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Paralegal Work Environment and Growth in Large Business Corporations

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A paralegal employed by a corporation works in its legal department, one of the many departments in a large company. Such a job is like working in a small general practice law firm. Some of the legal work that a corporation, bank, or insurance company is involved in will probably be done in conjunction with a law firm specializing in a certain kind of law, like litigation, real estate, or trusts and estates.

It is very possible for a corporate paralegal to work for both the general counsel of a corporation and a law firm. Paralegals find that working in a corporation allows them to have set working hours in contrast to a law firm's overtime hours, although a corporation will probably not offer the same variety of work as a law firm.

Working conditions are not uniform in all companies, so before accepting a job, a paralegal should find out exactly what his/her duties will be. Generally, the corporate paralegal will work in the areas of securities, real estate, and state and federal incorporation regulations.

Benefits usually are excellent in a corporation, bank, or insurance company. Many offer reimbursements which allow the paralegal to continue his/her education in either law or business school. Secretarial help will be available as well as a well-equipped law library.

Corporate paralegals have a definite advantage in their jobs. As they become familiar with the company's operations in general, future job mobility within the company may become possible.

Profile—Working in a Major Corporation

Karen A., a Phi Beta Kappa graduate with a degree in history, graduated in 1962 and taught for a year before having her first child. After her child was born, she returned to the teaching profession as a substitute teacher and continued to teach off and on for the next fifteen years while studying for her master's degree. She was never able to teach her specialty, history; she was always assigned to English or remedial reading classes, and as a result, she became dissatisfied with the education field. She was contemplating a career change when she saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a paralegal training program.

As a history major, she had always had an interest in law but never considered going to law school since she had her four children in the years immediately following graduation from college. Karen mentioned the possibility of attending a paralegal pro¬ gram to her husband, an attorney. Since he was familiar with the paralegal as a valued assistant to an attorney, he encouraged her to apply to a paralegal program. Karen decided to attend a six-month certificate program, which met in the evenings.

This program concentrated on a general practice curriculum. This seemed to be the best kind of program for Karen to take since she lives in a somewhat rural area whose law firms have a general practice. Before the end of the paralegal program, Karen had secured a position in a three-attorney general practice law firm.

There were three secretaries for the three attorneys and Karen was their first paralegal. Her salary started at $12,000 a year, but she had no health or insurance benefits. After working there for several months, Karen had an offer to interview at a Fortune 500 corporation’s legal department.

This interview was arranged by the paralegal program's placement office. Karen interviewed for the job and was offered it. She decided to accept the job because there appeared to be more career advancement in working for a major corporation. The salary and benefits were better too, including full reimbursement for education expenses. Her salary jumped to $15,000 a year.

The legal department consists of eleven attorneys, seven secretaries, three paralegals, and one office manager. One of the paralegals is going to law school at night.

The main areas that the legal staff concentrates in are securities law, litigation, real estate transactions, contract law, and tax law. Karen performs some legal research and fact-finding. Her main job duties are concentrated on editing monthly operating reports, assisting in workman's compensation and personal injury cases, and digesting depositions. She has been sent to Washington, D.C. to assist in the discovery phase of a major litigation.

At present, she is being trained in filing and renewing trademark registrations. Although Karen feels that she is being given
more and more responsible duties, she has not ruled out a job change from the legal department to another part of the corporation. She recently applied for a position as a marketing analyst which required some legal training.

Karen feels that paralegal training was essential for her to make the move from teaching to business. Without the certificate in paralegal studies, she believes that she would have had to study for a master's degree in business administration to have made the leap into the corporate setting without first being a secretary. Her understanding of business and the skills needed to succeed in it have given her the opportunity to begin a second career.

About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of LawCrossing and an internationally recognized expert in attorney search and placement. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

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Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

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You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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About Harrison Barnes

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