This is a humorous and sarcastic blog written by a paralegal in a mid-sized law firm in a mid-tier market. The goal is to share some of the pitfalls and foibles encountered in my own day-to-day experiences. Feel free to contact me at aparalegalslife@gmail.com with comments. Complaints, not so much :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Do I? Really?

SoYouWanna be a Paralegal?

Whoo boy, here we go again....
So you're finishing college and your life plans don't extend much beyond dinner. Join the club. If you wanna kill some time before applying to grad school or just make enough money to avoid moving in with your parents, you should consider working as a paralegal for a few years, because if you have a college degree and decent grades, you're qualified to be an entry-level paralegal.

Umm... yeah... 'cause that's how all of us end up "living the dream" in the lower half of Big Law.  Truth be told, I fell into this profession after other plans collapsed.  But many of us didn't serve in the purgatory of college.  I immediately resent the implication that being a good paralegal requires a particular level of education.  All it REALLY requires is intelligence, patience, and more than a little anal-retentive organization skill.
Some paralegal positions require a paralegal certificate, a diploma you get after taking an accredited course in paralegal studies. But these certificates, and the positions that require them, are mostly for people who wish to be career paralegals. So don't fear -- there are plenty of positions available for recent college grads that don't require a paralegal certificate.

True, some firms will require a certification before you can work there.  Those firms should be avoided unless you have no other choice for employment.  A firm requiring formal certification prior to employment is being unfairly discriminatory.  Speaking from experience, it is possible, nay likely, that great candidates could slip through their fingers because they value certification over education and/or experience. 
1. Make Sure You Really Want The Job.
Duh. I really wanted to be a male stripper, but since those jobs are hard to come by I'll apply for a low-paying menial job shuffling some overpaid asshole's papers instead, since that's nearly as good.
Legal work can be thrilling, spiced with the intrigue of courtroom drama and back-room dealing -- but not for a paralegal. Let's be serious. Paralegals exist to make lawyers look good.
Wow.  A kernel of truth at last. 
As a paralegal, you will perform administrative tasks such as filing, retrieving and organizing documents, photocopying, and the ever-popular numbering of pages. Depending on the employer, when taking a break from hole-punching, you may get to participate in more glamorous tasks such as interviewing witnesses or drafting legal documents.
Interviewing witnesses and drafting legal documents is glamorous???  Whuck???
What are the benefits of being a paralegal?
First of all, the experience may help you figure out what to do with your life. For instance, it might help you decide:
  • Whether you want to be a career paralegal.
  • Whether you want to go to law school.
  • Whether you want to avoid the legal profession entirely.
Second, being a paralegal might help you get into law school. Admissions officers may think that your experience as a paralegal demonstrates that you have carefully considered your decision to enter the field.
Years of reading Above the Law have taught me that law schools will admit pretty much anyone with a pulse. 

The article goes on for a while longer to tell us some of the obvious things we all know.  Like not blowing the job interview.  (Wow, that never crossed my mind.) 

To be fair, there's some good advice in there for those brand-new to the profession.  Overall it's one of the better variants on this theme.  They oversimplify things, but don't sugar-coat them too much.  I'd certainly send this link to anyone interested in this profession.


Elizabeth said...

In Cali you have to have a certificate or degree (AA okay) in paralegal studies. OR you can become a paralegal after you have worked a year in a law office with a BA or BS. Unless of course you're grandfathered in by having worked 3+ years prior to 2003 and have received a declaration from that supervisitng attorney. Unfortunately it does limit who we can hire. Last year when we were looking to hire another paralegal we struggeled because a lot of people didn't have the aforementioned which is required here. We ended up hiring a new attorney who just passed the bar. Upsetting because I'm sure those paralegals who didn't meet the CA requirements knew a helluva lot more about law than this kid does..... sigh.

Grumpy Humbug said...

Ewww. That's pretty unfair. At least CA does have some formal requirements, here any bonehead can use the title regardless of education or experience.

Purple Paralegal said...

No requirements in Texas. I'm not sure if that's good or not. I know of several paralegals who never received formal education in paralegal studies; just years of on the job training.

I opted to get my AAS in Paralegal Studies and then transferred to a university to get my BS in Paralegal Studies. Only 18 hours to go....

Most firms in Dallas require some type of BS or BA and certification but that's for the high stress complex litigation jobs. I'll just stick to Fort Worth (we're more laid back than Dallas)

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