job when the economy improves.
I do apologized for the long response – it just I feel I should put it out there and just acknowledge it. I guess, all I am saying is the expectation between lawyers and paralegals is strikingly difference and while I am not upset about it, it does strike as unfair in a way, if that makes sense.
Like I said, I find it interesting regarding the discrepancy of legal experiences expectations between lawyers and paralegals.
Again, Karen, thank you for the great post and I will definitely bookmark it to use it as my reference!
Have a great week!
Taye: Let us remember – paralegal is not yet mandatorily regulated or licensed in the US. Therefore, though we are “similar” to the lawyer and doctor, “similar” is like an inch – as good as a mile. Until we are “officially” recognized by the legal community and given that official regulation and licensure, we are still – not quite there. So, I make the comparisons – they are similar but not the same as you say. Also, we have to take into account that many recently graduated attorneys are seeking paralegal positions because they can’t find attorney positions. Also, you speak of the days of summar associates getting paid for their “internships” and then being offered jobs starting at $160,000 a year; but for about 1% those days are just “Lore” of days gone by. In fact, many law students are suing their law schools because they were offered placement assistance upon graduation and that has fallen through. Finally, as to the striking difference between paralegals and attorneys, not only is it striking – there is a difference. Paralegals are not attorneys and believe me – attorneys are not paralegals – thankfully because then we wouldn’t exist. Paralegals are an extension of the attorney. But the day will come, hopefully sooner than later, when paralegals will be regulated and licensed and therefore, a recognized essential element to the legal profession instead of a “volunteer” element to the profession.
Taye Akinola said:
Karen, thank you for taking the time to reply to my comment!
It looks like we are on the same page – paralegal field would need to be regulated and licensed/certified in order to be recognized as serious professionals in the legal profession.
What can we do about this? You would noticed, that I said, “We” because I feel we are all in this together – novice and experienced paralegals and it is up to us on how we envision the field in 5-10 years from now. Oh, the day when educational programs in paralegal studies being regulated and paralegals getting certified (CP/ACP or CRP/RP) would be a great day. And I am only 3 months into the paralegal studies program and I am passionate about the field!
As for internships, again, I feel strongly about this – internships for paralegal students should be paid just like the law students for their internships. I posted a comment on LinkedIn group regarding how paid interns gain more professional experience and looks more favorable to future employers. My full comment is there at TPS in LinkedIn, you should check it out.
I know (and strongly believe) we can do this. I am willing to share you and the other mentors of my ideas of how we could go about it.
Mariana Fradman said:
Thank you for your post. It is great to hear that a student-paralegal thinks about our profession. I absolutely agree with you that discrepancies between attorneys and us are huge. While attorneys and paralegals work in the legal field, expectations are different. Different expectations bring differences in outcome. And, please, don’t be lured by articles that say that law school graduates are getting payable internship and $160K on a first day of work. Those who are getting the above are more exceptions than a rule and $160K is a number from long lost past. I know many law school students who worked in Starbucks during the summer and were happy if they got temp assignments upon graduation. And those were not weak students or graduated last in their class…
While you are still in the school, I recommend taking every opportunity and doing as many hours of internship as you can. If internship is a part of your curriculum, double your hours. I had two internships while in school. My first one was before graduation with AAS and another the last semester prior to graduation with BS in Paralegal Studies. Each of them required 120 hours work in the law office. As the semester was 14 weeks, we were required to put less than 10 hours per week… I completed each of internships in four weeks and was hired after each of them…you will say that I was lucky and I can’t deny it, but my logic was as simple is this: I was coming to the office at 9 am every morning. Dressed up accordingly and available for every task they required: I sorted mail, made copies and coffee, typed letters drafted by paralegals and attorneys, proofread documents, learned how they managed their files and filed documents, attended hearings and greeted clients during the lunch time…I became a part of the office, so, four weeks later, when my time was up and I gave them my resume (again) and asked to consider me for a position, they gave me an offer. Twice. It can’t be a coincident. I became a part of the office. They became accustomed to me.
In between those two internships, I interned with legal clinics run by my college. I interned almost every semester I attended the college. Now, count those months and will see up to two years of experience on my resume. Real experience. I met real clients. I worked with real attorneys. I gained real years of experience backed up by hours of clients’ interviews, hours of drafts of documents and filings with courts…and satisfaction when my clients (yes, they were mine too!) thanked my professors and me for help they got.
Take advantage of your college days. Your professors are your best sources of networking. If your college doesn’t provide you with internship (or it is not your scheduled time yet), ask them for it. I did it. Ok, it lasted only one week, but it was an experience that I would never forget. 🙂
Taye: You ask what “we” can do to advance the cause of licensure and regulation of our profession? To my knowledge there is only one organization that actively supports and promotes this and that is the National Foundation for Paralegal Associations. Become a member, get involved and be part of the group that one day will make it so.
Mariana: You are the bomb! That is exactly what every single paralegal student should do; go the extra mile, not be daunted by making the coffee, greeting the clients and making copies. Dressing appropriately, being willing to do what it takes to make the machine work smoothly. Kudos Mariana and thank you for posting an example of how a professional paralegal is a paralegal before the piece of paper is in hand.
Thank you for your post. Explaining your experience is very helpful. Perfect guidence.
Elizabeth Amador Rosales said:
Mariana: I love that you are giving advice on getting in and doing whatever it takes. I am about to graduate from my paralegal program and so many of the women I attended school with expect to be hired as a paralegal right away. They bad mouth the education they received and the school and blame the school for not finding them jobs. I’m shared this in the hopes that it shed some light on the real world of becoming a paralegal.
The Paralegal Society said:
Thanks for your comments, Polly, Misty, Alex and Taye!! We love reading them.
Taye, don’t ever apologize for leaving a long comment on the TPS blog…we welcome them and love to hear your thoughts. I agree that Karen did a great job setting this topic out in an easily digestible format. She has a knack for that.
I think (as do some –if not all — other mentors in the TPS inner circle) that internships should be required for ALL paralegal programs..and I don’t mean 20 hours…or let me get just what I need so I can get the letter saying I did it…I mean long, full internships that provide practical experience and hands on, extensive, on-the-job training. In addition to attorneys and doctors, nurses also have internships. Admitedly, you are getting me up onto my soapbox with this one, Taye, but it’s lunch time, so what the heck. I’m hopping up onto the TPS soapbox…
Where are the paralegal standards? Where are the educational standards? Why doesn’t anyone seem to “care” that we lack these things in our professional industry? Our industry is all the rage…yet people can’t find their first job. Why….why…..why. I feel like a drone, but it’s true!! (This is directed at Alex’s comment too…)
That was the vision we had for TPS from the beginning…many paralegals – one voice. Hopefully, we can continue to grow in number, so that one day (one gloroius day) we can start to make some waves and change things for our profession. Get your TPS flags out, people and saddle up your horses. ha ha.
Thanks again to all of you for taking the time to post your comments. I’m looking forward to seeing what others have to say on this topic. I’m jumping off the soapbox to go eat my sandwich now…
Sheila Sessions said:
Magnificent post, and comments. Applause to Karen! This is one of the many reasons I am so proud of my association with you wonderful professionals. For the newcomers, and unemployed, do not lose hope! Know your worth, get involved, join your paralegal associations, attend events (our Bar Associations hold mixers, happy hours, and dinner parties, so if you are able to join as an associate since we are not attorneys, do so, and partake in the events). Volunteering as a legal advocate, or if applicable, following your path in the pro-bono arena will reap rewards, and help you gain ground, and confidence! You will get noticed for your initiative, and ambition. Envision yourself in the paralegal position you are desirous of and you will succeed!
Sheila (e before the i): Thank you. We are here to help.
Mariana Fradman said:
Great article, Karen! You answered many unspoken questions and responded to even greater number of what I saw and answered on many discussion boards. As long as we hold our heads up and treat our fellow paralegals and ourselves as professionals, we will be treated as professionals. It is our job to educate our attorneys that paralegals are partners. As you say “not exactly an equal partner, but a partner in the representation of the client.”
Tom Gordon said:
Excellent article. It is a welcome reminder for us seeking employment again.
Thank you Tom. I hope it helps explain the frustration and gives some suggestions how to beat the problems.
Joann Halpern said:
Thank you for a really wonderful and honest article!! I’m currently a student in an AAS paralegal program (ABA certified). As an older student, with 25 years of work experience (including 17 years in law offices), I often wonder how some of my classmates are going to succceed in the real world. They can’t follow simple directions, aren’t willing to try to figure something out on their own, and very often they just give up and wait for the instructor to rescue them. Then they complain that no one will help them – apparently the instructor is supposed to intuitively know that they “don’t get it.” It’s very frustrating to see this, especially knowing that in a busy law firm, this sort of thinking and behavior is going to work against them.
The ages of my five classmates range from 18, mid-20s, and three in early to late 30s. I don’t think they have grasped the concept that they will have to WORK at being a paralegal, and that if they don’t do their work properly, they will leave their attorney exposed to bad things such as missed court dates and deadlines and possible malpractice charges.
Maybe I expect too much, especially since I hold myself to some pretty high standards. Over-achiever, party of one. 🙂
Anyway, thank you again for a great article!!
The Coexist Cafe said:
This is a fantastic post and fantastic advice, thank you for sharing!
I’ve been a paralegal now for a bit over three years, and having just recently crossed that magical “two years of experience” mark, I can definitely tell a difference when it comes to how I’m regarded in the legal world and how much clout I am given. I am much more a partner than when I first started out, and that comes from experience. All the education in the world, while a great foundation, could never have prepared me for all I learned these past three years!
The idea of getting a foot (or toe!) in a law office is probably the best advice out there. Even if you start out on the very lowest on the totem pole, there is always something to learn and always something to do. Getting that hands-on experience is what will make the difference, not how many courses or certifications you have under your belt. (Sure, they help, but nothing beats experience.)
Thanks again for such a great post; hopefully this is read and taken heed by new legal professionals. 🙂
Well….the tough situation everyone is going through is pretty serious and a problem. But….what about if we focus in the solution and not in the problem…..Yes, the opportunities are out there, just keep trying, and trying and never give up. At least you are proud of yourself that you tried and fought for it. Being positive and seeking for my best out helped on my way of finding my job, and a superb social network in TPS. l am happy..OK..l won a battle ..but not the war!…Still a lot more to do!
Karen, thank you very much. l read, and re-read this article and is turning out like my Bible. Every paragraph has a special meaning–“pushing” the readers(particularly “us” the newbies) think a little bit more in how to be knowledgeable of the reality..what “legal market” demands and what are the real expectations of our present or future bosses–in this case lawyers.
Definitely the tips you gave are a amazing “Booklet” for anyone who lately is entering in the “Paralegal Field”. Eventhough l have tried so hard and kept reminding myself of being professional and well-informed, l found your advices so refreshing and the solution of a complicated equation with so many misteries and doubts. Great Job!
Gjineta: Thank you for your kind words. It makes me happy that I have helped you and that you think my article will help others as well. I have been a newbie. I have had no experience. I still have my moments when something is new and I don’t know something. No one can know everything. Anyone who tells you 1) they know everything and 2) they never make mistakes is delussional.
Many many years ago; I was a newbie legal word processor at night at a very large law firm. I worked from 4:30 p.m. until the job was done – oftentimes that was 2 and 3 in the morning. Then I had to rush home, sleep fast and get up at 7:00 a.m. to get to my first job (legal assistant to an attorney) which started at 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. so I could rush to my second job which started at 4:30 p.m. I was young and the hours didn’t matter to me as much as the money I was making. Anyway, the night word processing supervisor was a lady who was not nice. The first thing she told me was (and I quote because I will never ever forget) “I don’t make mistakes and I don’t expect you to make mistakes because I will fire you in an instant.” Nice, huh. Well, guess what, I made mistakes but not many and I learned very fast how to correct my mistakes by proof reading and fixing things before she could see them. But the time came, I got better and faster and was running circles around her. I tell you this story so you know, not only is the legal field hard work and very exacting but you are going to run into people who are not easy. Not always, but usually look at these people as the ones who are going to make you reach heights you never knew you could reach or knew existed in your work product and knowledge. These are the challenges from which you will learn the most. I have many more stories and though they were hard at the time, it is from those situations that I find I learned the most.
The only thing in life that is constant is change so no one can know everything because the everything of today is not the everything of tomorrow. These are the facts, nothing but the facts. (Dragnet 101)
Coexist Cafe: Congratulations on your “graduation” from the inexperienced to the experienced. It is clear, from your post, you now understand the rules of the game that is the legal profession. Unfortunately there is no “Parchment Paper” for this transformation/graduation except enlightenment which quite clearly you have gained.
Thank you for your words on my article. I’m glad you found it accurate and helpful. I did my best to put it all on the table in one place. 🙂
Joann: Your years in a law office and your post shows me you are familiar with the legal profession, you know the environment, you know the expectations, you understand the repercussions for mistakes, you understand – put simply that laziness is not acceptable, that errors can happen but they better not happen often, that a law office is busy and believe me – no one has time to read anyone’s mind and guess about anything. Guessing really doesn’t belong in a law office.
You will be a great paralegal even if you don’t know everything right off because you understand the standard by which a legal employee must function.
I don’t know what you did in law offices for 17 years but whatever it was, being a paralegal will be different. As a paralegal, as I said in my article, you are expected to know what needs to be done instead of being told what to do. When you come in there will not be a tape(s) sitting on your desk dictating every move you need to make. Those days are gone, wave good bye to them. Instead, there will be an in box full of work to be done with no notes on them, no directions, no instructions, simply put you are on your own; it can be scarey, it can be exhilarating, it can be daunting, it will give you the greatest feeling of self worth and being an integral part of the team.
Get ready, the rides gonna get bumpy sometimes but when its smooth – oh its so good.
Joann Halpern said:
Over those 17 years, I did everything but go to court. In NY, I was hired by my first firm because I knew shorthand, and quickly moved into handling clients in matrimonial/family law, personal injury, real estate, probate and municipal matters. I also became the office manager for this firm and addressed HR matters including hiring/firing and payroll. I left that firm because I wanted to do more research and document preparation, which my second firm was more than happy to have me do for them. At the end of my time in NY, I spent almost 4 months working for a county Supreme Court Justice as a fill-in for his regular secretary, who was out with a broken shoulder. That was a really wonderful experience to be sitting on the “other side” and seeing the court workings so closely.
In Colorado, I worked for a firm that represented the postmasters of the USPS, an arbitrator, and then spent 5.5 years in the tax industry. In my last position, I again was the office manager and addressed HR and payroll matters. I’m used to picking up a file and making a list of info to be gathered, questions to be answered, and looking at possible resolutions.
I tend to go above and beyond what is asked for, and work with a view towards anticipating what the attorney will need to address upcoming matters. I’ve always had a good relationship with clients, though at times I do want to smack the difficult ones in the back of their heads! For one of my PI clients, it was really thrilling to ID an injury and turn an okay case into a nice settlement for her. In another PI case, the settlement reached gave my boss a $90k fee. In 1995, that was huge!
I can’t wait to finish school and get into a legal setting again. I’ve been trying to inspire the students in my class, to get them thinking about more than just classwork and to develop an interest in learning more about the paralegal field. I’ve been creating a file of articles that I think have valuable information, and I’ve offered them to anybody who would like a copy. So far, no takers, but I’m still hopeful and will not be pushy about it. 🙂
It’ll be interesting to see who graduates with me in November 2012!
Joann: What a great resume. USPS – that’s a tough one. Just curious but why are you going to school? You quite obviously don’t need any training in paralegal. I am interested as I am working on another article and it has to do with the older paralegal. Please share.
Joann Halpern said:
There are a couple of reasons that brought me to going back to school. The first was that most firms here in Colorado are looking for a degree from an ABA certified program. One of my instructors told me that they won’t even read a resume without that info on it. Second, my paralegal skills are almost entirely self-taught, and I know I have gaps in my knowledge. With how much things have changed from the late 1980s through today, I felt it was important to have as much knowledge as possible, fill in those gaps, get training on LexisNexis and e-filing, and make myself the most valuable employee I could be for a future employer. Increasing my professional knowledge helps increase my worth, and that’s important to me. Sure, I want to earn a bigger salary just like everybody else!! I know that I may not get that right out of the gate, but I’m patient and will prove myself over time. Hope this helps!
Joann: Thank you for your reply. I am working on an article that addresses the mature, experienced but newly formally educated paralegal looking for work in today’s paralegal market. Thank you for your information so that I can include it in my article. Congratulations on your advancements!
Pingback: The Empowered Paralegal » Blog Archive » A Professional Reality Check
Amy Bowser-Rollins said:
Wow, what an awesome article and page of comments! Karen is keeping it real and sometimes it just needs to be said. I feel for those that are in this position, though.
I’ve worked in law firms almost 30 years and I have a few additional suggestions that I’ve seen in action.
1) I’ve seen some paralegals being born out of a small firm rather than a large firm. They are in catch-all positions in the small firm and get to gain experience like Karen mentions above;
2) I have witnessed many senior paralegals mentoring what the large firm calls “project assistants”. A project assistant is an entry-level paralegal. So you might want to search for that job title instead;
3) I have seen some entry-level paralegals hired through referrals of partners in the firm. For instance, a friend of a partner has a daughter/son/niece/nephew looking to get into a paralegal position. So, maybe if you ask any of your family members if they know a partner at a firm who could make an introduction.
I just love the idea of mentoring and empowering others. I can’t wait to see what other advice Karen has for the world of paralegals.
Ann, thank you for your kind comments. Project assistant – that’s a good one and excellent idea! Thank you for sharing. I am already working on my next article and I believe, based on what you wrote (30 years), you should feel right at home. Soon.
Amy, please forgive me. I have been in depo all day long and – yes as usual – didn’t get to eat. I wonder if the court reporter took down my stomach growl. In my earlier comment to “Ann”, I meant to write “AMY.” Please forgive me. I am delirious with hunger.
Rebecca Simon said:
Karen great article and I see now I have a lot of work to do as prepare to enter the paralegal profession.
Rebecca: Thank you. I hope it helps and more importantly, helps you understand the whys.
Oliver Sorrels said:
I just wanted to say that this was a very good article and it helped me a lot with the questions that I had about getting into the field and also the expectations as well. I am nearing my graduation date this December and I can’t wait to get going. I will actively seek internships here in South Carolina or in Atlanta where I want to live in the near future. Either way, I miss the legal working environment and look forward to the working feeling again.
I’m glad to have helped. Honestly, I just wanted to put all the answers, as I knew them, in one place. There have been soooo many posts by frustrated paralegal graduates. Simply not getting why they won’t be hired, given an office and called paralegal – after all – they got the degree/certificate that says they are – paralegals. It is not something one can learn in school or quickly – paralegal – real paralegal – not docketing clerk, not document assistant, etc. but real dig in and get it done paralegal requires time.
Keep us posted on your progress when you graduate. TPS will be right here with its bank of mentors ready to guide you in any way we can.
I appreciate you posting this article. I too am a young college graduate with a BS in Criminal Justice and looking forward to starting my paralegal studies program this upcoming February. I currently intern at a small law firm outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I am struggling on finding a decent career as an entry level associate in the legal field. I currently am looking for case assistant, file clerk, receptionist, and paralegal assistant careers. Like you stated it is a harder process then one would think. I appreciate you taking the time to give all the future paralegals out there that we chose such an important career that it takes more then just a certification and degree to accomplish success in this field. All you can do is continue to fill out those applications and remain optimistic.
Thanks for your article,
Jordan K. Aszman
I thoroughly enjoyed your article Karen. As a Paralegal Investigator for a wrongful death/personal injury firm in Florida, I agree with your points that we learn very much from those around us.
Pingback: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Paralegal Salary » Colleges In Tampa Florida
Reblogged this on taylorlegal413's Blog and commented:
Thank you for sharing this Karen…this is so true.
Kamila Pivkova said:
You have definitely filled a void with this article, Karen! It takes me back to when I first started and reminds me of how frustrating and discouraging trying to break into the profession was for me, at times. Although still vivid, I feel fortunate to be able to say that this particular struggle is behind me. I recall sitting at one of my last interviews and volunteering to accept the position on a temporarily unpaid basis in exchange for the opportunity to prove myself! As desperate as that sounds (and felt), the attorneys sitting across from me were impressed and offered the [paid] position to me. I later learned that I succeeded over 14 experienced applicants. That definitely gave me the confidence boost I needed and proves that if you are persistent and sincerely eager to get started, you will succeed. Stay positive, and TPS- keep up the good work!
Kay Lee said:
Hi Karen and everyone,
Thank you very much for your post and all reviews about it. I actually found this blog accidentally(how lucky!), because I’ve been researched and read all about paralegal as much as I could as a candidate for the paralegal study.
Just 1 reason makes me hesitant to get started my study is… I’m an immigrant from Korea, have no educational background, have only 1.5 years work experience in marketing field(currently working) in US, and a non-English speaker. I know I’m writing in English now but my English is way weaker than all others who will be my competitors when I look for a position in the legal field. I’ve seen many job openings for a legal assistant/receptionist/clerk and there’re always “great communicate skill”, “fast typing”, “perfect writing and reading skill” for the requirement. I’m willing to learn everything I need and ready for joining all associates, their events as a volunteer, and hard work in any positions but I’m not sure if it would even worth it no matter how I try. I understand the atmosphere of an attorney’s office, fast paced, no time to wait for me, everything should be correct and perfect. With my effort, I might be able to cover some part of regular administrative or office work but I’m not positive to even get in there.
I have BA back in Korea and 4 years experience at the government agency of Korea. I’ve applied for a job to see if my resume could be read but never gotten a chance for an interview. There’s a community school that provides paralegal program ABA approved and I’m thinking to start studying the following summer or fall if I decide to go for a paralegal. But I’m not confident what I have here as a non-citizen, what I can write on my resume, and if I can survive in that busy office where no one can’t be patient to wait for me get things done even though I get a job some how in the future.
The only thing that I could be a little bit better is immigration law part, because there’re a lot of immigrants from Korea getting more and I will be a lot easier to interview and translate since I’m bilingual.
I look forward to hearing from any advice and appreciate your time.
Much aloha all the way from Hawaii!
Kay Lee said:
My point is… I would be slower than others to read, write, type things in English and less understanding if I work in the legal office. Do you think I can go through it if I try hard?
And I’ve applied a lot of jobs for a year but nothing hasn’t got back. I’m working at a marketing company in Hawaii but the owner is a Korean immigrant guy so we don’t have any problem to communicate even though 40% of our customers are local.
Any reply will be appreciated!(sorry for my bad English!)
Charlene DeLong said:
2/14/2013 I, Charlene DeLong want to ask for the job of tutuoring Legal Students, or Paralegals. Send requirements even if it is only an application to: Charlene DeLong 633 East First Street Apartment # 8 Long Beach, California 90802
Mondee Hadibroto said:
I am a recent graduate of a community college with an Associates Degree in Accounting. I have also become interested in persuing a degree in Paralegal Studies. However, I am afraid I might not like the job/school once im half deep. From a few articles I have read, I can say that they all suggest Paralegal Studies to individuals whom enjoy reading, analyzing, and tedious work, not to forget administrative work as well. And that’s me! I enjoy all of the above, but I am afraid to enroll into a school, which is costly, to later find out that this was not my line of work.
Currently I have only worked regular jobs ranging from mall stores to museums, but I am striving to find the right career for me. I am 26, nearly 27, with a 2 year old daughter. I know that I have to soon find the right career that can help support my family.
Please help me with some guidance. Thank you very much in advanced!
Donna Lavecchia said:
I have my associates degree in paralegal, now everything I see wants a bachelor’s degree, I wasn’t told my the school I attended that they are not ABA approved so I couldn’t get into the college I wanted to for my bachelor’s 50K later I can’t finish my bachelor’s even though it won’t be in paralegal and I can’t find a job. I’m afraid that I am losing the knowledge I did have an this was all for nothing.
I just wanted to vent. Thank you for listening. I wish there was a way to change the laws that would require schools to give you full knowledge of what you are getting into. I wanted to be an attorney someday – my goal was to work as a paralegal in a law office and get my bachelor’s take the LSATS and go to law school. Not going to happen now.
Pingback: Article From “The Paralegal Society” | paralegal chronicles
Bryan King said:
I am currently seeking volunteer experience as a paralegal.
Well that is fine and dandy, however, it is virtually impossible to get a paralegal job, well, one that pays anyway. And after 3 years of getting no where I am done looking or trying anymore. I am over 45, have years of administrative experience, I have a BA degree and I have a paralegal certificate from an ABA approved program. It doesn’t matter, they don’t care, and they will not hire you unless you have several years of experience.
I did an internship, joined paralegal organizations, (granted I didn’t really participate that much) have taken CLE classes. I have had a few temp paralegal/legal asst. jobs, but nothing permanent or worth while. I also have gone on several interviews and the competition is fierce. For every one job you are competing with many. I have contacted every agency that specifically handles legal jobs and month after month I never hear back for a job “that suits my qualifications” I guess that I am not qualified for any job evidently. And, for every decent job advertised (i.e. large law firm) there are several agencies providing companies candidates….
I have tried to get training in other areas besides litigation (for instance real estate) but where do you go to get that training or experience?? A few hours at a seminar is not going to count to employers.
Maybe this was a profession worth getting into in the 1990’s but it definitely is not now. Unless you are young and don’t mind going to school to get paid very little, I would no recommend this career path to anyone.
Lawler Group Executive Recruiter said:
I really enjoyed your post. I have worked with some law firms looking for paralegals are these positions are very difficult to hire as it is important to follow the guidelines you had above in terms of not needing to be micromanaged and always being professional.
What if you get your foot in the door, and the people in the office are so afraid of you taking their job (because you did everything right), that they purposely blame everything on you (as the new person); then what do you do?
Mariana Fradman said:
It is a hard situation, but there are a few solutions that I can offer (and used myself at the beginning of my career). One of them is to cc yourself on all emails that are work related. That way, no one can say “I didn’t get it” or “you didn’t respond”. Second is to have a face to face talk with your supervisor. Ask him or her how you are doing, what can/need to be improved and ASK for a mentor among those who blame you. When they get to know you better, they may change. We all afraid about unknown and you are unknown right now. They see you as a threat and not as a team player. By working hand in hand, you will prove to them that you are not a threat, but a friend. If nothing changes, unfortunately, you will need to look for a better and less stressful environment. The good news is that you will get an experience on how to deal with difficult people. Good luck and keep us posted on how you are doing!
To everyone who has commented and I have not replied, my deepest apologies, it has been a busy 12 months. I am so grateful my little article has helped some better understand their struggle to become a working paralegal. I try to always keep my articles (not rants) on point based on the comments I read from others on TPS and paralegal blogs generally. To that end, for those interested in yet another reality check, I refer you to an article I wrote in February entitled: Slaying Goliaths…. which oddly enough, received no comments or discussion. Maybe I went too far with my reality? Maybe I covered all the bases and left no room for commentary? Whatever the case, I am proud of the article as for once, I wrote well and the contents is true of our profession. I hope you will go, give Slaying a gander and give me your thoughts. Thank you again for your kind comments on WANTED… are appreciated with honor to have helped.
Karen, Thank you so much for your recent article, “WANTED: Paralegal, No Experience Necessary- A Professional Reality Check:” I have always known that being a Paralegal brings with it a professionalism like no other. Being able to “hit the ground running” is essential to being a professional paralegal. Having been out of the legal field for so long makes one doubt their abilities and skills. It has taken me a long time to get over my fear of taking the next step.
I am forever grateful for invaluable information and resources contributed by other more experienced Professional Paralegals such as yourself. I truly enjoyed your article and it helped me tremendously to bring me back to reality as to what is expected of me as I embark down this road. Thank you again.
Ms. P said:
This article was enlightening! I have been a Legal Assistant for nearly 20 years. Many years ago, a friend of mine (now deceased) was a L.A. but then got her Paralegal cert and started working as a Paralegal. She hated it! She described it as all the grunt work of an attorney without the pay. Eventually, she went back to being a L.A. and was happy that she did. So I never wanted to advance to a Paralegal, even though it would mean more $$ and prestige. I was surprised when I read this article and found out that having a cert or degree in Paralegal studies is not a requirement. I would think that with the knowledge and work required of a Paralegal (I consider the profession to be one step down from an attorney) that at the very least a certificate would be necessary to even be considered for a position. In one of the law firms I worked at, the attorney to whom I was assigned used to refer to me as his “paralegal” and it felt a little disconcerting (I didn’t feel worthy of the title).
If I was asked for advice for anyone wanting to go into the legal field (other than an attorney), I would tell them to get your foot in the door–I started with a solo attorney (it was just him and me) with no experience in law, much less office experience. But it led to me working for federal government attorneys, and I look forward to retiring in a few years. Also, you must be absolutely proficient in spelling and grammar–I can’t stress that enough–in our office, I read resume letters and any of them that have even a “minor” misspelling are rejected. So those of you who are having problems getting hired–make sure your resume is PERFECT.
Karen, I thank you so much for this article. I am feeling at this very moment like everything that I went to school for to get my associates degree in paralegal studies was a waste of time. I have a 3.5 gpa and am going to graduate with honors. Now here is why I feel this way. A friend recommended an attorney’s office for me to do my internship at. Well, I spent 138 hour there and then was asked to stay while the paralegal went on vacation. I was nervous to say yes because I did not feel like I was ready to take on all the duties that she performs. It has turned out to be quite the disaster. The attorney is completely reliant on her paralegal which is to be expected, but I am still at an intern level and am now realizing what little training that I actually received during my internship. I spent the first 3 weeks cleaning out the storage shed and going through old files. 90% of my time was in their conference room with my laptop because they had no where else for me to work. As a result I got very little experience with any kind of e-filing, answering the phones, calendaring, etc. All the things that I really needed to know to take her place for a few weeks. Now as a result of that it looks like I am incapable of doing some of the things that even a entry level paralegal should know how to do. I was looking forward to using this attorney as a reference and now I think that would be a really bad idea. My self confidence has been knocked so far down, that I am wondering if this is the right field for me. If you could give me some advice on where to go from here, that would be great. I don’t want to give up before I even get started.
Thanks for the words of encouragement!
May, glad you found it helpful. Good luck, keep in touch. Karen
Has it really been 4 years ago that I wrote this article?! I am so glad people still find some help from it.
Matthew Rooyakkers said:
Yup we understand that’s it’s a professional position and you only had to mention that once. I agree that they should have some experience as a Paralegal maybe even a year or more. I realize that classroom studies are not identical to experience in the field but in regards to your question about if an employer should hire someone who doesn’t know how to do their job, of course not but you cannot state that someone who graduated from a University Paralegal program doesn’t know how to do their job, because that’s the whole reason why they take that course is to learn how to do it.
Graduates have been educated in the courts, processes, different areas of the law, some ethics, but a graduate with no prior legal exposure other than school cannot effectively sit in the seat and do the job as an individual who had prior experience, even as a file clerk, receptionist, legal secretary, etc.
Please excuse any typos,etc. Written on my phone.
This article was very precise. I am two semesters shy of getting my assoc. degree as a legal assistant. Others in my program have complained that they have been unable to find internship positions, however, when they mentioned their grades I quickly realized why they are having the problem. Luckily, I was able to obtain a paid internship with a large law firm as an assistant case manager. They were very impressed with my 3.87 GPA (which I feel I could have done better) and my office manager background. The one interviewer actually stated that they refused to meet with anyone under a 3.4 GPA. The position is promising, since they stated that they prefer to hire at intern level and progress you up the chains within the firm. As for the big dreams of having an office, well I expected to be a simple “runner” without a desk but to my surprise, I do get a cubicle. I’m so blessed to have found such a firm that provides such an opportunity to a legal assistant student.
Moral of the story is, it is tough, bu It takes commitment, and a little luck. Just don’t think your going to start at the top. Soak up every experience!
Sonwabile Edward Malangeni said:
Hi I have 1 year paralega Diploma and Conveyancing Secretary Diploma but I can’t find job
Mariana Fradman said:
It is hard to give you advise without knowing details about where you are located, what experience do you have, what types of firm are you targeting in your research. If you don’t mind, you can send your resume to email@example.com and I will see if I can assist you.
Xolani innocent said:
Hi everyone I have 3 years diplomer in paralegal and six months experiance that i was obtained to the law firm that specialize with an administration of decease estate, high and magisrate court litigation and third party claims. I’m trying to find the job but i got nothing. I’m located at Johannesburg(Soweto) so please i need help to everyone who is willing to help. my e-mail :firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to apologize in advance if I have posted on here before but I seem to have lost the records of my old posts in the ether of my inbox. I also want to apologize if this post has an overall whiny tone, I’m just feeling a bit overwhelmed with defeat right now.
I have been consistently unemployed for 9 years now. Some of it , ok most of it, was due to boneheaded moves I made in my early 20s. I have recently returned from China where I taught ESL for 3 months. I am now back at home with my parents who understandably are tired of having me around.
The people at the school that gave me my degree have given me some help but I’m starting to think the whole experience was less than worthless, that the people I spoke with before starting the program have flat out lied to me about my employablilty , ditto my obtaining a NALA certification.
I no longer have the luxury of waiting things out, I need a job and need one yesterday. Do you know of any places to search for job postings for the lower staff positions? I haven’t been able to find anything on linkdin or indeed.
I live in a rural area which means any job outside a few small local towns would require relocation, which would means I need a decent salary to make ends meet. Would the other office positions you mentioned in this article pay enough to live off of or will I need to sign up for government assistance?
Also, I feel bad for asking this but I need to know, is the fact that I’m a male going to hurt my chances? Most of the posts I see around here are by women and most of the paralegals I met at a recent conference are female. I know its not supposed to affect my chances but I know that sometimes the real world doesn’t match the way things are supposed to be.
Thanks for putting up with my little rant and thanks for any help you can offer.
Mary Bryan said:
I liked reading your post….it was really good…and you are most right about the best way to get your foot in the door is to take any position. I should know. I was a file clerk at a law firm for 3 years, and I absolutely loved it. I did try to go to school to become a paralegal at night but I found myself falling asleep in the classes. The law firm job didn’t work out for me because I have an intellectually disabled son, and at the time he was developmentally delayed. I did go to on to work for the Clerk of the Circuit Court but I was having medical issues myself. I later in 2011, took an accounting position but that was not my forte. The corporate world is hard and very unforgiving. I have tried since then to get another file clerk job but I always get turned down. I just thought I would share.