Are Paralegals Respected in the Workplace?

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Psych in Fallbrook, California

64 months ago

I'm writing a psychology paper on paralegals and would like to hear from those of you whom have worked in the field.

1. Do you feel that your role as a paralegal is subservient?

2. Do you feel respected by your lawyer peers?

3. Do you feel your role is secretarial?

4. Are you ever yelled at by lawyers?

5. How long have you been working as a paralegal?

6. Are you male or female?

7. What would you like to change about your role as a paralegal?

Thank you very much.

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FLFamLawParalegal in Tampa, Florida

64 months ago

1. Do you feel that your role as a paralegal is subservient? Yes.

2. Do you feel respected by your lawyer peers? Actually, yes, most of the time.

3. Do you feel your role is secretarial? My role is to assist the attorney I work for in whatever manner they need. That is my job. Sometimes, that involves secretarial work, and I have no problem with that. Whatever gets the job done.

4. Are you ever yelled at by lawyers? I have been spoken to sharply, harshly, abruptly, and at times condescendingly. I would not use the word "yell."

5. How long have you been working as a paralegal? 5-6 years.

6. Are you male or female? Female.

7. What would you like to change about your role as a paralegal? I would like to receive more credit for my work. More appreciation at times would be nice. And I would like to experience less stress. I'm pretty sure the stress is aging me.

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

64 months ago

1. Do you feel that your role as a paralegal is subservient? Yes

2. Do you feel respected by your lawyer peers? Lawyers are not our peers. Lawyers have no respect for paralegals.

3. Do you feel your role is secretarial? Sometimes.

4. Are you ever yelled at by lawyers? Yes

5. How long have you been working as a paralegal? 12 years

6. Are you male or female? Female

7. What would you like to change about your role as a paralegal? I wish there was a career ladder, but there's not. You are either a paralegal or you're not.

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FLFamLawParalegal in Tampa, Florida

64 months ago

I misunderstood the term "lawyer peers." I guess I just thought the person who posted the survey was referring to the "human totem pole," not the "legal totem pole." The response of the other two persons who posted replies to the survey question caused me to look up the definition of the word "peer." One that is of equal standing with another; equal; especially: one belonging to the same societal group especially based on age, grade or status.

So, to clarify, my understanding of the question was, do I feel respected by the lawyers I work with and for - and the answer remains, yes, most of the time. Not always, of course. Sometimes the attorney(s) I work with can be very oblivious to common courtesies. In all honesty, though, if I were the main person responsible for the cases we work on, if it were my head that was number one on the chopping block if the case went awry - I don't know what that would do to me. I might be even less polite than they are!

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FLFamLawParalegal in Tampa, Florida

64 months ago

It sounds like you really had some unpleasant experiences while you were working as a paralegal. It definitely is a difficult profession for many, including me. It must have been very discouraging for you have the relationship you had with your employer unfavorably contrasted with a "lawyer-lawyer" relationship. The relationship of any employer with a subordinate is significantly different - and it has to be in order for the relationship to fulfill its purpose.

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FLFamLawParalegal in Tampa, Florida

64 months ago

"I learned the hard way that employer-subordinate relationships should be friendly but kept very much at arm's length."

I wholeheartedly agree with this comment!! I have learned this as well. I would also add - reveal as little about yourself as possible. Don't talk about your personal life at all. However, listen when your employer talks about his or her personal life. It's always good to know as much about them as possible and for them to know as little about you as possible. Particularly in a law office, where the balance of power is so ruthlessly tilted in the attorney's favor, paralegals need not sacrifice the right to privacy and personal discretion. Further, maintaining a friendly but private and detached persona makes it more difficult for attorneys to be bullies - not impossible of course, just more difficult. It's no fun to bully someone who calmly refuses to be suckered into a fight. It's like running a car into a snowbank.

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tmf1977 in Yonkers, New York

64 months ago

I'm writing a psychology paper on paralegals and would like to hear from those of you whom have worked in the field.

1. Do you feel that your role as a paralegal is subservient?

Yes/No - really depends on the firm or GC. I've worked in positions where paralegals sat in on attorney meetings, met with clients, and the paras played a significant part during the discovery and trial process. I was also a manager at one point during my career. The last job I had however (prior to being downsized) the GC had no regard for her support staff whatsoever and it was frustrating. I actually started a job hunt three months before it was announced that the company was downsizing. This was during 2008, height of the Great Recession.

2. Do you feel respected by your lawyer peers?

You mean lawyers and peers? Answer is yes; I have been very fortunate to have only worked at two places where there was not any mutual respect. One was a temp position from hell, but the attorney treated everyone there terribly, including her own peers, and my last position with the condescending GC. Between temp, internship, and F/T, I managed to work for six different positions within a 15 yr period. Two out six isn't bad.

3. Do you feel your role is secretarial?

No; Only one position I had felt under-utilized and under-valued was at my last position before I was downsized.

4. Are you ever yelled at by lawyers?

Yeah; but I don't take it personal. Sometimes being on trial or dealing with clients who are not forthright is frustrating. I do however receive a sincere apology afterwards.

5. How long have you been working as a paralegal?

15 years

6. Are you male or female?

F

7. What would you like to change about your role as a paralegal?

Perhaps less gray area; would be sweet if the ABA allowed paras to handle some tasks independently, sort of how Solicitors in the UK are licensed to handle lower court matters.

Thank you very much.

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tmf1977 in Yonkers, New York

64 months ago

Let me better clarify: all office work entails administrative/secretarial work (copying, filing, scanning, typing, and answering phones--it's endemic to the nature of white collar work). I would however only consider a position as "secretarial" if the only responsiblities required where creating and maintaining files, taking messages, copying, scanning, and transcribing stuff.

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

64 months ago

Go ask some attorneys if they think paralegals are their peers. Or go read some of the attorney blogs and see what they say about any of the non-attorneys ("staff") in their office.

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FLFamLawParalegal in Tampa, Florida

64 months ago

Actually, I have to make a comment here because I had a rather nice experience in the office this week - one of the fairly new attorneys in our firm lost his assistant and so other support personnel have been helping the attorney out with various things. He very humbly admitted that he was basically lost procedurally without his assistant. The partners in the firm told this attorney that he had to do his scheduling, etc. because he needs to learn these things and he could not get a new assistant for a week. He did not know how to schedule his own hearing, he did not know who to call or when, and he was very flustered. He thanked us profusely for our help (which is our job, but it was still very pleasant to hear). I only point this out because support staff are often unappreciated but every once in a while, attorneys will surprise you. This attorney is very young and I am old enough to be his mom. (Well, maybe her teen mom.) I actually feel a little protective of her. Another attorney in the office, she was initially the clerk to the attorney I work for, and the attorney made me responsible for proofing the clerk's work and training the clerk and sending the clerk to get us food, make copies, etc. Now that clerk is an attorney, but I still have a warm relationship with her. I don't think I would use the word "peer" in these situations, but my point is that relationships between attorneys and staff are not always adversarial. In an ideal world, it would be a mutually respectful, rewarding relationship. Alas, this is not an ideal world.

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FLFamLawParalegal in Tampa, Florida

64 months ago

I just noticed that I screwed up the genders in my previous post. Sorry about that. The genders don't really matter that much. Ha ha ha

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FLFamLawParalegal in Tampa, Florida

64 months ago

And the attorneys who deal heavy-handedly with the court division clerks usually get a rude awakening when the judges the court division clerks work for squash them like little bugs in Court. Hee hee - a smart paralegal and a smart attorney will cultivate the court division clerks and judicial assistants like roses in a well-tended garden. Those people are valuable to have in your corner.

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