var googletag = googletag || {}; googletag.cmd = googletag.cmd || []; googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.pubads().disableInitialLoad(); });
device = device.default;
//this function refreshes [adhesion] ad slot every 60 second and makes prebid bid on it every 60 seconds // Set timer to refresh slot every 60 seconds function setIntervalMobile() { if (! return if (adhesion) setInterval(function(){ googletag.pubads().refresh([adhesion]); }, 60000); } if(device.desktop()) { googletag.cmd.push(function() { leaderboard_top = googletag.defineSlot('/22018898626/LC_Article_detail_page', [728, 90], 'div-gpt-ad-1591620860846-0').setTargeting('pos', ['1']).setTargeting('div_id', ['leaderboard_top']).addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.pubads().collapseEmptyDivs(); googletag.enableServices(); }); } else if(device.tablet()) { googletag.cmd.push(function() { leaderboard_top = googletag.defineSlot('/22018898626/LC_Article_detail_page', [320, 50], 'div-gpt-ad-1591620860846-0').setTargeting('pos', ['1']).setTargeting('div_id', ['leaderboard_top']).addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.pubads().collapseEmptyDivs(); googletag.enableServices(); }); } else if( { googletag.cmd.push(function() { leaderboard_top = googletag.defineSlot('/22018898626/LC_Article_detail_page', [320, 50], 'div-gpt-ad-1591620860846-0').setTargeting('pos', ['1']).setTargeting('div_id', ['leaderboard_top']).addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.pubads().collapseEmptyDivs(); googletag.enableServices(); }); } googletag.cmd.push(function() { // Enable lazy loading with... googletag.pubads().enableLazyLoad({ // Fetch slots within 5 viewports. // fetchMarginPercent: 500, fetchMarginPercent: 100, // Render slots within 2 viewports. // renderMarginPercent: 200, renderMarginPercent: 100, // Double the above values on mobile, where viewports are smaller // and users tend to scroll faster. mobileScaling: 2.0 }); });
 Upload Your Resume   Employers / Post Jobs 

How Legal Professions Must Select Their Areas of Specialization

published February 21, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
Published By
( 17 votes, average: 4.1 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.
What follows are descriptions of the many paralegal and law-related options that are available in many areas of the country. Information is provided under major categories.

Conventional Law Office Options

For decades, most paralegal students have performed their internships in private law firms. Law offices are "private" if they are owned and managed by the attorney-partners or attorney-shareholders and financially supported by clients' fees. Though other internship options are also becoming very attractive, this remains the internship setting that most students prefer, and with good reason. This is where almost three quarters of surveyed paralegals report being employed.

The Large and Medium-Sized Law Firm

Large and medium-sized firms tend to have formal, often complex organizational structures, as would be expected in any sizable business. The larger the firm, the more intricate its organizational makeup tends to be. Legal work is divided among various departments or divisions within the firm, such as for corporate work, personal injury litigation, criminal defense, family law, and so on. Typically, the attorneys and paralegals in each department work exclusively in their assigned area of law. Because their work is so sharply departmentalized, these firms frequently want paralegals with specialized expertise and extensive experience within each specialization.

Lasting changes in the way law is practiced often originate with larger firms. In time, small offices usually follow the lead of the larger one So it is not surprising that the movement toward effective use of paralegals was led primarily by larger law firms. It was in that setting that the pruv pies of paralegal utilization were often developed and, to some extent, perfected. The advantage for paralegals in large law firms is clear: challenging work in a well-defined, respected role.

However, a disadvantage may also be emerging. Perhaps because they led the way in paralegal hiring for so long, paralegal opportunities in large law firms are no longer increasing significantly.

Even where the local economy is growing, big firms are often expanding their technology-not their staff. Some large and medium-sized firms have begun structuring their entry-level hiring around in-house internship programs of their own creation. This arrangement streamlines the hiring process and provides greater control over entry-level selection and training. Students who can identify offices that work this way can sometimes combine their school's internship program with one already in place at such a firm, gaining a big advantage over other entry-level candidates.

A more favorable factor is the ranking system that larger firms often use to classify and promote paralegal staff. It generally works like this: at the lowest end of the ranking system is the first tier of entry-level paralegals, who may be known as "document clerks." In time, top performers in this group may be promoted to a second tier of experienced, more highly paid paralegals. Some offices have a third tier of senior paralegals. In addition, there may be a paralegal manager whose job it is to hire, train, and manage the office's paralegal staff. This hierarchy creates exciting opportunities for promotion, which small offices, with fewer paralegals, can rarely offer.

In a large or medium-sized firm, students will often find
  • A high degree of specialization among lawyers and paralegals
  • Well-defined tasks and clear job expectations
  • High hourly billing quotas for paralegal employees
  • A tradition of respect for paralegals as professionals
  • Reluctance to hire the inexperienced
  • Very high expectations for paralegal competence
  • Strict educational requirements (a four-year degree may be the absolute rrunimum)
  • Top compensation levels and a wide range of benefits
  • High levels of formality in conduct and appearance
  • Significant opportunities for promotion
  • In-house programs for continuing paralegal education
  • In-house internship programs in some firms
The Small Law Firm

Small firms may be thought of as those that employ from two to ten lawyers. About 25 percent of America's lawyers in private practice work in law offices of this size. The major characteristic of this segment of law offices is their great diversity-and the fact that they should be individually researched by anyone who hopes to approach them effectively (as should all offices).

Some small law offices are "boutique" firms catering to clients in a certain industry, such as entertainment or the arts. Some are high-volume "legal clinic" offices offering fairly standardized legal services (such as uncontested divorces, bankruptcy, and auto accident cases) for middle- and working-class clients at lower costs than other firms. Many follow the classic "large firm" model of law practice but on a smaller scale and often with greater flexibility in management and assignment policies.

These offices also vary greatly in the manner and extent to which they use paralegals. Some, such as the clinic-type firm, delegate heavily to paralegals When law office resistance comes from lack of experience with paralegals, opportunity is knocking! Try supplying concrete information about what you can do along with the names of local lawyers who have used paralegal interns or hired graduates and employ a proportionately larger number of them. Others ha e yet to catch the trend toward greater paralegal involvement. In fact, schc :ils often report that many small and medium-sized firms do not yet under.' land the benefits of using paralegals effectively. Consequently, students sc inetimes encounter inexplicable resistance among firms in this group.

Relative latecomers to full paralegal utilization, this segment of Iaw practice will probably produce much of the future growth in paralegal employment. Educating them to understand the value of paralegal work s ould be considered an investment in every paralegal's future.

Students considering an internship in small firms will find
  • An exciting, highly varied, and often untapped market for er, rry-level employment
  • A need to research each firm as to the kind of work it does and w iether it has had experience with paralegals
  • A common need to demonstrate what they can do
  • A need for sensitivity toward a natural reluctance to change lor ^-standing staffing practices
  • The need to be flexible and adaptable
  • Unpredictable variations in the following:
- Degree of acceptance of the paralegal profession

- How the paralegal's role is defined

- Preferred qualifications

- Level of intellectual challenge

- Extent and nature of specialization

- Salary levels

The resistance of small law offices can either be viewed as an obstacle or as a major opportunity. Among small firms, resistance to taking tr eir first intern usually comes from nothing more than a lack of experience with paralegals. In other words, the problem is not the result of what they know - it is the result of what they do not know. It is a matter of ignorance. Compared to some things, ignorance is easy to correct!

In addition, a growing number of state bar associations have committees or task forces devoted to paralegal issues, many of which have produced articles and guidelines educating bar members about effective paralegal utilization. Informative booklets have been published by numerous state bar associations. Check with your state bar about the availability of such publications.

A list of the tasks you can perform may persuade potential internship supervisors. A list of offices that have accepted interns in the past brings great credibility to an internship proposal when a resistant employer recognizes on your list the names of respected professional colleagues and peers.

The resistance of the small law firm is a challenge, but it also presents significant opportunities. If you meet that resistance with helpfulness rather than indignation, it can translate into future jobs for yourself and others.

published February 21, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
( 17 votes, average: 4.1 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.