10 Things That Sucks About Being A Paralegal

Posted on | June 10, 2011 | 15 Comments

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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!


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15 Responses to “10 Things That Sucks About Being A Paralegal”

  1. 10 Things That Sucks About Being A Paralegal : | The law and You
    June 10th, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

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  2. Corporate Paralegal
    June 10th, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

    #3 – You are so right on!  What is it about that?

  3. Paralegal
    June 10th, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

    I don’t know! I get it a lot though.

  4. Christy
    June 10th, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

    So, so true!  I am lucky in that I do not have an asshole for a boss.  #3 is right on, #4, #6…I hate being yelled out by a client when they don’t get a phone call back when they think they should.  What am I supposed to do about it?? He’s my BOSS, I can’t yell at him for you!

  5. Paralegal
    June 10th, 2011 @ 5:35 pm

    I know. Sometimes I get so pissed at the same client calling about a problem and the attorney not responding that I threaten to give out his cell number the next time the client calls. That usually works.

  6. anonymous
    June 10th, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

    Your list is dead one, except I’d like to see this one on this:

    Recognition – you get none. As a paralegal, if you do a great job, your attorney takes the credit.  If your attorney screws up, the paralegal takes the fall.  Closely related to items 8, 9 and 10.

  7. Paralegal
    June 10th, 2011 @ 5:32 pm

    How about we make that one #11 :)

  8. Nikki
    June 10th, 2011 @ 5:25 pm

    The Stress! The anxiety actually wakes me up at night.

    I’ve never been asked about speeding tickets, but I have been asked how to get out of contracts.

  9. Paralegal
    June 10th, 2011 @ 5:33 pm

    I hear you! I am not on anti-anxiety meds for fun

  10. Grumpy Humbug
    June 10th, 2011 @ 5:45 pm

    Doesn’t matter how many times I tell some people “I can’t give you legal advice, that’s against the law”, they keep trying.  Sigh.

  11. OldParalegal
    June 10th, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

    Oh SO true.  I don’t get asked about speeding tickets but I get asked A LOT about DomRel.  No one believes I don’t know ANYTHING about it.  After 2 repeats of “I don’t know, maybe you should consult an attorney”, I generally offer to discuss the concept of admissibility of subsequent remedial measures, which I know a lot about, but no one seems interested.

  12. Grumpy Humbug
    June 10th, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

    I can lapse into a lecture on preference actions in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, despite being out of that practice group for years.  Nothing drives away a layman faster short of weaponry.

  13. Paralegal
    June 12th, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

    See- I would love that topic! I am so bizarre.

  14. Paralegal
    June 30th, 2011 @ 2:54 am

    The Office Manager is often your boss on paper, yet your real bosses are they lawyers.  You are often much more educated than your office manager, yet you are treated as “staff”.

  15. Biff Trumpet
    July 8th, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

    Yes.  That is really lame.  The office manager is often a glorified secretary who doesn’t even know what paralegals are doing — yet they are your boss.  Not only are we doing work lawyers do, we are managed by a secretary.

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