The real truth about the Paralegal Profession

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Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Over the last few months, I have been looking into returning back to the Paralegal profession. Previously, I worked in several law firms as a Paralegal. However, it has been about 7 years since I actually did the work of a Paralegal. I wanted to get some current information about the profession and wondered upon this site. I have to say that after reading the many hundreds of comments about the paralegal profession I am a little taken back about what people have to say about it. I must admit, that when I was a paralegal, though not the greatest job in the world, it certainly wasn't the worst. But after reading all the negative entries, I am really having second thoughts. I do realize that the majority of the comments are from the same few people and certainly do not represent, what I would consider, the feelings of all paralegals. I would like to ask the majority of the paralegal population, how they feel about the profession. Is it really that bad?

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

65 months ago

I've been in the profession 10 years and it's changed during that time. Clients are very very picky about what they will and won't pay for. Billing guidelines are just so strict. During my first years, that wasn't the case. A case could be worked up however the attorneys and paraglegals wanted and needed to work it up. Not anymore.

Now you think, I should organize that box of materials sitting there, but the client won't pay for that, so what else can I call it and you have to get creative and even lie about it... or you do it and don't bill your time ...or you just don't do it.

Another change is the move to a paperless environment.

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Jane Do Girl in Pensacola, Florida

65 months ago

As you noted, the majority of the content on this forum comes from just a few posters, most of whom are no longer active in the legal profession. If you want a more objective viewpoint, you should check out the LAT ListServe: www.legalassistanttoday.com/lat-forum/default.htm The members of that list are legal professionals across the country in diverse practice areas and will probably give you a much more balanced view point.

Take what you read here with a heavy dose of salt.

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dorian in New York, New York

65 months ago

Before you return you should brush up on your grammar and punctuations skills.

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Legalmagic5 in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Thank you, Dorian of New York, for your insightful reply. I would think you would have more constructive input about the profession, however it appears you may have just to much time on your hands. I would strongly encourage you to take a look at your own writing skills before you judge others. Please keep this Forum in perspective. People are not submitting literary masterpieces. It is all very "Informal", and many mistakes are made. I can assure you my grammar and punctuation skills are excellent. Now, if you have first hand knowledge about the paralegal profession, I would enjoy reading it. If not, then maybe it would behoove you to abuse the comments made in the English Jobs Forum.

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Legalmagic5 in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Jane Do Girl in Pensacola, Florida said: As you noted, the majority of the content on this forum comes from just a few posters, most of whom are no longer active in the legal profession. If you want a more objective viewpoint, you should check out the LAT ListServe: www.legalassistanttoday.com/lat-forum/default.htm The members of that list are legal professionals across the country in diverse practice areas and will probably give you a much more balanced view point.

Take what you read here with a heavy dose of salt.

Thank you for input. This is what I am looking for, a more objective view of the paralegal field.

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Legalmagic5 in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Paralegal in Dallas, Texas said: I've been in the profession 10 years and it's changed during that time. Clients are very very picky about what they will and won't pay for. Billing guidelines are just so strict. During my first years, that wasn't the case. A case could be worked up however the attorneys and paraglegals wanted and needed to work it up. Not anymore.

Now you think, I should organize that box of materials sitting there, but the client won't pay for that, so what else can I call it and you have to get creative and even lie about it... or you do it and don't bill your time ...or you just don't do it.

Another change is the move to a paperless environment.

I can tell you billing hasn't changed that much over time. I also had to explain to both to the client and supervising attorney why I was billing the amount of time I indicated on my billing sheets. As to the paperless enviornment, this is something that is new and I certainly need to learn more about. Thanks.

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

65 months ago

Also, there are a lot of layoffs happening in the field - attorneys and staff.

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Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Legalmagic5 in Los Angeles, California said: Thank you, Dorian of New York, for your insightful reply. I would think you would have more constructive input about the profession, however it appears you may have just to much time on your hands. I would strongly encourage you to take a look at your own writing skills before you judge others. Please keep this Forum in perspective. People are not submitting literary masterpieces. It is all very "Informal", and many mistakes are made. I can assure you my grammar and punctuation skills are excellent. Now, if you have first hand knowledge about the paralegal profession, I would enjoy reading it. If not, then maybe it would behoove you to abuse the comments made in the English Jobs Forum.

When I said, "take a look at your own writing skills before you judge others", Displaced Legal Profession is a little more specific. You may want to read it.

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Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Maybe the best way to answer your question is with a few questions.

1) Why did you stop being a paralegal?

2) Why do you want to go back to it? That is a big "why."

3) Would you better yourself if you went back to paralegal or would you be better off staying put with what you're now doing?

Ask yourself these questions. Your answers may help guide your decision.

A lot has changed in the legal industry since you've been away, especially in terms of technology. E.g., more industry-oriented software. Electronic court case filing, which can be a godsend and a nightmare. Godsend because you can e-file pleadings 24/7 and neither worry about racing to court at day's end to file pleadings yourself nor worry a courier will be late. Nightmare because e-filing gives attorneys another excuse to procrastinate and keep you past time.

Attorneys would be the same as you would remember. Something you should bear in mind if you're considering going back. You know that so many attorneys are rude, abrupt, acerbic and disrespectful, and unreasonably demanding while rarely thanking you. I wouldn't know how about your normal workday when you were a paralegal, but rest assured you'll still bust your ass and put in more time than you'll be paid for, especially if you go back to WC.

BTW you have terrific quals, especially for WC. I've nearly seven years in claimants' WC and plaintiffs' PI.

Finally,

"Before you return" is a prepositional phrase. Some stylebooks say a comma belongs after "return." There should be no "s" at the end of "punctuation." Judge not, lest ye be judged, my friend.

Excellent points! These very 3 points have crossed my mind on many occasions. I often ask my self point #2 many times, "Why?" I just needed some confirmation. Thanks As dealing with attorneys, you hit it on the head, they are not the best type of people to work for. Good advice!

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Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Paralegal in Dallas, Texas said: Also, there are a lot of layoffs happening in the field - attorneys and staff.

In today's economy, what field/industry offers any type of security? I am sure it is the same situation, here, in Los Angeles. Thanks for the info.

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Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Concomitant with layoffs, few paralegal openings, at least around here, anyway. Something else to consider, legalmagic5, if you're trying to get back in.

Absolutely! The last thing I want to do is make a commitment only to have little or no opportunity.

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Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Really. I also have probate, estate planning and elder law experience. Those specialties have their "types" as well.

I really think that with your quals you can do much better than be a WC paralegal.

I agree, however California State Law has changed drastically since the last time I worked as a WC paralegal. I would have to learn it all over again.

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Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Really. I also have probate, estate planning and elder law experience. Those specialties have their "types" as well.

I really think that with your quals you can do much better than be a WC paralegal.

True! I have several friends working in Estate Planning and Probate. They enjoy it because it doesn't involve a lot of litigation.

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Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Probably not as much you think. The basics don't change. At least around here, a few things would change from time to time, such as IME procedures, IME physician selection procedures, etc. The Division tweaked forms from time to time. Otherwise, no drastic changes in the nearly seven years I worked in Comp. Go to a CLE and you would be up to date.

That said, here again, you should consider very carefully whether you really want to go back to working for lawyers. Working for lawyers and everything it implies will never change, though lawyers are becoming more self supporting and need less help.

When Schwarzenegger became govenor, he completely revamp the entire WC system. Particularly the basics. Needless to say, some small things have remained in place, but for me to go back into WC, I would have to learn it as if I was never in it before.

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Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: It doesn't, but some estate planning and elder law attorneys I've known have their own issues. Also, contested conservatorships/guardianships can be highly acrimonious - sometimes more so than the standard garden variety PI case.

I am sure every area of the law has it's ups and downs. It is just the nature of the beast. I can tell you now that I have had a chance to look at various aspects of the profession, I do not think this would be the appropriate avenue for me at this time.

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Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California said: I am sure every area of the law has it's ups and downs. It is just the nature of the beast. I can tell you now that I have had a chance to look at various aspects of the profession, I do not think this would be the appropriate avenue for me at this time.

I do have a question for you Displaced Legal Profession, what are you doing now? Are you looking to get back into it?

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

65 months ago

Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California said: In today's economy, what field/industry offers any type of security? I am sure it is the same situation, here, in Los Angeles. Thanks for the info.

Well, now, if your paralegal experience is in bankruptcy, you won't have any trouble finding a job.

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Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Paralegal in Dallas, Texas said: Well, now, if your paralegal experience is in bankruptcy, you won't have any trouble finding a job.

I can't see myself doing that type of law.

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Some dude in Dallas, Texas

65 months ago

Paralegal in Dallas, Texas said: I've been in the profession 10 years and it's changed during that time. Clients are very very picky about what they will and won't pay for. Billing guidelines are just so strict. During my first years, that wasn't the case. A case could be worked up however the attorneys and paraglegals wanted and needed to work it up. Not anymore.

Now you think, I should organize that box of materials sitting there, but the client won't pay for that, so what else can I call it and you have to get creative and even lie about it... or you do it and don't bill your time ...or you just don't do it.

Another change is the move to a paperless environment.

I agree with this. I spend hours a month billing and re-billing my time, and then appealing the re-bills when they too get written off. Several years ago it was unheard of to have my time written off.

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Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Some dude in Dallas, Texas said: I agree with this. I spend hours a month billing and re-billing my time, and then appealing the re-bills when they too get written off. Several years ago it was unheard of to have my time written off.

This is certainly a common problem. Are you still a paralegal? Any other information you could provided about the field?

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

65 months ago

Luckily, where I work, billing quotas are pre-write down. I know other firms look at the number after attorney write downs. I wonder if some look at the number after client write downs - ya know when they cut their check and it's less than the invoice because they have scratched through various billing lines with the infamous word, "clerical."

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Working Paralegal in Falls Church, Virginia

65 months ago

I was a little shocked a few years ago when one of the attorneys with whom I worked on a toxic-tort case was coming up short for his billing requirement, so he called me into his office and went through the projects I was working on, selected some of my projects and said "You do the work, but I will bill for it." When I expressed disagreement with this arrangement, he said sorry, but this goes on in lots of firms. I had never experienced it before, and I have not since.

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

65 months ago

Secretaries do work that billable people will claim as their own. Very common. However, I have never heard of a billable person doing work for another billable person though.

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Working Paralegal in Austin, Texas

65 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: I don't buy it. I was a biller in one of my firms. Billing was a big-time issue in that firm and I never heard of it.

I think the individual was feeding you baloney. He also was risking an ethics/double billing/padding violation, not to mention he was stealing from your billables. You would have caught hell for not billing enough time and not him.

Good for you that you stood up to the SOB and refused to be his stooge.

I learned later that a few attorneys in this firm did this regularly to some of the paralegals, so I was not the only one. I was, however, the only one who refused to do it. The other paralegals, who were very young and really did not have much experience, did overtime to make up for the billing time that was taken from them. This did not earn me very much respect among that group of attorneys. I did speak to the office manager about it, who advised that in this firm, any support staff who "goes up against an attorney will lose." For those who notice, I am Working Paralegal in Falls Church - just on a different computer today.

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Iggy in Whittier, California

65 months ago

I am a paralegal who has been in the field for over 20 years and really like my work. ( I sure beats working in a factory which I have done). I currently work for the County Court system and assist In Pro Per parties with their cases. This type of work really gives me satisfaction because I can see the results. I have never worked at a large law firm, but am glad I haven't because most of the paralegals at large firms that I have met, are overworked and stressed out. If you want to get back into it, there are plenty of jobs out there. Just remember, there are jobs in government, and non-profits that may suit you better than the usual law firm jobs. Look into everything that interests you and go for it.

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Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

Iggy in Whittier, California said: I am a paralegal who has been in the field for over 20 years and really like my work. ( I sure beats working in a factory which I have done). I currently work for the County Court system and assist In Pro Per parties with their cases. This type of work really gives me satisfaction because I can see the results. I have never worked at a large law firm, but am glad I haven't because most of the paralegals at large firms that I have met, are overworked and stressed out. If you want to get back into it, there are plenty of jobs out there. Just remember, there are jobs in government, and non-profits that may suit you better than the usual law firm jobs. Look into everything that interests you and go for it.

I glad to see this. All the feedback I have received has been to run away as fast as I can from this profession. You are one of the fortunate ones. Working in the public sector is very difficult to get into. Hold onto your job, you are in a very good situation.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

65 months ago

Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California said: This is certainly a common problem. Are you still a paralegal? Any other information you could provided about the field?

Hello Legalmagic- Q- if you returned to paralegal- would you make more money than you do at present job?

After 7 years out of the field- you will be very rusty- specifically on procedure.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

65 months ago

Paralegal in Dallas, Texas said: Secretaries do work that billable people will claim as their own. Very common. However, I have never heard of a billable person doing work for another billable person though.

Curious- what is an example of secretary work that can be "billed" by others. The secretary is typing from dictaphone.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

65 months ago

Jane Do Girl in Pensacola, Florida said: As you noted, the majority of the content on this forum comes from just a few posters, most of whom are no longer active in the legal profession. ....

Hello Jane in FL- some of the retired paras are recently out of the field. I did 10 years in the trenches and I last worked in 2006. DLP did 11 years - and his experiences are still true to this day. Thank you.

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

65 months ago

kmm in Wilmington, Delaware said: Curious- what is an example of secretary work that can be "billed" by others. The secretary is typing from dictaphone.

They draft answers and discovery requests that they copy over from similar cases. The attorney just looks it over, but they bill for drafting.

They also draft correspondence forwarding things. An attorney will just put a sticky on some documents and write, "produce to plaintiffs" and the secretary will write the transmittal letter for the attorney's signature, but the attorney will bill the time.

They also make phone calls that the attorney will bill as if they made it.

The secretary often enters the attorney's billing into the system anyway, so they just bill their work on the attorney's time (if it's billable) plus they enter the handwritten things the attorney fills out on the timekeeping sheet that they may nothing about.

Some secretaries do billable work without the attorney's knowledge on behalf of the attorney (scary!) to move the cases along. I work in a team that the secretary runs everything by the attorney first before doing any work.

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Mary inTampa in Tampa, Florida

65 months ago

You know, for the younger people, you can always be a cop. That's a good job. (I have much to say here - particularly from living in Tampa, Florida - but I won't say it).

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Mary inTampa in Tampa, Florida

65 months ago

About billing for phone calls, I thought it was bogus too. When an attorney has a phone call, it is almos always with another attorney, and they discuss the matter. When it is billed, the attorney bills for the phone call, who he spoke with and what was discussed.

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

65 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: I would bill for an attorney if I went into the office for a few minutes (or 0.1, depending on your point of view) to ask a question or ask for help, etc.

No, you can't bill for in-firm conferences/meetings. You can't bill for talking to co-workers, asking questions of attorneys, staff meetings where you review the status of every case. None of that is billable.

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

65 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said:
It was ridiculous. Why have handwritten/case notes? Doesn't one review everything in an existing file when taking it over? These meetings would start in the afternoon and drag on and on, sometimes after hours. No, we could not bill for our time. Naturally, the shareholder usually called on me last, if at all. In the meantime, I had to sit through all that drivel. It was such a waste of valuable time that everyone could have used to pump out legitimate billable work.

Getting new people up to speed on existing cases is also not billable. So a newly assigned attorney would have to learn the case on their own time. As a paralegal I work on cases that I have no idea what they are about. You can't bill for reading because some other billable person has already billed for reading it. Clients will go through bills to see how many people have billed for reading something. They will pay for one.

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Legalmagic in Los Angeles, California

65 months ago

kmm in Wilmington, Delaware said: Hello Legalmagic- Q- if you returned to paralegal- would you make more money than you do at present job?

After 7 years out of the field- you will be very rusty- specifically on procedure.

To answer your question, yes! You are absolutely right, my skills are very rusty. I believe a better word would be archaic.

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loyalramfan in Los Angeles, California

64 months ago

Paralegal in Dallas, Texas said: No, you can't bill for in-firm conferences/meetings. You can't bill for talking to co-workers, asking questions of attorneys, staff meetings where you review the status of every case. None of that is billable.

I think it depends on the billing partner who reviews the bills. I bill for all the above (except talking to co-workers.)

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