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Efficiency cannot be a goal in the job search. Only after the fact can you see what worked and what did not work. The only thing you can do is work your hardest. You never know what contact will lead to that one paralegal job you need. If you are half-hearted in your effort, you will always wonder how much more effort might have worked. Effort is the pure and simple answer to the fortune/misfortune factor. Work hard, so then you can feel secure and poised to take advantage of the results.
Before we go into detailing effective job search strategies, let's review the necessary first moves:
- 1. Looking for a job is an emotionally grueling and psychologically demanding experience.
- But employment is worth the effort. We define ourselves by what we do. Employment is not only a necessity, it is our first and largest response to the challenge of living.
- The job hunt finds you at your worst when you need to be at your best.
- Since full-time work is what you need, turn finding a job into a job. See yourself as an employed "Full-Time Temp," with the goal of being an effective paralegal job seeker.
- Strategies and plans that work in the legal profession over the long-term are essential to this full-time temp job.
- The paralegal profession is growing and providing constant new opportunities for the candidate.
- The effective paralegal job seeker must have a level of sophistication and understanding to be considered a viable, employable paralegal candidate. You must look, act, and sound like an employable paralegal.
- Though fortune and misfortune are real factors in the job hunt, more effort and increased contacts maximize good fortune and decrease the significance of bad fortune.
- You need only one job. You must work as hard as you can on your job search, because you never know what contact will lead to that one job you need.
- The effective paralegal job seeker needs strategies.
Strategies for Approaching Law Firms of Different Sizes
The sole practitioner
Do not think of a sole practitioner as a "country lawyer." Avoid assumptions about where the attorney comes from or whether the practice has the "sophistication" of a large firm. It is best to meet sole practitioners as you find them and respond to their stated needs. A sole practitioner might have left a large firm because of a desire for independence and being one's own boss. He or she might have been practicing for the last 30 years and have a client list inherited from a multi-generation law family, or might want to:
- Remain a sole practitioner for his or her entire career;
- Grow to a certain small controllable level, take on several partners, and then stop there;
- Become the biggest law firm in the city and eventually hold the position of senior partner in that firm;
- Reestablish himself or herself after a firm break-up and eventually grow back to a larger size.
- The sole practitioner will want support personnel to wear more than one hat.
- The sole practitioner will probably want you to work with clients to a certain degree.
- The sole practitioner will need word processing support.
- The sole practitioner will hire based upon an array of priorities.
Common Entrepreneurial Saying
This much-quoted saying speaks volumes when it comes to approaching a sole practitioner. When I take job orders for entry paralegals from sole practitioners, the conversation typically goes like this.
Sole Practitioner: I need someone to help me out with my practice.
You know . . . someone who can help me out in every area. I need someone who is willing to answer the phone, handle document preparation, do client interviews, help me with billing, make filings at court-things a paralegal can do. You know, do everything which I normally do when I can't do it.
Do you have anybody like that?
Career Development: Certainly! What's your practice area?
SP: I handle almost everything that comes through the door, but mainly my practice is personal injury, Workers' Comp, criminal defense, some real estate, some estate planning, and some family law. I need someone who can train quickly, who's bright and enthusiastic, can handle the computer, be good with people, and work hard.
Many a Paralegal Career Started with a Sole Practitioner Every employment situation has positives and negatives. You will hear paralegals argue until they are blue in the face as to why they hate real estate and love litigation and vice versa. You can hear a horror story about a sole practitioner, and then turn around and hear one about a large law firm. Despite the comparing and complaining, the one key point that may get overlooked is: In the quest for that hard to find first paralegal job, sole practitioners are more flexible and are more likely to give entry paralegals an opportunity if they like the way the applicant interviews and if his or her training and background meet their needs.
The sole practitioner does not have to check with a hiring partner, "run you by" a special committee, or worry about whether the senior partner is going to like you. The sole practitioner is the hiring partner, the committee, the senior partner, and every other management/legal title there is. He or she can pick you because you seem to be the best choice out of all those who have interviewed for the position. Many a paralegal career had its beginning in the hunch of a sole practitioner who thought that a certain someone would be just right for their practice and clientele.
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