{Pocket Paralegal} What Does It Take To Be A Paralegal?

After searching the interwebs I have yet to come across a good Paralegal blog or blogger. So I thought to myself “I will start a new feature on my blog for Paralegals.” Thus the bi-weekly {Pocket Paralegal} post was born. In 2013 you can follow along with me as I share my paralegal life. (Note: Because I like being employed, the firm I work for will not be mentioned on the blog. It will be known as the “firm in the burbs.”) In addition to sharing my passion for the law, I will also dish out tips and tricks to assist the professional paralegal.

You may be wondering “what is a pocket paralegal?” The answer is simple, I am the pocket paralegal. Much like an ap on your phone, I once provided 24 hour support to about 14 attorneys. One in particular gave me the title of “pocket paralegal.” I often think about putting it on my resume, but refrain. I can’t let everyone know about my hardcore dedication, motivation, listen to you talk about nothing, draft like a mad woman, and organization skills. Truth: I have on more than one occasion worked myself sick and logged 70+ hour weeks. That is until I found a balance, which as a paralegal can be hard.

What does it take to be a Paralegal?

Paralegals legally perform all the duties of an attorney with the exception of representing clients in court, setting legal fees, and giving legal advice. A paralegal organizes client files, interviews clients (sometimes), conducts research, drafts letters, and pleadings. Paralegals work under the supervision of an attorney and our time is often billed to the client.

A paralegal should be a highly organized extrovert with a touch of introvert. In this profession you will find that most paralegals have a “Type-A” personality and are goal oriented. We as paralegals understand what it means to produce high quality work under tight deadlines. One must also be able to adapt to the ebb and flow of an Attorney’s emotions. Emotions and stress run high in the legal profession. I often say a Paralegal is: “a life coach, friend, motivator, organizer, and task master.” No one understands an attorney better than their paralegal.

I am an annal retentive, spreadsheet loving, organization freak. So yes, I am a perfect fit for the paralegal profession.

With our ever-changing world most firms and business are requiring a four-year degree along with an American Bar Association approved Paralegal Certificate or an ABA approved associated degree in paralegal studies. A lot of law firms also want experience.

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a BS in Legal Studies. At the time I graduated I did not have my paralegal certificate. My original plan was to attend law school. (that’s a story for another day) Instead I went to the MN Paralegal Institute and obtained my ABA approved paralegal certificate. It was a six month course.

Many young paralegals are saying that it is hard to get experience right out of school. My advice is to sign on with a temp agency for a while and work as a temporary paralegal. This way you will get exposed to different areas of the law and you can find an area that suits you best.

I didn’t land a paralegal job right out of college, instead I worked as a weight loss consultant at Jenny Craig for about six months. This got me the post college job experience I needed and it helped me land a job at a big pharmacy benefit management company. Once I got my paralegal certificate I took a job at a creditors rights law firm. This is where I learned creditors rights was not my cup of tea and quit in September 2010. I took a crappy contract job for about six months reviewing appraisal orders for foreclosures. As fate would have it that job ended in May 2011 and I found myself working as a contractor at Faegre. Faegre is where I earned my pocket paralegal cred, worked myself to death, and loved every minute of my time there. It’s not every day that you get to work Mr. Gerry Nolting. (Sadly he passed away in October of this year) At this point in my career I had enough experience under my belt to go searching for a permanent position. Working as a contractor is fun, working with out benefits is not. In January 2012 I landed my permanent full-time job at the firm in the burbs. I can hands down say I love my job and the people I work with.

Salaries depend on what area of the country you live in. I can honestly tell you that the days of high money are long gone. Most paralegals will start out around $28,000.00 and peak around $60,000.00 or so. Again it all depends on your skill level, reputation, experience, and the area of law you are working in.

Ha! You thought I was going to tell you how much I make? That’s a secret folks.

Hopefully the above gives you a better understanding on what it takes to become a paralegal.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s