Being a paralegal is a challenging career full of ups and downs. It is a career path that will shake you up and show you what you are made of. It is not a job for everyone, so read closely… I am about to list the top 5 best and worst things about being a paralegal in 2019.
Let’s start with the Top 5 Best things about being a paralegal:
1. High Demand
The paralegal profession is more in demand now than ever. It is projected to grow an additional 15 percent from 2016 to 2026. 1 This is substantial because this increase exceeds the average for all other occupations. It’s worth mentioning that paralegals with formal training, including an Associates in Paralegal Studies or Paralegal Certificate are in higher demand. There are a wide variety of options for schooling that fit around a busy lifestyle, including programs with night classes, and programs that are completely online.
The paralegals and legal assistants that exhibit strong computer and database skills, along with a strong work ethic will typically be the best candidates. So, with the increase in demand, there is no better time than now to enroll in a paralegal program to obtain an associate’s degree or a paralegal certificate. It is also not uncommon that while one is enrolled in a paralegal program to hold a job as a legal assistant to gain practical real-world experience.
2. Making a Difference
Being a paralegal has proven to be a rewarding career. It provides an opportunity to help a person in their time of need. Depending on the area of law your firm specializes in, you could be helping a client who just lost their job, assisting a client through a trying divorce, or consoling a client who lost a loved one while working to recover their losses.
The feeling of helping someone in their darkest times is one that cannot be replaced. A career as a paralegal allows you to make a difference in someone’s life, and that is irreplaceable.
3. A Diverse Work Environment
One of the most unique aspects of being a paralegal or legal secretary is that no day will be the same. There is always a new task, a new client, or new research to be conducted. As a paralegal your duties will vary from contacting witnesses, preparing for trials or depositions, even gearing up to go to trial yourself to assist the attorneys.
One of the most exciting things about being a paralegal is your limitless ability to learn. Being a paralegal means that you are a jack of all trades. Attorneys will call on you for ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING (trust me). So, go to work each day with an open mind, and a willingness to learn, and you will be a top-notch, in-demand, paralegal in no time.
4. Room for Growth
As a paralegal, the opportunities are endless. You can excel at a private law firm, work within the U. S. Department of Justice, or for variety of well-known companies (even Disney World). There are numerous opportunities for paralegals at any experience level. The average salary across the country is about $50,000.00, in addition to some pretty bonus opportunities. Additionally, you could take your legal expertise to law school (move over Elle Woods!). You will find that you have a leg up on the other students simply because you have been a practicing paralegal.
5. Paralegal Prestige
You read that right, own it, you’ve earned it. All the hardworking paralegals out there would agree that you earn respect in the legal community. Paralegals are often referred to as a “wizard” or “magician.” Honestly, many paralegals live up to those nicknames, because they work tirelessly to make a difference in the legal field. There is an unspoken code amongst all paralegals, we respect each other, and we support each other.
Uh oh, here at the top 5 WORST things about being a Paralegal:
I know what you may be thinking, what job does not have stress? Well, let me and the army of paralegals tell you that the stress in this industry is extreme, and you are slapped in the face with a tremendous amount of pressure. You are constantly testing the limits of your sanity. You have strict deadlines to meet, angry clients, and oftentimes the first one to the office and the last one to leave. It can seem overwhelming at first, but you eventually find ways to cope with the stress.
Do not expect frequent praise and recognition in this field. While that may sound harsh, it is the bitter reality that comes with the territory. I am not saying it is like that everywhere, but I’d be willing to bet over 80 percent would agree that they feel unappreciated. You will have clients, attorneys, and judges yell at you at some point in time, but you develop a thick skin, and quick!One of my favorite sayings among my fellow paralegals is “behind every successful attorney is an exhausted paralegal.”
I will tell you this, there are times when the attorney truly recognizes your hard work, and they realize that they absolutely COULD NOT do the job without you. Just remember that the job is so fast-paced that things are easily lost in translation.
3. The Bearer of Bad News
Yep, this also comes with the territory. Many times, you will be the one calling a client to break the bad news. Whether it be telling them the firm cannot take on their case, calling to collect on past overdue invoices, or informing them of an unfavorable ruling on their case. That’s right, you are the punching bag. However, you realize after a while, that they are not upset with you personally, just the situation. It is your job to remind them that you are on their side and will continue to work diligently on their behalf. Like my old boss used to tell me, “take it with a grain of salt and move on!”
4. The Never-ending Learning Curve
Usually, you will be thrown into a case knowing nothing about it. You must become a speed reader and learn to find the core issues in any given case. You will often oversee numerous cases where you are expected to know the details of the case inside and out. The legal field is ALWAYS changing, and you must evolve with it. You will be forced outside your comfort zone with new motions and letters to draft, new case law to research, and having to manage the office all in one day. As a paralegal, thelearning curve will always be steep.
Notice here I said demanding, not in “high demand” as one of the best things about being a paralegal. If you are still reading, you will understand how unforgiving this industry can be. You will work more than forty hours a week, so kiss the idea of a nine to five job goodbye. However, to be a great paralegal and to rise above the rest, that is what it takes. You will be overwhelmed 99.9 percent of the time.
In closing, just like with any career, there are pros and cons. While there are great things about being a paralegal, there are also some not so great things involved. It does, however, transform you into a respectable professional that will demand attention. Becoming a paralegal is worthwhile because the good outweighs the bad. You also become selfless because, at the end of the day, it is about the client and making a positive impact on their case.
Stay tuned for more articles on the life of paralegal! Comment your craziest paralegal story! Also, feel free to comment on what topic you’d like to see next!
What are the pros and cons of a paralegal? ›
- Pro: Training. If the legal business calls to you, but years of law school and the bar exam don't, then being a paralegal may be a great alternative. ...
- Con: Salary. ...
- Pro: Less Debt. ...
- Con: Job Stability. ...
- Pro: More Job Opportunities. ...
- Pro: Freedom. ...
- Con: Juggling. ...
- Con: Time.
They help lawyers by researching case facts, gathering supporting evidence, organizing files, drafting legal documents and contacting witnesses. While their role is important, paralegals encounter obstacles, including time pressure, limited upward mobility, lack of appreciation and limited technological resources.Why is being a paralegal stressful? ›
Being a paralegal is stressful, and paralegal burnout is real. Paralegals work notoriously long hours, and their tasks include everything from office management to doing case research and preparing and editing legal contracts and documents. Paralegal's tasks have a direct impact on the outcomes of matters and cases.What are four things that a paralegal Cannot do? ›
Generally, paralegals may not represent clients in court, take depositions, or sign pleadings. Some federal and state administrative agencies, however, do permit nonlawyer practice.Do paralegals make mistakes? ›
Even experienced paralegals make mistakes, and god knows you'll see lawyers themselves make plenty of them. But there are certain mistakes brand-new paralegals seem to be famous for making.What are the three qualities a paralegal should have? ›
An indispensable paralegal has an ability to multitask, a strong attention to detail, a willingness to learn, an expertise in organization, and psychic abilities.What are the 5 typical duties of a paralegals? ›
- Case Preparation.
- Document Management.
- Courtroom and Legal Proceedings Assistance.
- Communication and Coordination.
Paralegals can make a difference in their communities and the lives of their clients by helping provide a strong legal prosecution or defense. For example, they might work to support clients in parent custody cases, criminal defense, bankruptcy cases or a wide range of other areas.What motivates you to be a paralegal? ›
The Chance to Help Others
They help their employers be more efficient in their jobs, they can increase a firm's revenue and productivity, and they also help the clients. It's a feeling of immense satisfaction to know that you're an irreplaceable part in the law field and making a huge difference in people's lives.
On any given day, the “routine” may consist of interviewing witnesses, reviewing thousands of documents or assisting an attorney in the courtroom. This means that the paralegal must be prepared for unpredictable events and be capable of considerable time management and prioritization skills.
Are paralegals worth it? ›
Paralegal training is faster, much cheaper, and opens up many professional doors (more on that later). Becoming a paralegal is a noble, exciting goal. You can do a lot of good in this role. If you're motivated to help others and ready to challenge yourself, this can be a deeply rewarding career.What is the life of a paralegal? ›
Paralegals work hand in hand with lawyers, helping to prepare cases for trial. In their preparatory work, they uncover all the facts of the case, conduct research to highlight relevant case laws and court decisions, obtain affidavits, and assist with depositions and other materials relevant to cases.