Being a Paralegal – Legal Secretary

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  • #1395565

    Lightbrite
    Participant

    What’s it like being a paralegal or legal secretary?

    Thank you 🙂

    #1395705

    CTLAWYER
    Participant

    @lightbrite
    Paralegal
    In the CTL law office, it’s a fast paced, highly responsible job that involves, interviewing clients, doing assigned research, drafting motions for attorney approval. Electronic filing of motions and lawsuits. Acting as my assistant at trial, maintaining my case files for court.
    It is a highly paid position (75K -165K), only the best satisfy my demands and expectations. It can lead to a firm paid law school education and a full time position as an attorney in the firm (currently 4 staff attorneys @CTL started as paralegals and I paid for their law school education).
    Legal secretary……………..
    In our firm these are highly competent secretaries that type reports, file forms, transcribe taped or recorded meetings. They generally do not do original research (as paralegals do), they do not interview clients , either. The legal secretaries may be generalists who do work assigned by the office manager, or specialists>…such as a closing secretary who organizes all documents needed for real estate closings, or a probate secretary who just handles estate paperwork and we have a custody secretary, who deals with child custody/visitation forms for divorce clients.
    Our paralegals work in the office, some of our legal secretaries telecommute.
    NONE are outside contractors, all are employees. As a small, closely held firm, we tend to keep employees for a long time. One current full time associate attorney (will never be a partner as they are family members only) is the daughter of a legal secretary who has worked for me 35 years. The young lady graduated college and started teaching English, but hated it. She worked for us as a secretary one summer covering vacations. I saw the quality of her writing and offered to pay for a paralegal course. She attended evenings during the school year and worked the following summer as a paralegal. She never went back to the classroom. I also paid for law school…the investment was well worth it. Unlike the big downtown firms our associates are not under pressure to bill thousands of hours and have no home life. She married two years ago and has a baby. She currently comes into the office only about 3 hours a day and does the rest of her work at home.

    #1395727

    Lightbrite
    Participant

    Wow. Thank you CTLAWYER!!! ☺

    You just gave me more than I could ask for… yay!

    #1396178

    Gadolhadorah
    Participant

    CT Lawyer correctly describes the status of a senior LA/Paralegal in a small number of firms….the large percentile of LAs in many large New york and Magic Circle firms spend long-hours in mind-numbing work in document review, due dilligence etc. In this new age where most lawyers do their own document drafting (aka typing) and many of the younger lawyers do their own legal research as well, the lines between the old legal secretaries (many of whom took “dicatation”), legal assistants and law clerks have blurred. Some large firms now have a 5:1 or 6:1 ratio of lawyers to secretaries and LAs are pooled across practice areas.
    It can be good work if your working for CTLawyer but I fear the large percentage of opportunities are not nearly as exciting, rewarding or challenging

    #1396151

    CTLAWYER
    Participant

    @lightbrite
    One warning if you intend to become a paralegal.
    Lawyers want fresh graduates or someone with current experience. We have learned the hard way that a paralegal who takes 10 years off to have children and tries to return to the workplace is so far out of date in procedures, that the person might as well go take the course again.
    Working part-time while raising children is fine for a paralegal, it keeps them up to date.

    #1396327

    akuperma
    Participant

    What the future will hold for paralegals is unclear. There is a surplus of lawyers, many willing to work for wages that in the past would have attracted only a paralegal. Computerization has eliminated many clerical functions. A junior associate with good computer skills can do the work formerly done by a junior associate and a paralegal together.

    Note that many paralegal skills are transferable. If you can set up a database to process documents, that skill can transfer to other areas. Ability to understand legalese and filling out forms leads to jobs in many related areas in finance, real estate, etc. A liability for paralegals is that are limited in the ability to go “solo” (they can offer their services to lawyers, but not the public since that would be practicing law without being a member of the bar, which is quite illegal).

    #1396462

    CTLAWYER
    Participant

    @akuperma

    Technology has changed many industries including the practice of law.
    True, many younger attorneys do their own typing and legal research, but I find it unethical to bill clients attorney rates for work that should be done by a paralegal or legal secretary.
    I and my eldest son are the only members of my firm that have private secretaries, and these do work related to non-law firm family business (our own charitable and family trusts and investments) as well as certain discreet work that is not to be seen on networked computers.
    We have no pool secretaries. We do have a closing secretary for real estate and a custody/visitation secretary for family/probate court.
    Paralegals may have specialties and work in our departments such as Trusts and Estates or Contracts.

    This is what works for us. It is far different from when I was starting out 40 years ago and Mrs. CTL and our mothers often took files home to type, trying to keep the carbon paper aligned,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    #1396458

    CTLAWYER
    Participant

    @gadolhadorah

    You use a term ‘LA” which I did not and don’t use. Paralegals and Legal Secretaries are specific job titles. An ‘LA” which I assume you mean Legal Assistant, could be anyone who works in the office, makes copies, gets coffee, distributes mail.

    As the principal of a law firm, I’ll not pay attorneys $200,000 per year(or more) to type contracts and do closing papers, and file motions that a Paralegal or legal secretary can do. We don’t have junior associates like the big firms, our full-time attorneys generally are family members or promoted from within the firm. In fact our non-Jewish senior attorneys started as paralegals and or investigators. Until I retire, there will be no partners in CTL firm, then the partners will be my children and in-laws. I am willing to hire non-family members, but they know from the interview that they will never be a partner. This is just not our model and I have no reason to change. I prefer to limit the size and scope of the firm…it’s my name and my reputation.

    I also won’t bill clients the $300-750 per hour that our attorneys bill for work that should be done and be billed at paralegal or legal secretary rates. Firms that do so are taking advantage of their clients.,

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