Inside Paralegal Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises


"Disappointed In Actual Responsibilities...
I was surprised that I didn't use what I learned in school. Most of my actual responsibilities I could do without a college education so it felt like I wasted my time." (Paralegal; 2014)

Career: 7 years of experience, currently based in Florida, female
School: Studied Paralegal Studies at King's College in North Carolina; completed Associate degree in 2006



"Law Firms In Our Area Expect The New Hire To Have Much To Learn...
The firms in my area preferred to hire immature students who were less than stellar academically because they were looking to hire cheaply. The students who were the first recruited from my college were not the best and brightest but the mediocre who would take a lot less pay. That was eye-opening." (Paralegal; 2013)

Career: 23 years of experience, currently based in Florida, female
School: Studied Paralegal Certificate (I Already Had A Degree) at Southern College in Florida; completed Certificate degree in 1988


"Be Prepared To Cancel Your Dinner Plans Because Of Overtime...
there is a lot more to do with this degree than I was told. but it worked for the best. I ended up being a an HR assistant and a Staff manager." (Paralegal; 2014)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in New Jersey, female
School: Studied Paralegal at Bergen Community College in New Jersey; completed Associate degree in 2005


"Customer Service Is Paramount...
Most people are surprised that working as a paralegal involves both high levels of customer service and organizational skills. It is important to cater to your clients' needs, as well as managing their expectations throughout the life of their case." (Paralegal; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Virginia, female
School: Studied History at Old Dominion University in Virginia; completed Bachelor degree in 2010


"Work Loads Faced By Paralegals...
The amount of work loads Paralegals have to go through is incredibly huge. To complete the work Paralegals have to work extra long hours to meet deadlines." (Paralegal; 2014)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Massachusetts, male
School: Studied Legal Studies at Assumption College in Massachusetts; completed Bachelor degree in 2007


"Specialized Training Needed...
I was suprised to discover that most well-paying paralegal positions were closer to the city even though I live in an area with many IT and legal firms. I also discovered that I needed to specialize so I went back to school for additional technical and business classes for corporate law in the technology sector." (Paralegal; 2012)

Career: 11 years of experience, female
School: Studied Legal Studies at George Mason University in Virginia; completed Certificate degree in 1999


"I was surprised how much networking was involved with every day tasks. Networking and getting along with everyone is more important than any degree you might have. This is something that we all know but the degree to which is pretty insane. Your personality matters more than you education or career skills." (Paralegal; 2012)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, male
School: Studied Political Science/Economics at Northern Illinois University in Illinois; completed Bachelor degree in 2008


"People would be surprised to find out about how dishonest some companies are." (Legal Assistant; 2012)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in Texas, female
School: Studied Law in Texas; completed Diploma degree in 1972

Best & Worst Things About This Career


Legal Assistant: "It's an exciting job, I become familiar with what's legal and what's not. I communicate myself with outside attorneys, follow-up and make sure things are done. The worst part is making sure that the Legal Dept. does not forget to renew a mark up for renewal, otherwise it is lost. If a mark is lost some times we can get it back within 6 months and pay a penalty, otherwise we have to start the process all over again of filing, waiting and submitting proof." (2011)


Paralegal: "I really enjoy the day to day variability. I don't really ever know what I am going to be doing in a given day, so that aspect allows a sense of freedom and breaks up the monotony that is often present at a job. The worst part of my job is that I have to commute so far to get to work. I spend anywhere from between 1 to 2 hours per day on the train, and more time after that on buses and on walking home. This does afford me ample time to read, but that doesn't make up for it." (2011)


Paralegal: "The best part of my career is my ability to work independently. The level of independence you may receive increases over time as more knowledge and experience is gained. Although some of the tasks are routine, I can use my own ingenuity to investigate some of the issues. The worst part of my career is sometimes being under appreciated. I'm not an attorney, but I can do a lot of the work except for signing pleadings (motions and court documents) and negotiating." (2011)


Paralegal: "The hardest part of my career is that it can be very stressful. If a case file has not been kept organized, finding documents and information can be very time-consuming. Sometimes, finding information online is difficult and I can spend several hours looking for small details. Often, motions and court appearances require extensive preparation that gets left to the last minute because attorneys are so busy. It is necessary to be willing to move and try to stay as organized as possible to keep things moving along. The best part of my job is that it is very fulfilling. I feel that I am a valuable part of making a case go well for our side. In addition, I can develop a close relationship with our client and feel good when they win their suit." (2011)


Legal Intake Specialist: "I enjoy speaking to so many types of people and helping them get the help they need. A lot of times, they just want someone to listen to their stories. One of the unfortunate parts of my job is that many people really are just trying to get money. Often, people want to sue for the most absurd things. It upsets me that there are people out there who are really hurt and really need help and they aren't always able to get the help they deserve because others are constantly filing frivolous lawsuits." (2011)


Paralegal: "The best parts of my career is when I can help a person with a problem they have. I have been able to find lost income for clients and sorted out insurance problems. It is very rewarding when you can help someone and they are grateful for your attention. On the flip side, the bad things about the job is that often times clients are under real stress, and they do not treat you appropriately. It is hard to listen to complaining and negative people, but you need to consider the reason why the people are acting like that." (2011)


Accountant And Paralegal: "Best part of my day job, is the law. I love law, right now I'm mainly dealing with real estate and banking, but my ultimate goal is to work in corporate and tax law. The worst part of my job is the office politics, working with younger legal assistants. I'm old school and believe in working 8am - 5pm with no breaks and an hour lunch. No such thing as a cell phone at work. Cell phone should be in your purse and should not be taken out until you get out of work. You take an hour lunch break and get back to work. You never eat at your desk. These younger generation children don't seem to understand what real work ethics is about." (2011)


Paralegal: "The best part of being a paralegal, in addition to the pay, comes from knowing you are constantly learning something new and often, you obtain knowledge that can be beneficial to your business and your personal life as well. Every once in a while, I am given a really interesting case that really captures my attention and teaches me just how complicated legal proceedings can be." (2010)


Paralegal: "The best part of my job is when we have a successful outcome on a case and our client is happy with the outcome and justice has been served. The worst part of my job is having to deal with some clients who are not happy with the outcome of their case and have become frustrated with the court process. Having to pacify them can be time-consuming and aggravating, at best." (2010)


Capital Markets Paralegal: "The best part of my job is the independence I have. As long as my work gets done, there is no one breathing over my shoulder or watching my every move. I am trusted to complete my duties in a timely and efficient manner, and beyond that, I am my own boss. I manage my own time and I make decisions for myself. One of the downsides of this job is the stress level. I endure deadlines, multiple attorneys demanding tasks to be completed right away, multiple projects going on at once, etc. There are days when I am so busy that I can't imagine getting everything done in time. The other downside of my job is the overtime it requires. I have missed many social events and outings due to having to work late on a moment's notice, and I have lost many hours of sleep. One last downside is being at the "bottom of the food chain." In a law firm, the paralegals work for both attorneys and partners and are expected to do most of the grunt work. Also, things are constantly being requested of you, and it can wear you out if you're not careful." (2010)


Paralegal: "The best part of my job is that I have a lot of different responsibilities, so I never get bored from doing the same thing every day. Some days I am working on getting a case ready for trial or doing legal research, and other days I am working on reviewing bills and sending them out. I enjoy dealing with people, and get to do that when I am talking with potential clients or following up on our cases with the courts." (2009)

Career Background


Paralegal

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Career Video

Career Tips


"Work Your Way Up...
If you are interested in being a paralegal, start out as an assistant in a law office and work your way up. Take classes to improve your computer skills and typing speed and the rest can be learned on the job." (Paralegal; 2014)


"Career Choice: Lawyer Or Paralegal...
If you are going to study law consider becoming a lawyer instead of stopping at being a Paralegal." (Paralegal; 2014)


"Paralegal, A Good Career Choice...
If you want an entry level position that will open the door for an excellent career, you may want to choose the paralegal program because it requires less time in college and hands on. You will have the opportunity to work almost everywhere with this degree and it is so exciting." (Paralegal; 2014)


"Internships Are Your Friend...
If you would like to start a career as a paralegal, it would be beneficial to obtain an internship in the legal field while you are still in college. An internship will help you explore the intricacies of the paralegal profession while helping you make important connections that you can utilize after you graduate." (Paralegal; 2013)


"Volunteering Is A Great Way To Network...
Volunteer your time and knowledge. Help out NGO's. Work with Guardian Ad Litem and advocate for kids. You'll meet a lot of people this way and it's a good way not only to network but to earn the respect of employers in the field." (Paralegal; 2013)


"Check Out The USPTO Site...
Any person interested in working in the legal department, especially with trademarks, it would be a good idea to get the free United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) site and practice doing searches. Check out the site, read as much as possible and see if you really will like it before committing yourself. Some of the international trademark data sites are also free. With the Internet now you can educate yourself before going to get educated." (Legal Assistant; 2011)


"Connections Help...
It really does pay to know someone in the business if you are pursuing a career at this level. I had the good fortune to both have a friend working at the firm I currently work at before I applied, as well as having had previous experience during my college career. If this isn't an option, try taking courses in paralegal studies, becoming a notary, or doing an internship at a law office, even if it is just for the summer. Bosses in any field appreciate motivation, and motivated people will often get the call-back that others won't." (Paralegal; 2011)


"Need To Get Certified...
An educational background is key to being a paralegal these days. Becoming a certified paralegal by taking a national examination is almost a requirement. Don't think that being a paralegal will get you out of filing, answering phones, or making appointments. Especially in this economy and job culture, you need to be a one-stop professional and be willing to do whatever it takes in your paralegal career." (Paralegal; 2011)


"Need To Be Organized And Stress-Tolerant...
Probably the best advice would be to have very strong organization skills and handle stress well. If you can do these things, you will probably be successful. It is also very beneficial to understand legal terms. Take classes to get your paralegal degree and consider working first as a legal secretary to get some of the legal knowledge under your belt. Realize that attorneys are under a lot of stress with hundreds of things to do. You can either be a huge asset to them and help them or you can cause confusion and frustration. If you desire to help people, are very organized and enjoy moving and accomplishing things, this job might be for you." (Paralegal; 2011)


"Show You Care While Maintaining Distance...
1. Be sympathetic. Many people just want to know that someone cares and is at least attempting to help them. A kind word, even from a stranger, can be helpful. 2. With that said, it's also important to maintain some emotional distance from callers. While some want a listening ear, others want someone to blame. They can be hostile, but don't take it personally. 3. Have a lot of patience. We get all types of callers from all walks of life. Some talk fast, some slow. Some are very educated and well-spoken, others are decidedly not." (Legal Intake Specialist; 2011)


"Stay A Step Ahead...
When starting out as a paralegal, be inquisitive, do as much research as you can, and be resourceful. It would help to anticipate things the attorney might ask you to do. For example, always make sure he/she knows the schedule, make sure the files are on his/her desk before the client interview, and just make sure that everything is in order before the client comes. Try not to do things last minute, because in this field, everything has a due date." (Paralegal; 2011)


"Take More Than The Minimum...
If you want to be an accountant, take as many accounting classes as you can. Not only the minimum required for your degree, but once you figure out what track you want to pursue take as many upper level courses in that track. Trust me it will help you in your career. Also, don't be satisfied with mediocrity, be the best in your class; accounting firms look for the best. Also, join an accounting fraternity like Beta Alpha Psi or ALPFA. Not to mention volunteer your time with an accounting firm, preparing taxes, etc. It will do wonders for your chances to work for one of the four top accounting firms" (Accountant And Paralegal; 2011)


"Certified Paralegals Earn More...
If you desire a career as a paralegal, it is to your benefit to attend a certified paralegal program. By obtaining a paralegal certificate, one can earn more than a non-certified paralegal and most employers view you as an asset to their firm as paralegals are responsible for helping firms keep client costs at a minimum while also having the expertise of a qualified paralegal to support their attorneys." (Paralegal; 2010)


"Learning Spanish Can Provide An Edge...
If you want to pursue a career as a paralegal, take as many writing classes as possible. A great paralegal can research a case and write a brief to support the attorney's position that is good enough to be presented to the court. I would also suggest learning a second language, like Spanish. This would give you an advantage over other applicants applying for the same position. Also, try to gain as much knowledge as possible in all areas of the law. By doing so, you will have a better chance at winning a position." (Paralegal; 2010)


"What It Takes To Be A Good Paralegal...
A paralegal must be extremely diligent, organized, precise, and self-motivated. Anything you can do to improve on these skills would be beneficial. You also must know how to prioritize your time and you must be self-motivated. There isn't always going to be someone over your shoulder telling you exactly what to do. Most times, no one is watching you at all...so you must have the dedication and work ethic to get things done. In interviews at law firms, the more you can highlight these characteristics in your life, the better. You don't have to have experience in law to be a great paralegal...I am proof of that. Excellent writing skills and people skills are also required in this job, so taking writing classes or going over grammar rules can be a tremendous help. Public speaking classes may also be beneficial." (Capital Markets Paralegal; 2010)


"Relevant Degree Preferred...
It is possible to become a paralegal through on-the-job training, but for most employment opportunities it would be better to get a BA in pre-law or political science or an associate's degree in paralegal studies. This is great preparation for doing legal work at a law firm. In addition to learning about law, you learn about office administration: basic accounting, document preparation (learning how to format documents in Word and WordPerfect), spreadsheets, and other basic software that is used in a law firm. This makes you more qualified to help lawyers do their work." (Paralegal; 2009)