(Closed) Anyone a paralegal? I need advice

posted 5 years ago in Career
Post # 3
Member
3778 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

I’m not a paralegal, but I did major in Criminal Justice in college. I just wanted to say that real life is nothing like Law and Order. At all.

Post # 5
Member
3778 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

@LadyBlackheart:  I was just overwhelmed at the amount of people in my classes with me who didn’t understand that autopsies take longer than an hour and tox screens don’t come back in 5 minutes lol

Post # 6
Member
547 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2013

@LadyBlackheart:  I’m an attorney, so I’m not sure how helpful this will be but I’ll try. Any job posting for a paralegal I’ve seen requests a “certified” paralegal. Many but not all places look for experience. As far as what you’d be doing on a daily basis–I think that would really depend on the office. Any office I’ve worked in, the paralegals mainly dealt with the attorney they were assigned to–not the clients. The ones I’ve worked with spent a lot of the time on the computer. That said, it’s probably not unheard of in smaller offices for the paralegal to also have duties that include talking on the phone, interacting with clients, etc. 

Post # 7
Member
10366 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: September 2010

My mom is a paralegal, and only has a certificate. She has said that it is much easier to get into the field with a 4-year degree in it instead of just the certificate, though (she started in the profession about 7 years ago).

My mom spends zero time with clients. She spends all her time doing things for her attorneys and sweet talking people when things are needed for cases.

Make sure you live in an area with a thriving legal community, as well. The economic downturn was not kind to the legal profession. I know a lot of legal jobs were lost in the San Fran area that have not come back. It’s a challenging time for both law school and lower level position grads.

Post # 8
Member
279 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2014 - Muhlhauser Barn

I’m a real estate paralegal on the commercial loan side of things. I do have my bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies, as well as a master’s degree in criminal justice that I will probably never get any use out of. When I started searching for jobs after graduation (back in 2006), I found that there were a lot more legal secretary jobs than paralegal jobs available for people who had the education (yes, a certificate would have qualified), but not the experience. I lucked out getting my job without any experience, as I was working in the mail room at this company while finishing up school & had to intern in our legal department for the final quarter of school. A month after I finished my internship a spot opened up in the real estate department & they asked me if I would be interested in the job. I think a lot of paralegal programs do require an internship, so that may be your best “in” for finding a job.

As for working with clients, etc. my case is a little different since I work with commercial real estate rather than criminal law or family law, so I don’t work with clients often… instead I spend most of my day communicating via email or on the phone with attorneys & correspondents around the country. It’s not the most interesting job in the world, it can get a little routine/boring, but the pay & benefits are decent & I met my Fiance at work (he works in a different department), so it’s not a bad gig!

Post # 9
Member
839 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2014

@LadyBlackheart:  I’m an attorney in a mid-sized firm. Our paralegals do nothing but research all day, and will occasionally go to the court house to file a petition (not as exciting as it sounds, you just take it to the clerk desk, she stamps it, and you leave). Our paralegals do absolutely nothing with the clients, except some secretarial type work, like occasionally calling the clients to set up appointments. Paralegals are not allowed to give legal advice, so they don’t interact with clients much. They get assignments from the attorneys, and send them in when they’re done.

We don’t hire paralegals that aren’t certified (except we do have one paralegal that isn’t technically certified, but completed her first year of law school and had to quit for fianancial reasons).

I’ll be honest, most people I know who are paralegals don’t like it that much. Basically they do all the stuff that the attorneys don’t want to do for 15 bucks an hour.

 

And, I cannot stress how unrealistic Law and Order is, and not just because the legal system is slower. The day to day activities in a law firm are super boring.

Post # 10
Member
3572 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2011

@LilliePad:  +1 

I would recommend trying to become a legal secretary first.   

Post # 11
Member
1130 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

It really depends on what state you’re in and what type of law you want to be involved in. Do you want a small firm or big firm? I’ve worked at a small, civil rights employment law firm (MD) and a large corporate firm (DC). Very different experiences. If I wanted to be a paralegal when I move to CA, I really need a certificate, which sucks since I’m obviously experienced. I’m applying to different types of jobs with firms now, as well as other very different jobs.

It’s a lot of hard work and long hours. Some places pay well, others don’t. There is a lot of research and tedious tasks involved (many of which have nothing to do with knowing anything about the law) and you will probably lose a chunk of your social life if you work for a busy firm.

That being said, the pay can be good and the benefits too, but I’m not looking to be a career paralegal, so I’m not going to encourage it, but I will try to be as honest as possible if you want to PM me with any questions.

Post # 12
Member
133 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

@LadyBlackheart:  I am a legal assistant/paralegal in the securities department at a fairly major firm in my city.  The term “paralegal” is a little generic since there are so many different areas of law to work in and the duties and tasks differ from area to area.  Most reputable firms will require certification of some kind in order for you to be competative for a position, but you will likely have to do a practicum or internship which is a great foot in the door if you are lacking experience.

 

I love my job!  I find the work I do to be interesting and I get to see a good variety of things come across my desk.  The lawyers I work with are always challenging me and always teaching me and I work very closely with them.  I have some interaction with clients, email or phone calls mostly, but some meetings as well.  It is definitely not a large part of my work.

 

I would suggest you do some research for what the legal industry is like in your area before making a decision like this.  Maybe arrange some informational interviews with paralegals in the areas of law you think you may be interested in.  You may also want to consider working for companies with their own in-house legal department, but those tend to be harder to get into when lack of experience is an issue.

Post # 13
Member
2515 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: December 2011

@crayfish:  +1 to researching your area first. i work at an environmental law firm in the SF bay area and we laid off half our staff over the last 4 years (last person laid off was a year ago). we’re down to 10 people and are not hiring any time soon.

the paralegal at our firm doesn’t interact with clients at all. as far as interaction, it’s mostly just with the attorneys and calling court clerks for info. she does a lot of research. there are certain court districts that have midnight filing deadlines so she works really late occasionally. she also does a lot of legal secretary work because our legal secretary is completely useless (i also do a lot of that person’s work). our paralegal actually went to law school but then decided she didn’t want to be a lawyer (although she said she might in the future). i think the most important thing is to find what area of law interests you. a lot of it can be really boring unless it’s of interest to you. can you take a class to see how you feel about it?

Post # 14
Member
244 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: December 2012

I’ve been working part time as a legal assistant for about 2 years and honestly it’s rather boring.  You are doing the stuff that the attorney doesn’t want to/can’t do.  It’s basically sitting at a computer all day calling debtors, filing motions, etc.

Post # 15
Member
4524 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2014

@LadyBlackheart:  My very good friend is paralegal but working on her certs while working the actual job.  She really enjoys it and really enjoys the schooling. She works for a divorce/family law attorney and always has pretty crazy stories…but she is always complaining about the pay. I guess it took her like 2 years to get a $1500 raise.

Post # 16
Member
10366 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: September 2010

I will also say that the salary also varies widely depending on where you live. I know my mom makes about $73k a year (includes some overtime, though) which is more than double what a previous bee posted. She has about 7 years experience and works for an Oakland, CA (San Fran bay area) firm.

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