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How to Find Government Jobs (How to Find Federal Government Jobs, How to Find State Government Jobs, How to Find County Government Jobs, and How to Find City Government Jobs)
published May 13, 2013
"There have been so many - one of the earliest was learning to write (I'm left-handed). I was fortunate to have a forward thinking teacher and parents. My first grade teacher showed me how to arrange my paper and hold my pencil so that I mirrored my right-handed classmates. This set up allowed me to learn to write without 'hooking' my arm around the paper. On the other hand (oops, bad pun), writing 'properly' made it nearly impossible to write on a chalkboard/whiteboard …
Most recently, it was attending and graduating from law school. A friend discovered an LL.M. program that was also being offered to non-J.D.s. Attorneys and non-attorneys attended the same program, so most of y classmates were lawyers. I was intimidated at first, but the deans, my professors and my classmates were all so supportive. It was a tremendous confidence boost, topped only by having my thesis professor suggest that I publish my graduate thesis."
"My plan was to attend law school. Well, the original plan was to go to medical school. Like most college students, I changed my major a few times (and ended up with two minors). I finally settled on Poli-Sci/Pre-Law. As they say, 'best laid plans' - life got in the way and I chose to put law school on hold while I got my bearings. In all honesty, I had never even heard of paralegals until I graduated from Texas. I knew I wanted to be in a law related career, so I did my research and discovered this 'new' program (c'mon folks, this was last century; the paralegal industry is only about 40 years old) - paralegal training. I signed up; figured I'd work as a paralegal for a few years and then go to law school … the rest, as they say, is history."
"Being able to fire attorneys...seriously, the best part is, well, all of it!! As I tell my clients, 'have laptop, will travel'. As long as I have an Internet connection, I'm in business - I can travel, spend time with my family and friends in the GSOT, attend conferences, [and] yet remain available and productive. Because I set my own hours, I have the freedom to observe Jewish holidays without it taking a bite out of my 'personal leave bank'.
I've also become more confident (and maybe a bit outspoken) and attorneys treat me with much more respect since I went solo.
I've always said that 'being a paralegal is almost like being a professional student; I am always learning something new'. I suppose I need to revise that now that I'm working on my second Master's degree."
"Funny you should ask; my graduate thesis is titled "Paralegal Paradigm Shift: The Changing Face of Legal Practice as Paralegals 'Go Virtual'" The industry has evolved in ways that I never quite anticipated. We all have access to technology that a mere 20 years ago was still considered science fiction. Coupled with the recent economic downturn, we are definitely seeing a shift away from brick and mortar law practices and a growing list of paralegals who are ready to move out of 'BigLaw' and into the cloud.
The combined effect of attorney layoffs, along with the continuing influx of law school graduates, has created a situation in which there are considerably more lawyers and law school graduates than there are positions available in law firms. With the shift in the economy it is not uncommon for recent law school graduates, and even seasoned attorneys, to seek jobs as paralegals. As paralegals, we need to be willing and able to adapt as the industry evolves."
"As paralegals, we have definitely made our mark on the legal industry. We are no longer considered glorified legal secretaries and, in several states, legislation has been enacted to authorize non-lawyers to prepare legal documents for people doing their own legal tasks. Mind you, these Legal Document Assistants/Preparers are strictly monitored for compliance; they must sit for, and pass, a certification examinations; attend a set number of hours of continuing legal education programming each year; and they are legally prohibited from giving legal advice.
I would like to see the industry allow for even greater autonomy - with proper regulation and oversight - so that paralegals are able to provide even more services within law firms/legal departments and to the general public. Certification is a move in the right direction, but paralegals should be licensed and regulated, not only for our protection, but to provide more opportunities for employment."
"I frequently blog, post and comment on this topic. It is a tough time to be looking for a job…you're competing against experienced paralegals, law students, and unemployed lawyers. You have to bring your 'A' game - first impressions count, whether in person, by email or snail mail, or the way you appear in social media. Potential employers are reading what you write and post. You need to know the basics: grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization. I know it may seem elementary, but employers will toss your resume if you get this stuff wrong. Paralegals are held to a higher standard.
I have encountered a number of newly minted paralegals who believe they are entitled to jobs with top pay and responsibilities simply because they have their degree or certificate. It doesn't work that way in any other field. You start from the bottom and work your way up as you gain experience and demonstrate your capabilities. Why should being a paralegal be any different? When looking for a job, keep these things in mind:
"Lyza Sandgren was and is my mentor. We met as officers on the Georgia Association of Paralegals Board of Directors and became fast and furious friends. She became a virtual IP paralegal after leaving BigLaw. When it was my turn to transition out of a traditional brick and mortar law firm, Lyza provided encouragement and guidance. As her business has grown and evolved, she has continued to share her wisdom with me."
"Definitely SoloSez™ - SoloSez, sponsored by the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division™, has become the internet discussion forum for solos, small firm lawyers, and legal service providers. The 'firm' as it is fondly known, is comprised of 4,000± Sezzers discussing everything from tech tips and legal opinions to what to wear to court.
There are also several virtual/freelance paralegals that have helped me on my journey. The support they have provided has been priceless."
"There are several downsides. For instance, I no longer have the relative security of a benefits package; I am responsible for 110% of what goes on in my business. When you are self-employed, it's all on you. As a business owner, I have to handle all of the day-to-day administrative matters and be professional, accessible, efficient, responsive, and technologically adept. Also, [you have to] watch how you present yourself - all the time. In a world focused on social media - and in a business based on interconnectedness people expect you to be a professional all the time."
Does the Texan have goals? "For now, I'm looking forward to completing my second Master's degree. It would be wonderful to travel more; perhaps take an extended Mediterranean cruise or two. Professionally, I would like to expand my businesses and be more involved with GAP, ABJA and ABI."
Chere Estrin, CEO of Paralegal Knowledge Institute, has the “Midas Touch” in the Legal Field
University of Georgia School of Law, Athens, Georgia