This is topic Paralegal? in forum Books, Films, Food and Culture at Hatrack River Forum.

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Posted by Uprooted (Member # 8353) on :
Any paralegals, lawyers, or people associated with the legal field here?

I'm in need of a career jumpstart. I'm in my 40s and have a BA in English with a professional background using writing and research skills, so I think I'm suited to it. I'm in a totally dead-end, low-paying job right now and just got a pep talk from a friend about getting paralegal certification.

I have absolutely no interest in getting a law degree, for anyone who raises that question. I'm just not interested at that sort of investment at this point in my life for something I'm not sure I'd be crazy about. But the idea of doing the background grunt work doesn't bother me.

Obviously I'll research this more thoroughly than this informal survey here, just wondered if anyone had experience, anecdotes or opinions they'd be willing to share.

Of interest to me: how are paralegals treated? Is it a high burnout job? What hours are they expected to work?

Thanks for any feedback.
Posted by Goody Scrivener (Member # 6742) on :
Paralegal certification here is an associates' degree, so 2 years of college. I've heard of programs that will get you the certification in 6 months, but I've also heard that some of those programs are not accredited so you run the risk of your degree not being accepted. The paralegals I've worked with (I was a legal secretary for 7 years) are in the office almost as much as the attorneys - as much as 16 hours a day, depending on what kind of cases are active.
Posted by Uprooted (Member # 8353) on :
Thanks, Goody. I'm looking at a 6-month program at Emory. Their website touts high employability and they say that the vast majority of programs are not accredited and it's not usually an issue w/ hiring. They also show a chart saying that post-graduate certificate holders are actually the highest paid in the profession.

The 16-hour days could be a dealbreaker for me. That's exactly the kind of info I was looking for. Do they get paid overtime?
Posted by rivka (Member # 4859) on :
Possibly relevant discussion elsewhere.
Posted by Uprooted (Member # 8353) on :
Very interesting, rivka, thanks.
Posted by rivka (Member # 4859) on :
Good luck!
Posted by Traceria (Member # 11820) on :
Speaking as a current paralegal who as been at the same firm for going on 6 years, but not for the purpose of putting Goody Scrivener down, you really don't need need to be certified. At least, from my experience and in talking with other paralegals, no one really asks if you have a degree of any sort with the word 'paralegal' attached.

Some of the folks I know who have been doing this the longest did not go to school for it. One is a former R.N., another was a History major in undergrad, and I'm fairly certain the woman who has been a paralegal for the longest didn't get a paralegal degree nor is she certified. She's been with the firm (Venable) for most of her career, and she's 50-something.

I was a math w/teaching cert major in college, taught high school for a year, and then ended up here and love it.

As far as some of your of interest questions:
How are paralegals treated?
In my firm, you've got ones working on big cases, in which case we often do things that the attorneys would IF they had time to waste doing it. My team is filled with a lot of cool people, and even when we've got OT to do to meet deadlines, they're great about what you are or aren't able to get done (partly this is because there are so many of us). Not all paralegals find themselves in teams with nice attorneys. They often don't expect you to know all the little ins and outs, but they do expect you to be able to pick things up quickly.

Is it a high burnout job?
From what I know, quite a few come in with asperations of going to law school, but I know of only one girl who not only went onto that but is now an attorney here. We're work friends. There are a few others who left to pursue that goal, too, but I don't know what happened to them. From what I can tell, it's a pretty nice mix of people who do that and those who stay around to make a run of it (like me). I have only known of a handful that got burned out or were sent packing for incompetence or dishonesty (long story). Most seem to like it and hang around until some other big life step takes them elsewhere.

What hours are they expected to work?
Our hours are the 9-5 variety. If you work more than your seven hours (that's having taken out the lunch break), you get OT. Same goes for weekends. Usually paralegal job postings will mention willingness to work OT, but I've found this is often because when it does come along (not very often), it is very last minute.

Hope that helps.

Personally, I wouldn't bother with the certification. Every firm, office, client, case may end up having you use different software or what have you, and if you're at a large enough firm, you'll find that their IT department trains you in using these OR someone will show you the ropes for the specific things you use day in and day out. Ex: Our team uses a database that a vendor set up for us to house our thousands and thousands and thousands of documents, meanwhile the former R.N. mentioned above doesn't use that same system but another through a different vendor.
Posted by Uprooted (Member # 8353) on :
Traceria, can I email you with further questions?
Posted by Traceria (Member # 11820) on :
Sure thing!

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