Posted on | June 10, 2011 | 15 Comments
I never dreamt of being a paralegal. I’ve told this story before, but I was a teacher before I got into the legal field. I left due to extreme burnout. I had no idea that the stats on paralegal burnout were very similar to teachers.
So here I sit today, entrenched in the legal system, enjoying all its glory. So let me tell you my top 10 things that (really) suck about being a paralegal (from pretty bad to worst):
Stress: Its not the kind of stress of meeting a deadline. Or the fact that your boss may have lost his brain at birth. It’s the fact that all your work is (1) urgent and (2) of vital importance. If you screw up the world will certainly end. And that’s just the contract for the copy machine in the work room.
Not really fun: No matter how much you might believe its like “The Practice”, “Law and Order” or (even more bizarrely) Ally McBeal, the legal world is nothing like that portrayed in Hollywood. Most paralegals spend their days writing letters to the OC threatening them with some well thought out sarcasm, or if they are lucky, proofreading a 200 page document that needs to be sent out 30 minutes ago. Most paralegals do not even see the courtroom. I was lucky enough to start in criminal law and my attorney would let me in on the jury selection, but that is not standard practice. If you are getting into this field because you want courtroom drama, save yourself money, get into another field and tape Judge Judy.
Most politicians are lawyers: This is who you will be working for. Need I say more?
“Non paralegal” interaction: Paralegals don’t walk around all day talking to each other. We are usually to busy buried in our own paperwork and eat lunch at our desk. The only time I usually interact with my “peers” is if there is an emergency and I need to bail someone out or during one of our crappy staff meetings.
Paper: Closely related to 7 above (you see, I cant even write this without referencing it like a paralegal), is the fact that there is paper everywhere. In this day and age of the paperless environment, lawyers still manage to bury themselves, and you, under mountains of paperwork. The reason – just in case your boss needs to litigate one day, you need to ensure that you have copies of EVERYTHING. Whether its relevant or not, a lawyer must keep everything. I’m sure I even have some “Post Its” with invaluable tidbits stuck away somewhere in a CYA box.
People believe you want to talk about the law all day: I’m sure this applies to all professions, but I really couldn’t care less about the latest trial on the abuse of lemurs in Madagascar or that the lawyer in your divorce case was really nasty and brought up that thing where you got arrested for running around naked in your local strip mall. And no, I can not give you legal advice on your speeding ticket (see #3 below) or draw up your child support waiver for free. Stop asking.
Aggression: Most of the day as a paralegal you get to either (1) take abuse from a client or (2) take abuse from the OC, or your boss (if you work for a bad attorney). There are good attorneys out there that would never do this to their paralegal, but sadly, I must mention number 2 because I have worked with bad attorneys before. One was so awesome that he would throw his shoes at me. Good times!
Speeding Ticket advice: No matter what, if people find out you are a paralegal they will approach you for advice about their speeding tickets.
Reading lots of documentation: This wonderful task takes up 50% of my day. I get to read page after page of boring legal wording.
Meetings: I hate meetings. Nothing constructive comes from them. Tell me what you want in a memo and I’ll get it done. Don’t waste my time in a one hour meeting when everything you said could have been sent in an email. Thanks.
Happy Friday Everyone!