People always ask me about being a paralegal, and I love to tell them about it. So now I’m going to tell you!
I was about to graduate from college with a Communication Studies degree. One of the most generalized degrees ever. I was gung-ho about getting a job in Human Resources, but when I started applying in that field, nothing was open. Before graduation, my mom sent me an article about being a paralegal and how it was a new, fast-growing career path. To be honest, I’d never even heard of it before. I did some research and applied to Villanova’s evening paralegal program where I would graduate with a certificate one year later. During that year, I started my first job as an office manager (let’s face it, secretary) at a small law firm outside of Philadelphia. It was fast-paced & challenging, I came home with crazy stories about crazy clients, and even though the attorneys I worked with were sometimes pompous jerks, I loved it. Hey, they were working 80+ hour weeks and slept at the office in their clothes, who can blame them?
Sex & the City's glamorous lawyer portrayal
I was like a sponge that year, absorbing everything I could about the legal world. Words like correspondence, arbitration & voir dire became part of my everyday language. I did secretary things like offer clients water, coffee or tea and order office supplies. I did paralegal things like review deposition transcripts and prepare complaint filings. The thrill of my life at this law firm was when I got to assist during a trial. You realize once you start working in the legal field that cases rarely even go to trial, so this was exciting. Our clients didn’t fare so well in their “our contractor’s subcontractor put up faulty stucco” case, but just sitting in the courtroom made me feel like I was on Law & Order. Or in Legally Blonde. The only references to law & courtrooms that I’d ever known.
All those opposed to chaffing, say I.
My year of night classes was thankfully winding down (2, 3-hour classes per week… ugh) and there wasn’t any room for me to progress at the small law firm, so I started job hunting. After having no luck on Craigslist, I hooked up with a recruiter who set me up on an interview with my current company (a small cable company with 2 in-house attorneys). I guess I interview well because they loved me and the fact that I was young and (soon-to-be) fresh out of paralegal school. I even beat out a woman with more work-experience for the job. In yo’ face, old lady!
I’m currently obsessed with my job and becoming a paralegal was the best decision I’ve ever made (besides flirting unabashedly with my fiance to make him realize he just had to get to know me). Paralegals can make anywhere from $35k to $75k and up, depending on where you work. If you work for a huge law firm in D.C you’re looking at $75k and up. But then you will probably be working around the clock and good luck having free time or a family. No thank you! I like my free time to sew, decorate and putz around my apartment.
If you like these things, you’ll probably love being a paralegal:
1) Paying close attention to detail
2) Proofreading & editing
3) Organizing anything
4) Alphebetizing anything
5) Following directions to a T
6) Medium-sized binder clips
7) Mailing, faxing, e-mailing & making phone calls
8 ) Doing online research
9) Being a sleuth (figuring things out, getting info from people)
10) Drafting letters & other various documents
11) Making copies (sounds weird, but it’s kinda fun…)
12) Navigating county, state & federal websites (and then complaining about how awful they are to navigate)
13) Making lists
14) Knowing top-secret company/personal information (and not telling anyone!)
Justice is probably my favorite thing on the list. I love making things right and keeping things fair. Annnd medium-sized binder clips are a close second. I’ve got kung-fu grip from squeezing those bad boys all day long.
I’ll never be that person to complain about my job. It’s great. I love it. And it’s a shame that I’ll have to quit & have babies one day. BUT, another great thing is that it’s flexible and tons of part-time paralegal jobs exist. Can’t say the same about many other careers!