Interested on your thoughts about the direction of the paralegal field

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Comments (26)

MarissaH8637 in Clinton Township, Michigan

32 months ago

I am certified as a paralegal but left the field last year to pursue a new path in my career. As I keep reading these boards I am left feeling curious. I'll tell you why- when I look on Indeed.com and other search sites, the amount of paralegal jobs that comes up is incredibly small. For example, on Indeed last week I saw there were only 252 positions advertised when I used the search queries 'paralegal' and 'legal assistant' combined. This is for a city with nearly 3 million, and over 10 million in the nearby metro area!! It leads me to believe either a.) the paralegal profession is dead and has already had its day in the sun, or, b.) perhaps there are plenty of jobs out there but they just aren't being advertised. I hear of individuals on hear making good salaries and wonder what to believe anymore. What are your thoughts?

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MarissaH8637 in Clinton Township, Michigan

32 months ago

I should mention I used the search in the city of Chicago, just to serve as a basic example.

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MarissaH8637 in Clinton Township, Michigan

32 months ago

also it should be corrected to say 'on here', not 'on hear'

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Parafreegal in Chicago, Illinois

32 months ago

Paralegal jobs are scarce. Litigation Paralegal jobs are even more scarce.

I look on here, CB, CL and Monster. There are very few Litigation Paralegal jobs posted. I see more Corporate Paralegal jobs than anything in the Paralegal sector.

Many of the job ads are suspect, by recruiters or outright fake. If you look at today's Litigation Paralegal jobs posted here, about 20 listings come up. About 15 of those are from Robert Half. These are all likely fake and not worth a response. They stack resumes. Nothing more.

Firms just aren't hiring much. Some firms have laid off their paralegals. Some firms have outsourced their paralegals. I've heard of firms no longer paying for work I formerly did.

I've had interviews and have found that firms aren't treating candidates with much professionalism. This includes not showing up to interviews and never, ever giving you notice back in any form, even after a second interview.

If you've had any positive experiences with recruiters, I'd love to hear about it. My experience is that they're all a waste of time. I don't know how they remain in business.

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FLFamLawParalegal in Tampa, Florida

32 months ago

According to the Florida Bar News, firms are using fewer paralegals. I quote from the April 1st, 2011 edition:

"An increasing number of law firms are choosing to conduct their business without paralegals, according to The Florida Bar’s 2010 Economics and Law Office Management Survey, released last month.

Just 54 percent of respondents reported working in firms that employ paralegals, a significant decrease from 2008, when the percentage was at 63 percent, and 2006, when the percentage was at its highest, at 66 percent.

The survey also found that only 12 percent of respondents who work in firms with paralegals require certain standards or certifications of their legal assistants. The most oft-reported hiring standards included passage of the Certified Legal Assistant exam and passage of the Florida Registered Paralegal program; respondents also mentioned degrees and work experience as possible hiring requirements."

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MarissaH8637 in Clinton Township, Michigan

32 months ago

I appreciate your responses thus far. I believe a vital question for many of us certified paralegals is how we respond to the shifting market. How do we market our skills effectively when transferring to other careers? I am trying to figure out how to translate the skills I have from working as a paralegal on my resume that will translate well into the business world, in a way that is easy for prospective employers to understand. I am wondering how many of you are looking to leverage yourselves out of the field. I suspect I am not the only one in the process of this, seeing how terrible it appears to have gotten for the profession as a whole. So much for the BLS figures... it seems being a paralegal has had its day in the sun... and is on its way out.

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FLFamLawParalegal in Tampa, Florida

32 months ago

Well, this is what I think: As long as there are lawyers, they will want/need assistance, and some of that assistance will come from paralegals. It's become a very competitive, tight market, but I don't think the profession will cease to exist for some time. I am an employed certified paralegal and I don't plan on exiting this profession anytime soon. My plan is to get all of the education I can reasonably afford (and whatever education I can persuade my employer to fund), stay up-to-date in my computer skills, and build my network of contacts, legal and non-legal.

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BG in Carlsbad, California

32 months ago

FLFamLawParalegal in Tampa, Florida said:
The most oft-reported hiring standards included passage of the Certified Legal Assistant exam and passage of the Florida Registered Paralegal program; respondents also mentioned degrees and work experience as possible hiring requirements."

There is no reason to be registered or certified unless it comes with being able to practice law. Anything short of that is ludicrous.

If a person graduates from an accredited paralegal program, then they don't need a certification issued from an NON-ACCREDITED paralegal association. There is not one paralegal association that is recognized by a third-party accreditor. If they want to set educational standards for paralegals, then they need to apply for accreditation.

As someone else once suggested on this forum, we need a national union that is going to advocate our interests. We need to establish our own professional identity, instead of being relegated to the rank of surfs supervised by lawyers.

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BG in Carlsbad, California

32 months ago

FLFamLawParalegal in Tampa, Florida said: As long as there are lawyers, they will want/need assistance, and some of that assistance will come from paralegals.

Yup, sounds like a real plan, build your living and livelihood around around another profession.

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FLFamLawParalegal in Hudson, Florida

32 months ago

BG in Carlsbad, California said: There is no reason to be registered or certified unless it comes with being able to practice law. Anything short of that is ludicrous.

I respectfully disagree with that assertion, as my NALA certification had a direct bearing on the two raises I received from my last employer as well as my being hired by my current employer.

As someone else once suggested on this forum, we need a national union that is going to advocate our interests. We need to establish our own professional identity, instead of being relegated to the rank of surfs supervised by lawyers.

I like the idea of a national union.

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FLFamLawParalegal in Hudson, Florida

32 months ago

BG in Carlsbad, California said: There is no reason to be registered or certified unless it comes with being able to practice law. Anything short of that is ludicrous.

I respectfully disagree with that assertion, as my NALA certification had a direct bearing on the two raises I received from my last employer as well as my being hired by my current employer.

As someone else once suggested on this forum, we need a national union that is going to advocate our interests. We need to establish our own professional identity, instead of being relegated to the rank of surfs supervised by lawyers.

I like the idea of a national union.

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FLFamLawParalegal in Hudson, Florida

32 months ago

BG in Carlsbad, California said: Yup, sounds like a real plan, build your living and livelihood around around another profession.

My plan is to provide for my family. That is my real career. This profession has worked for me so far. When and if I can't find work as a paralegal, I will do something else. I think it is an illusion to think that any career is entirely secure.

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Parafreegal in Chicago, Illinois

32 months ago

I don't know what all the talk about paralegal associations and unions is about. If you want to work in a bigger firm, it would help greatly to have an ABA-Approved Paralegal Certificate. If you want to work in a small firm, you may not need the same. It's every man/woman for him/herself. There isn't going to be any national union or association.

Next.

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mary in Tampa, Florida

32 months ago

There are two sides of the coin. The "golden side" where you are fresh and optimistic about everything and what the future holds.

Then reality sets in. You realize you are not special or superior to anyone, paralegal training is in abundance, there are dozens of unemployed paralegals looking for work; and those that have work, worry everyday about an attorney having a pms attack and you get fired.

Being a paralegal is not akin to being an attorney - no more than being an RN is akin to being a doctor.

Paralfreegal is correct, it is every man for himself, there isn't going to be any national union or association to protect your ace and to give you some sense of job security.

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BG in Carlsbad, California

32 months ago

FLFamLawParalegal in Hudson, Florida said: I like the idea of a national union.

Me too, as in a unified organization that vigorously advocates the rights of paralegals. This is what we should all be working towards.

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FLFamLawParalegal in Hudson, Florida

32 months ago

"those that have work, worry everyday about an attorney having a pms attack and you get fired."

Mary, that is so true but so funny! That made me spit a little on my computer. :)

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paralegal in Saint Paul, Minnesota

31 months ago

Well I hope things turn out great your you. As for me, after getting an A.A.S. Paralegal, I can't say about wasting my time and money for this career. I was hired and laid off, now looking for any type of job is harder than ever. Employers want a B.A. or many years of experience...sucks when you don't have both. So if anyone out there is thinking about getting in the legal field...make sure you get your contacts first....meaning its the people you know and will be willing to train you in. Therefore, when you graduate, you have years of experiences and a degree under your belt. Good Luck people on all your career paths!!!

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sad-cindy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

31 months ago

mary in Tampa, Florida said: There are two sides of the coin. The "golden side" where you are fresh and optimistic about everything and what the future holds.

Then reality sets in. You realize you are not special or superior to anyone, paralegal training is in abundance, there are dozens of unemployed paralegals looking for work; and those that have work, worry everyday about an attorney having a pms attack and you get fired.

Being a paralegal is not akin to being an attorney - no more than being an RN is akin to being a doctor.

Paralfreegal is correct, it is every man for himself, there isn't going to be any national union or association to protect your ace and to give you some sense of job security.

Hi Mary- this is Cindy..AS you know, I had the worst time working as a paralegal...Why did I have to land in a lawfirm where the interviewing female attorney likes me and I get the job offer, only to arrive the first day and see immediatly that the 2nd female attoney does not like me and eventully sets me up after 30 days,saying I lost "her" time sheet. Total set up...why did that have to happen to me..?????

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sad-cindy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

31 months ago

Hi Mary...My paralegal life was just one nightmare after another..
Example: After flying down to Miami, FL and hand delivering resumes...I get a call that the attorney is interesteed in me..3 weeeks of lengthy phone calls (and on the phone I hear a pleasant personality) I fly down to Miami,take the interview..and get the job offer..Yes, I was late the 1st day due to a 2 day drive to Miami, and not calculating the traffic..BUt I apologed profusley and was early from then on..his personality changed when I went to work work for him.....

He would have me call the home owner company to find out when we would have insurance for the real estate closing..they say we are still working on it...I inform them of date of closing...can't close without homeowner insurance..(I know this because I worked as a mortgage loan officer 4 years) Attorney not happy and take it out on me..I tell him I will stay on top on them..

THings got worse in a matter of a few days..At end of day he is telling me I don't know anything (he is still mad 'cause not homeowner insurance, not my fault)

He starts conflict with me at end of day and I back down..I avoid conflict..just saying nothing unless he ask a specifc question..

I was fired within less than 10 days..ANd he does this when the other gal is out of office..just him and me there...He tells me he is going to call the police...I say go ahead..I want this on record that I was fired and did not just walk out on job..

It was just when I got there, he no longer lided me...I didn't have a chance in there..It was devastating..just signed a lease, furniture all moved in.. AND I AM FIRED..

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sad-cindy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

31 months ago

This was a legal secretary temp job..I had already worked as a Paralegal (my first paralegal job, for 1 year 9 months)

Simple job. We type from the dictaphone then print out our work. Everythng is going fine for a week or so...THen I hit print and went over to the printer and nothing had come out..

The Printer was on the employee legal secretary's desk. She told me that the printer was down and that they were waiting for a tech to come in and fix the printer...Myself, the other temp, and the employee are all connected to this printer. There was no other printer to connect to..

Now the Jerk Attorney starts complaining that no work is getting done..I explain to him (as he is near my desk) that the printer is down till tech gets here..We are continuing to do the work and when the printer is working, it will all print out..

Next thing I know, I get a call at my desk from the temp agency. THey ask what is going on. I explain..We are continuing to typr the work and will print when printer is working..

Agency says, unfortunately this is going to be your last day..and we are going to pull the other temp out also..

How screwed up is this..It is not our fault the printer is down..We are still typing the dictaphone work..

ANd we lose our temp jobs.

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sad-cindy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

31 months ago

THis temp assigment was at an insurance company, non-legal..I was temping whle I was still looking for my first paralegal job.

It was an easy job..Best way I can expleain it, as I forget what is iis called, is this.......When I was sending out blind resumes to law firms, I was able to make a list of all the firm and addresses on one sheet of paper, then you set up the computer so that each different law firm address comes out on your core cover letter..

Basically, on this temp assignment,I am setting the computer up the same way and I know how to do it, as it is still fresh in my mind..

Everything is going fine until one day the computer is not taking the functions...I start over in case I missed a step...No, the computer is not working right...SO I tell the supervisor. I get set up on another and boom, all is working again. The tech arrives and is working on the broken computer all day..

I get sent back to the newly fixed computer...all is well..and darn if it doesn't start acting up and not working..

So again I tell the supervisor...she says it was just fixed. I say it was working, then it stopped.. Just put on the other computer and I can finsh the work.

Now she gets nastly with me...YOU don't know what you are doing. I want you out of her now and off the premises..OR I am going to call security..

It was awful..

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Mezosub in Hawthorne, California

31 months ago

Wow. What's all this "I'm gonna call the police" stuff? That's one of the reasons I don't accept temp gigs. The clients are all crazy, otherwise they would have been able to hire and keep a permanent employee.

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tmf1977 in Yonkers, New York

31 months ago

Wow, you said it! I have to say during my nearly two year search in looking for another position my worse experiences were dealing with agencies. Abusive personalities, bait and switch, lack of communication just naming a few of the issues I dealt off the top of my head. I was lucky enough to find temp work on my own in knowing a few solos and helping them out when needed (sort of per diem work). Although I dislike my current position, I count myself as lucky that I was able to find F/T, permanent position in this awful market.

As far as this field is concern, I have to admit I do have some concerns about the direction in which the over abundance of law grads is affecting competition, especially for senior paralegal positions. However from my experience, many of these newly minted attorneys really know very little when they graduate law school. I've seen my share of mistakes made regarding procedures, missing deadlines, poor documentation of files, and even serious writing problems. Some of these kids also greatly lack communication skills and feel that they are above scanning, copying, answering phones, etc.--duties which are endemic in working in an office and consumer based industry. I’m also noticing a trend that many of these positions now require a combination of traditional paralegal work (drafting, doc review, case management) combined with administrative support (typing, phones, file management, dictation, and advance knowledge of software). I do think eventually the paralegal will eventually replace legal secretaries.

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Parafreegal in Chicago, Illinois

31 months ago

Temping can be brutal. You have the agency on one side kissing the tail of the client, likely begging them for more work or to hire people perm and probably letting them know there are replacements. Then, you have the employees at the client who can sometimes treat you like dirt. Things roll downhill. All you can do as a temp is turn off your mind to it all and try to do a good job. It's brutal.

Oh, and as far as I can tell, I see no temp work in legal in Chicago. This type of work used to be plentiful back in the day. I almost feel blacklisted because I can't even get temp work. The legal field is in severe decline in Chicago by all accounts.

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CB128 in Toms River, New Jersey

21 months ago

I worked as a secretary /legal assistant/paralegal for the same firm for 25 years and was layed off last year due to cut backs. Prior to that, my son attended school and earned a paralegal degree. At one point, we were both unemployed, competing for the same job and with only 6 months internship under his belt, it took him far longer to get calls for interviews than I did with my experience. Many firms I know don't hire degreed paralegals, but rather take a secretary with exceptional skills, and mold her into a legal assistant. With enough experience, like me, they are capable of performing a wide range of document preparation, meet with clients, and do all the things that they become entrusted with and thus, no degreed paralegal is necessary. Secondly, another trend is some firms take in paralegal interns at little to no pay and spin them out, thus getting work done essentially for free. The problem with hiring a legal assistant with my experience is my salary. They can hire someone with a 3 years experience for a lot less and depending on their needs, perhaps take in a less experienced paralegal on a p/t basis if the secretary is simply just that (not all are interested or willing to do more than type and answer phones). The other trend I see is that the younger attorneys entering the work force have computer skills and can therefore prepare their own letters, motions and pleadings, without dictating into a machine or to someone taking shorthand --they seem uncomfortable doing that when it is much easier to just write/type it out themselves, thus reducing the need for a supporting staff.

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Mezosub in Westminster, California

21 months ago

I see a lot of associates who are light on work, doing their own drafting. But their formatting never comes out right, they don't know how to work with process servers, they can't do electronic filing, they don't know how to open a new matter and run a conflicts check, they don't know how to set up a payment plan or what the firm's collections policies are, and they have no idea how to submit an expense report for processing.

So, until associates can figure out how to do all those things, the demand for experienced legal assistants will also exist.

Attorneys in general are far too lazy to be able to practice law and run the business side of the law firm at the same time. They just don't have the multi-tasking skills that it takes.

Unlike legal assistants, who can do new client intake, process an expense report, and calendar a meeting, all at the same time, while drafting a substantive response for filing with a court or a government agency.

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