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Legal Assistant / Paralegal

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Nature_Girl posted 1/18/2014 18:35 PM

I'm looking at career options. Anyone here with input on Legal Assistant / Paralegal? How long/How much education would I need before I could enter the field? Basic salary range? Hours? Overtime? What else?

Too_Trusting posted 1/18/2014 19:26 PM

Oh dear.

After my divorce, I went back to school to become a paralegal. The work is interesting and challenging.

That said, I only had one job in 10 years in the field that wasn't so demanding and stressful that I was pulling my hair out. I primarily worked in litigation and that is demanding, to say the least.

I left my last job in July. After being bullied, stressed to the max, no pay increase in FIVE years, and constant criticism from a lawyer that basically worked about 25 hrs a week and wanted to make $3M a year, I had had enough. I was working 40-55 hours a week, no overtime pay because I was on "salary". I finally decided I was burnt out, worn out, and fed up.

I'm now working in a doggie daycare, and I LOVE it! Pay isn't nearly what I was making, but I leave every day with a smile on my face.

IDK - YMMV. But, I would consider this career path very carefully. No disrespect to any lawyers here, but they are generally very driven individuals. They can be very difficult to work for.

Edited to add: My education program was 2 years. I think salary is very dependent on your geographical area. Working for a large firm will generally pay more, but you will have to work at least 5 years in other firms to get experience before a large firm will even look at you. Here in my area (NC), pay wasn't really very good for the stress and strife, but averaged around $35K/yearly. Economy hit everyone hard, and I found the opportunities for better paying jobs dried up with the economic downturn. If you can get experience and into a larger firm, you can make $40-$60K there.

[This message edited by Too_Trusting at 7:29 PM, January 18th (Saturday)]

Amazonia posted 1/18/2014 19:49 PM

I just finished a paralegal program. I can PM you some of my experiences and thoughts when I'm not on my phone (pita to type).

Nature_Girl posted 1/18/2014 20:06 PM

I'm having ZERO success finding even secretarial, admin/exec admin, or receptionist jobs. I can't even get interviewed. Well, I've had maybe three interviews. That's it. So discouraging. And I truly don't want to be a secretary the rest of my life. That's what I used to be and it was a slow death to my soul & intellect. I'll do it if I have to, but the thought actually makes me cry & get depressed.

But I need to make money. I need to be able to fully support myself and three kids when the SS goes away. I'm not a spring chicken, I don't want to work overtime when I have three still-young kids and no childcare.

damncutekitty posted 1/18/2014 20:23 PM

It's hard to find paralegal work where I live, from what I have been told. ( I also considered going for that) I looked into it but found out that law firms in my area either want someone with 10 years experience or they just have law student interns do the work. So the entry jobs are few and far between.

If you do it, pick a school that is known for it's post-graduation job placement rate.

cmego posted 1/18/2014 20:51 PM

I chose the field too, but there are lots of jobs around me…more real estate than litigation, but there are jobs.

I chose an ABA accredited program for the associates degree, I already have a bachelors degree, and now I"m working on a Master's Degree in Legal Research and Writing. Both programs help with placement after the programs are completed.

I don't want a ton of money, and the Master's Degree won't earn me a ton more, but I feel it will open my employment opportunities.

Some states are beginning to require paralegals have certain education and pass state accredited testing. The field is changing...

Too_Trusting posted 1/18/2014 21:47 PM

Like cmego said, there are more jobs in my area for real estate as well. IF that interests you, you can do well as a paralegal doing real estate. Real estate never interested me in the least. I took the class because I had to, but it's just not my thing.

I also did a two year Associate degree from an ABA accredited school. THAT is vitally important. Every posting I see in my area for paralegals say certificate or degree must come from accredited program/school.

I don't want to discourage you. If this is something that interests you, by all means, go for it. I just want you to know that the field can be incredibly stressful and deadline driven (especially any type of litigation) and I just found that I was putting waaaaaay more into it than I was getting out of it. May also be a factor of my age (mid 50's) because I just don't want to be married to my job.

Nature_Girl posted 1/18/2014 21:57 PM

Honestly, I'm not drawn or interested in this as a career choice. It's the antithesis of who I am and what I want. However, it would pay the bills and might be slightly more interesting than basic admin or reception work.

I'm pissed as hell that my actual career choice - design - doesn't pay enough for me to support myself and three children. I'm pissed as hell that I have to give up my business. I'm still not over it, so I suspect this is hindering my ability to successfully job hunt.

If I was to choose my next career I'd go into some kind of counseling. I'd love to work with women, and I mean domestic violence victims and victim advocacy. I have experienced first hand what's needed & what's lacking. But the years & money necessary to get me to that point are possibly out of my reach, and I question if I have the emotional stability & detachment to be effective & not get sucked in & destroyed.

I am seriously, seriously struggling. I truly do not know what to do with my life. I'm having to fight off despair at the enormity of trying to relaunch my life when I'm at a place in life where there are several major strikes against me (age, young children, money).

Amazonia posted 1/18/2014 22:19 PM

Have you looked into teaching? A lot of private schools only require a BA (sad, but true) to teach elementary - maybe art or something like that?

There are religiously based counseling programs out there that aren't too long or labor intensive...I suggest that with a grain of salt, because I really tend to be of the mind that that's a profession where more training is better, but if it's a foot in a can always take night classes on going while working.

Amazonia posted 1/18/2014 22:23 PM

Or, have you only been applying to admin jobs? I would start applying for things like "program assistant" or "project assistant" or "coordinator" jobs. Those are usually entry level, but not admin.

ChoosingHope posted 1/18/2014 22:43 PM


monarchwings posted 1/19/2014 09:46 AM

NG - I suggest you try to look for churches with job ministries. They will help you learn how to network and you will realize its a numbers game. I know its hard I have been there. Your success rate of getting a job without networking is much lower. Here is what I did I looked for jobs and if I knew someone who worked there I would call them and asked if they would take my resume to the hiring manager and it worked. It took a long time. Meantime I went out weekly to networking lunches and job ministry meetings. You have to get out of the house. It takes courage but you can do it. It will boost your confidence. And at this point what can it hurt. A good one will have classes and provide mentorship. The one I attended ws s full of professionals serious about job hunting. The volunteers are retired business men and women and they serve once a week fo 3-4 hours. The enjoy it because its meaningful.

I would suggest looking for accounts receivable position for large businesses. Not personal collections, BTB..

For an education, I think you would be a great interpreter for the deaf. You can work in a school. I think its a two year program. Or you can get an accounting certificates and do payroll or payables.

Food for thought.

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