So You Want To Be A Paralegal?

Posted on | August 12, 2010 | 7 Comments

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I have had several Paralegal schools contact me asking if they can get a link from this site to their school so that Paralegal students could see what they will be doing after graduation.  I have mixed feelings about that, and so far have said no to the links.

I don’t want to feel like I have to censor myself and make the students run scared, but at the same time, my website is probably the best education they can get since some schools are not worth the time or money.  I know my school was a complete joke.

Here is my advice to anyone thinking they want to be a Paralegal.

1.  The Paralegal Certificate– some positions require certification from an ABA Paralegal school.  I happen to have one of these ( where it is, I have no idea), but for the most part there are positions that will hire you without legal training.  You will get less pay, but you won’t be up to your eyeballs in paying back student loans for your Paralegal certification.  If you do want a certificate, make sure you go to an ABA accredited school.  Check out American Bar Association for a list of schools in your area.

2. Do you REALLY want to be a Paralegal? This is not Law and Order, The Practice, LA Law or any other shows you watch on tv.  Legal work can be exciting, but Paralegal’s exist to make the lawyer’s look good.  End of story.

3. So What Will You Job Description Be? HA!  You can look this up on the American Bar site, but it doesn’t tell you what you truly will be doing.  For one, read my whole blog.  If that hasn’t scared you away, then let me tell you more.  If you are just starting out, you will do everything from answer phones, take out trash, run to Starbucks for the lawyers, pick up drycleaning, and do some legal work they throw your way.  Will you get help if there are other Paralegals in the firm?  It just depends.  I always helped out newbies, but you need to watch your back.  There are some who are pissed you are there and will not help you one bit.

What kind of legal work you do depends on what law firm you will be working for.  In a nutshell you will opening case files, making sure you have everything that the lawyer needs for the client, doing all of the motions, orders, etc and get your lawyer to sign his name, and send things to the court or opposing counsel.  You will be best friends with the court coordinators or the clerks.  BIG MISTAKE- DO NOT PISS THESE PEOPLE OFF. They can help you out when your lawyer screws up and needs something filed in 10 minutes.  If you are in Bankruptcy, do NOT piss of anyone in the trustee’s office.

4.  What Are The Benefits Of Being A Lawyer’s Bitch? If you want to go to Law school, then being a Paralegal will help you.  You will know more than the the rest of your first year classmates- trust me.

Then there are the rest of us, who love our jobs, even though we get lousy pay, no benefits (if you are in a small firm) and no vacation.  We are the Mighty, the Strong, and the one’s with Anxiety Disorders :)

5.  What Is The Pay? Lousy.  Seriously, as much as we do during the day, we don’t get paid enough.  Period.

Salaries are going to vary from state to state, and the economy isn’t helping right now.  Currently, the entry level postion is about $21,000.  However, if you work for a big firm you may get more, but you will also be at the big firms mercy.  You will be expected to work long hours (while the attorneys play golf), come in on the weekends (while the attorneys play golf) and if there is a big case, you aren’t going home until everything is ready for the attorney to go to trial.  Do you get paid overtime for this?  No.  It is part of your job.

6. The Bonus Structure- Will you get a Bonus?  That depends, again, on who you work for.  When the ecomony was great, I would get a nice Christmas bonus for all my hard work.  Now- I am serious about my tamale and cookie bonus.  That is all I get.

7.  Will I Be Appreciated? Not really, no.  If you are a person who needs constant validation, then this in NOT the job for you.  Your attorney’s do appreciate what you do, but most of the time it will never be verbalized.

8.  Is Being A Paralegal Stressful? Well, I am not on Anxiety Medication just for the fun of it.  Check out this post from Empowered Paralegal about the stress of the job: http://theempoweredparalegal.com/?p=1260

9.  Do I Need A Sense Of Humor? Dear Lord, yes.  Either that or a well stocked bar when you get home.

Paralegal

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Comments

7 Responses to “So You Want To Be A Paralegal?”

  1. AW (Aimless)
    August 13th, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

    Being a paralegal in the US sounds a lot different to what a paralegal in the UK is expected to do… at least in terms of your point on job description!

  2. Paralegal
    August 13th, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

    I would love to hear how the jobs differ from each other…

  3. GrumpyHumbug
    August 13th, 2010 @ 11:47 pm

    same here, always interested to find out what the other side of the pond is up to.

  4. AW (Aimless)
    August 13th, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

    Being a paralegal in the US sounds a lot different to what a paralegal in the UK is expected to do… at least in terms of your point on job description!

  5. ParalegalHell
    August 13th, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

    I would love to hear how the jobs differ from each other…

  6. GrumpyHumbug
    August 13th, 2010 @ 11:47 pm

    same here, always interested to find out what the other side of the pond is up to.

  7. So You Want To Be A Paralegal? |
    August 13th, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

    […] So You Want To Be A Paralegal? Posted on August 13, 2010 by Paralegal Grumpy Humbug had great answers to my post. […]

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