10 things nobody tells you about being a paralegal
If you’re expecting paralegal work to be glamourous, full of action and exciting drama like you see on the television, take a step back. There’s no doubt that working as a paralegal exposes you to an exciting job sector and you’ll have the opportunity to work with some interesting people. But it’s better to understand the realities of the job before you start that first day.
- The hours
The stereotype about law being a time-consuming industry is true. Lawyers are switched on constantly, even when they’re out for ‘lunch’ with clients. If the hours are billable, then you’re working. As a paralegal, you’re going to have to work long hours, and pull your weight when there’s big cases on the books.
- The stress is real
Law is a high pressure job. Everyone has someone breathing down their neck whether it’s the senior partner or one of the executive assistants. Paralegals are one link in the chain and have to bear the brunt of demanding clients and the lawyer’s they’re assisting.
It’s important to find the time, or an activity, to bring those stress levels down. Some thrive under pressure, but others crack. You don’t want to be one of them,
- You have to be organised
This might make you roll your eyes, but keep reading. Paralegals have to juggle lots of different jobs at one time. They will work on more than one case at any given time when they assist more than one lawyer.
In your paralegal duties, you’ll be expected to:
- Be point-of-contact for clients
- Organise evidence items
- Prep the lawyers for court
- Draft documents like contracts and subpoenas
- Network early
Having friends works to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to talk to those in more senior positions (but remember to show them respect). Look for seminars, meetup groups, and other social events where you can mix and mingle. If you’re doing a legal traineeship, find out where people like to visit for lunch or drinks and ‘swing by’ to see what all the fuss is about.
- You can’t give advice
Only the lawyer can do that. Naturally you want to help a client with a problem, or even a friend. But legally, a paralegal isn’t qualified to give advice.
- You’re a jack-of-all-trades…
You’re a researcher, organiser, and agony-aunt for clients who come in on a ‘bad day’.
Liked this so far? Read these:
- Preparing for life as a paralegal
- Choosing where to work as a paralegal
- …and others rely on you
The lawyer you work for relies on your research for their case. Clients rely on you for updates.
- It’s not a ‘thrilling’ job
You’re a paralegal, not James Bond. Work as a paralegal is sometimes mundane. You’re on the phone a lot, answering emails, and getting information for cases. You’ll have covered how to verify sources and nurture relationships in your online course.
- Competition is tough
You’re one paralegal among many, and the other paralegals out there want a job just as much as you.
Before going into an interview, do your research and think about questions you can ask. Going in-depth about the history of the firm and potential career paths shows the interviewers/recruiters that you’re serious about working and see a future with them.
- Work experience is preferred
Working as a paralegal is demanding and if you’re fresh off the course, you’ll get a big shock. The online course has given you the skills, but work experience will make you put those skills into practice. That way, when you start working ‘for real’ you can keep up with the pace.