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Best Ways to Move from the Bottom Up in the Legal Sector

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What is the difference between paralegals and legal assistants? (If any)
Jennifer V., BA candidate 2005


The difference can be huge or non-existent, based on the firm type. Paralegals can be certified by the Bar association, but they need not be, essentially a paralegal is an attorney's assistant, and performs many essential legal functions, but always under the supervision of an attorney. A legal assistant can do essentially the same work as an administrative aide, sometimes taking care of filing or reception or assisting a paralegal. If you are a paralegal, you might want to cast the net wide and apply for legal assistant jobs as well. Some businesses will use these terms interchangeably, especially for in house jobs.

Does anyone know of any contacts for jobs for word processors at the big firms?
Lisa M., Law Firm Receptionist

You can send out resumes to the main contact information in the Staff Recruiting section of law firms. These positions are in the "Other" and "Administrative Support" sections of the Legal Staff portion of the site.

What is the job market like out there right now for paralegals?
John K., BA English

The market has been good, even when things were not so good for lawyers. In fact, the downturn in hiring attorneys gave a rise to hiring legal staff, unfortunately the lower rate they need to be paid as compared to attorneys is part of the reason.

I'm currently a receptionist and was wondering what my chances are of getting a job as a legal secretary without proficiency in Excel or PowerPoint?
Christina L.,

Not knowing Excel or PowerPoint will not hurt your chances too much, so long as you can use a computer. It also depends on how automated the firm you want to work at is. Most legal staff members use law-specific software, and general basic word processing programs. No need to bring attention to the fact that you don't know these applications, just emphasize your skills on your resume, highlight the fact that you have worked in a law office and are familiar with the type of work that's done and just apply. If you have less experience you might want to take a Legal Assistant or Paralegal course.

Are there any temp jobs on this site?
David E., Document Reviewer

Yes, we list many part time and contract jobs. Also if you look for recruiter jobs, you can get in touch with some staffing agencies which place legal staff.

Is temping the best way to break into a job at one of the big firms?
Carol C., Paralegal

Not necessarily. Big firms recruit in various ways -- you can move from the bottom up, you can consult your college or schools' career placement office and you can go through on campus interviews. Many large firms will hire students with Bachelors Degrees and good grades as staff members, the same way they recruit attorneys.


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