{Pocket Paralegal} Workplace Fashion

Each and every work place is different. I have worked for firms that are business casual all the way down to casual wear. Casual wear was really hard for me to get use to. I am old school. I love wearing structured dresses, trousers, cardigans, and skirts. Growing up my Father never let me wear sweatpants outside of the house. He would always tell me “A lady always needs to look put together. Because you never know who is sizing you up.” He was critical about our hair, fashion choices, and make up. Even to this day I do not buy an evening gown without my Daddy’s advice. He will tell you “I raised ladies and not heathens.” It’s true he did.

When I worked downtown I would often sit in the crystal court and watch the sky way fashion show. I saw everything from men in glittery jeans to suits along with women who often looked closer to a hooker than an accountant. Then there were the Target ladies. Target employes look like they walked right off the women’s clothing department floor. They had style and I’ll admit they liked pretty darn cute in their Menora wear. You could tell the first time suit wearers from the old pros. Awkward straightening of the tie to young ladies pulling their tights out of unspeakable places.

The firm in the burbs is a very casual environment. It’s hard to tell the Attorneys from the Paralegals and the Paralegals from the collectors. Everyone is always in jeans. Truth: When an Attorney comes in wearing business wear I automatically think I missed a court date on their calendar.

Over the years I have been witness to many wardrobe malfunctions. One should not wear clothes to work that fully display your muffin top or every bump in your body. Pants so tight that you can see a panty line or something worse. There is a reason God gave us mirrors. Most of the legal assistants are in their early twenties so its understandable that they think what worked at the club, works in the office. If you shook your booty in it, then don’t wear it to work. Club clothes do not belong in a law firm environment. If you are a bigger girl (hey I am right there with you) dress for your shape and accentuate your curves. This doesn’t mean wearing a shirt that’s three times to small and pants that are so tight a roll hangs over the top. Show who you are and leave something to be desired. Hey, dressing like a lady can be hard work.

So what does a paralegal wear to work? Thats a very good question and I am inviting you into my closet to find out.

If your firm allows it thick strapped structured sun dresses will be your best friend.
Dress Summer

Dress WinterTake your summer dress straight into winter with a cardigan and tights.

Summer Casual
Light weight tops are perfect for the summer weather and a dark wash jean still keeps it professional.

Business wearI get all of my blazers tailored to my body. This way I know they will look great on me. For a spring time look pair a cream blazer with a blue silk tank and dark gray trousers.

Cardigans are a girls best friend. We all know that the office can be to cold or to hot. Pair a light weight top with a cardigan and trousers. If you get to warm take your cardigan off and roam around in your light weight top and trousers. To cold? Well go find your cardigan and warm yourself up.
Business Casual

Winter CasualDark wash jeans are great for the office. They shout “Hey I am casual, yet professional.” To keep that business casual feel pair the dark wash jeans with a flowy top and cardigan.

Friday CasualDark wash jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt can go along ways and work in a pinch on a snow day or if your running late.

I get most of my clothes from New York & Company, Old Navy, JC Penny, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Target and H&M. One thing should be known I rarely pay full price for clothing and I always shop the sales racks for great deals. Basics like cardigans can be picked up at Target for less than $30 each and they usually go on sale in the spring/fall for 50% off or more. Old Navy is great for t-shirts and trouser jeans. I am loving their sweetheart trouser cut jeans right now. JC Penny has a new sales model, you can find great deals on the 1st and 3rd Friday of the month. Neiman Marcus and Macy’s are my splurge spots.

What matters most is that you feel great in what you are wearing and that it is comfortable for you to work in as well. Your style choices are a reflection of who you are and show that you care about yourself. Always wear a pretty shoe and put your best self forward. Keep in mind you never know who is watching you. It could be Mr. Right or an Attorney from another firm scoping out paralegals for a new hire. I always say dress like you are going to an on the spot interview. When you do that, you can never go wrong.

Hopefully this helps each of you dress like a top-notch paralegal.

{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.