- Legal Staffers Sound Off
Legal Staffers Sound Off
by LawCrossing Staff
1. I am currently working for an attorney handling workers' compensation and medical malpractice cases. The position is part time and I really need more hours. The attorney I work for isn't offering me more hours, but I don't want to leave as I'm learning so much and really like the firm. Would it be a conflict of interest if I look for another part-time paralegal position at another firm?
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations' Model Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility and Guidelines for Enforcement states:
Canon 8: "A Paralegal shall avoid conflicts of interest and shall disclose any possible conflict to the employer or client, as well as to the prospective employers or clients."
A conflict of interest can lead to a firm losing a client or even getting sued for malpractice. Since paralegals must be supervised by an accountable attorney, your attorney employers would be responsible for making sure no conflict exists between your job now and whatever new job you might acquire. According to the National Federation of Paralegal Association, the paralegal should abide by the attorney's direction, but should not take a case if he or she is unsure of the attorney's sound judgment in assessing the absence of a conflict.
2. Does anybody know what the average solo practitioner pays a paralegal? I'm interested in working for a solo practitioner or very small firm.
Paralegal salaries range from $35,000-$75,000 or more with bonuses and other perks at big firms. In small firms, paralegals tend to become generalists, doing things that might be largely administrative, in addition to working hand-in-hand with the attorney to file motions or research cases. I'd say the average salary for a paralegal at a small firm (less than 3 attorneys) is close to $30,000 or so, with possible bonuses and (usually) overtime available to increase that number.
3. I have a paralegal certificate from an accredited school and am trying to get a position in a top firm. But all they seem to be concerned with are my typing skills. How can I get some serious consideration?
Well, most legal secretaries are required to have typing speeds of 65/wpm or higher. Paralegals may or may not be doing a lot of typing, depending on the type of firm and whether they are fulfilling an administrative function or not. As with any resume, highlight the positives. If something is not stellar (like your typing skills), don't mention it. If they ask, however, don't lie -- try to minimize the impact. If you think it's really a big problem, try to take some classes, it should not take more than a few months to get up to speed.
4. What steps do I need to take in order to become a court reporter?
At first glance, it would seem that the requirements are few, but they are actually very stringent, so here they are. High School equivalency, is required, a solid understanding of the English language, superior listening skills that require distinguishing similar sounding words, and a grueling training program that might put law school to shame. There are entrance requirements to get into a court reporter school, and the classes are self-paced once you are in; a simple search on the internet can yield several in the area. The end result of the program should be a passing score on a test that requires 225 words per minute typing with 98% accuracy.
5. I'm a recent widow and am looking to get back into the work force. I have over 30 years of experience working in various law firms and offices in various capacities. Due to my age, do I have a realistic chance of finding a job?
Well, I don't know your age but experienced legal secretaries and paralegals are sought after by many smaller firms who will value your know-how. There are several people your age in today's work force and I think you definitely have a realistic chance at medium to small firms or in companies seeking someone who has proven their reliability.
6. How in demand are practice support specialists and consultants? Wouldn't a paralegal, legal secretary or even an office clerk be able to handle those assignments? I'd like to know before I get too involved.
Unbundling of legal services is a hot topic and these specialties are getting more and more popular as time goes on. Their popularity is high because a firm can outsource some of its essential functions and does not have to retain as many full-time employees with the headaches of full-time employment. The ABA and the State bars have had mixed reviews of the situation and the jury is still out about what the future holds. In the tight economy, in order to provide the best bargain, especially in fields like immigration and bankruptcy, the use of practice support specialists is quite popular.