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Old 06-27-2019, 02:36 PM
 
Location: Denver CO
21,164 posts, read 11,768,218 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Enigma777 View Post
The certificate is a good thing to have--attorneys like paralegals to be certified. .
As someone else mentioned, I think some of this may be geographic. I'm an attorney and in a variety of workplaces, have worked almost exclusively with paralegals who were not certified but did have a college degree. It's definitely an investment in hiring someone like that and putting the time in to train them, but it was really considered conventional wisdom that long term, you wanted a smart person you could teach "the right way" (recognizing people have their own opinion about what that means) over a someone with a piece of paper.

And someone else mentioned legal secretaries transitioning to paralegals, which absolutely happened a lot too. They learned on the job and it was just a natural progression to assuming more responsibility over the work - ideally, as the progression happened, there was more work coming in and eventually the ability to hire a new person to handle the secretarial duties and the first person was more able to focus more and more on their paralegal responsibilities. A lot of the legal secretaries had college degrees too though and even from the beginning, there were hybrid responsibilities, which is what distinguishes a legal secretary who understands (or learns) how to prepare pleadings and doing other tasks that are exclusively legal in nature.
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Old 06-27-2019, 05:44 PM
 
43 posts, read 8,458 times
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I just want to ask and not be rude because I am curious. I worked in the legal field, not a paralegal but a legal secretary. The job I had the attorneys were a nightmare to work for, nevertheless I really enjoyed working in the legal field. I am just wondering if most attorneys are difficult to work with and what is the main difference between a legal secretary and paralegal. After having a negative experience, it kind of put me off. I was catching a lot of my assigned attorney's mistakes and I think that this caused friction in the office. I kind of felt like I was having to do his job and my job. Like I would ask him a question about a document, he would give me the answer and I would proceed with the direction he gave me and it would turn out to be wrong. (Mind you this was my first legal secretary position)

Sorry to hijack this thread, but would love other's perspective if I should expect this at every law firm. I loved my job, but had to be the receptionist, distribute mail, answer calls, direct guests and draft contracts. Would a paralegal do this?
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Old 06-27-2019, 06:55 PM
 
Location: East Coast
3,195 posts, read 1,906,626 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HolyGuacomole View Post
I just want to ask and not be rude because I am curious. I worked in the legal field, not a paralegal but a legal secretary. The job I had the attorneys were a nightmare to work for, nevertheless I really enjoyed working in the legal field. I am just wondering if most attorneys are difficult to work with and what is the main difference between a legal secretary and paralegal. After having a negative experience, it kind of put me off. I was catching a lot of my assigned attorney's mistakes and I think that this caused friction in the office. I kind of felt like I was having to do his job and my job. Like I would ask him a question about a document, he would give me the answer and I would proceed with the direction he gave me and it would turn out to be wrong. (Mind you this was my first legal secretary position)

Sorry to hijack this thread, but would love other's perspective if I should expect this at every law firm. I loved my job, but had to be the receptionist, distribute mail, answer calls, direct guests and draft contracts. Would a paralegal do this?
Well, this is kind of a tough one to answer. I'm an attorney, my husband used to be an attorney and I have a lot of friends who are attorneys. I have several people in my family who are attorneys. Of course, my friends and I are great people! But, man o man, there really are a high percentage of attorneys who are just complete jerks. (C-D won't let me say what I really would like to say about them.) So, yeah, there is a good chance that you'll find jobs that are living hells because attorneys can be some of the absolute worst people to work for. But, just like with all other people, if you find a good group, it can be a great job.

The legal secretary/paralegal dichotomy is very blurry. Especially in smaller firms, you'll find that one person can be in both roles. At larger firms, or at firms that might not be large but have a very organized structure, you'll find that they can be distinct roles, with the paralegal functioning more like an attorney and the legal secretary functioning more like a traditional secretary. The paralegal might do more legal research, might talk to clients to gather facts/answer questions, draft some preliminary pleadings, do things like deposition digesting, or summarizing cases or statuses, etc. Whereas the legal secretary would do things like type cover letters, maybe type letters that were dictated (usually by old attorneys), send out correspondence or pleadings, call to schedule depositions or contact clients to make appointments for them to come in. If the law firm is a type that does only one type of law and there is a set complaint, the secretary might draft the complaint by "filling in the blanks" with information in a new file (and then that would be reviewed by the attorney, or in some cases, might be reviewed by the paralegal first and then have a final review by the attorney, who would sign the pleadings).

So, depending on the firm -- generally the smaller the firm, the higher the chance a paralegal would also cover other job functions, you very well might find a similar job as a paralegal, rather than a legal secretary. But you might find they are different. Sometimes a small firm heavily relies on an experienced paralegal to practically run the office and really kind of be the one "in charge." Sometimes, though, a small firm has little money and doesn't really have much for a paralegal to do and they end up more like a glorified receptionist. I wish I could give you a more definitive answer.
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Old 06-28-2019, 08:34 AM
 
9 posts, read 3,538 times
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You will be paying $5000 to get an entry level job at a pay of probably $15 an hour. I did the same as you and found that nobody will hire a legal assistant who has no experience. They will hire you to be the receptionist or the file clerk without experience at a job. Sometimes the work flow is never ending. Many jobs are part time with no health insurance benefits because the attorney is his/her own firm and can't afford it. These are often the more relaxed work places but again, no benefits, no sick leave, nothing. What I saw in my paralegal career was attorneys feeling they were above the law, arrogant, selfish, and could treat employees however they wanted. Not all but enough to make it not the job for me. Of course, this happens in many places of employment not just legal. I found that being a legal assistant or paralegal was not the glory work (do research! write legal briefs! go to court!) that school made it out to be. The legal field for attorneys is over saturated in the USA and many attorneys do not make the big bucks. I would tell you to get a job in a law firm first, as a file clerk or secretary or receptionist, and see if you like it and then go to paralegal school. Young and pretty often get the job in the big firms with the good benefits. I have had attorneys ask me questions during an interview that were illegal, how old are you, how is your health, or just inappropriate comments on why I got my college degree in that subject or how they don't need people who call in sick.
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Old 06-28-2019, 10:06 AM
 
Location: Round Rock, Texas
10,772 posts, read 10,180,494 times
Reputation: 14294
Quote:
Originally Posted by HolyGuacomole View Post
I just want to ask and not be rude because I am curious. I worked in the legal field, not a paralegal but a legal secretary. The job I had the attorneys were a nightmare to work for, nevertheless I really enjoyed working in the legal field. I am just wondering if most attorneys are difficult to work with and what is the main difference between a legal secretary and paralegal. After having a negative experience, it kind of put me off. I was catching a lot of my assigned attorney's mistakes and I think that this caused friction in the office. I kind of felt like I was having to do his job and my job. Like I would ask him a question about a document, he would give me the answer and I would proceed with the direction he gave me and it would turn out to be wrong. (Mind you this was my first legal secretary position)

Sorry to hijack this thread, but would love other's perspective if I should expect this at every law firm. I loved my job, but had to be the receptionist, distribute mail, answer calls, direct guests and draft contracts. Would a paralegal do this?
As with any job, it depends on the individual and chemistry.

Lawyers can be an arrogant and demanding lot and that is why legal support staff have to likewise be tough. I'll say it again, not everyone has the chops. The pay is great (for the most part) for a reason. Having only worked with attorneys, I can tell you that the job is inherently very stressful. Double that if you are a litigator. If you are a wilting flower type of person, legal may not be the field for you. I'm just being honest here. In my 25 years, I've had to deal with some doozies, but over the years I've developed a very thick skin and at this stage, no one can make me feel stupid or worthless because I have the confidence to know that I'm not. The more seasoned you become, the more self confidence you have. I don't have to and will not put up with crap or abuse.

The difference between legal secretarial and paralegal is that paralegals do a greater amount of substantive billable work and less admin. However, there are legal secretaries that also bill their time and do substantive legal work. It's just that a paralegal is 100% billable. It depends on the relationship between the attorney(s) and the secretary. There are some attorneys that use their secretaries as "jack/jills of all trades" and expect them to do a wide ranging variety of tasks. Today's associates are far more computer literate and tech savvy, so many of them do their own document processing. Things like scanning and copying can be delegated to the mailroom. Filing can be done by clerks. Attorneys can do their own time entry. The legal secretary's role has evolved to do a broad range of things other than copying, filing, and answering phones. when I was a secretary, I didn't answer phones or make copies or distribute mail. there was even a word processing department to do document production.

a new position has emerged as a result of this blurred line between the two roles - the hybrid paralegal. This person can do both jobs. More firms are recruiting these people because they save salary - you're getting two for the price of one.
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Old 06-28-2019, 03:11 PM
 
2,059 posts, read 595,941 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wise Old Gal View Post
I have had attorneys ask me questions during an interview that were illegal, how old are you, how is your health, or just inappropriate comments on why I got my college degree in that subject or how they don't need people who call in sick.
Some of these people never worked in a law firm before and would find this hard to believe. But I am certifying this has happened. The ironic part is these are attorneys and just because it's not their specialty doesn't matter - They are completely ignorant or just don't give a damn about employment law

I only use 5 sick days per year and never usually all at once. It would be considered "too much" although that is what is allowed BY LAW!!!!!
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Old 06-28-2019, 03:18 PM
 
Location: Denver CO
21,164 posts, read 11,768,218 times
Reputation: 32161
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tencent View Post
Some of these people never worked in a law firm before and would find this hard to believe. But I am certifying this has happened. The ironic part is these are attorneys and just because it's not their specialty doesn't matter - They are completely ignorant or just don't give a damn about employment law

I only use 5 sick days per year and never usually all at once. It would be considered "too much" although that is what is allowed BY LAW!!!!!
This is very location specific and only about a half dozen states have mandatory paid sick time.
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Old 06-28-2019, 04:19 PM
 
Location: Ohio
19,884 posts, read 14,224,806 times
Reputation: 16076
Quote:
Originally Posted by riaelise View Post
The difference between legal secretarial and paralegal is that paralegals do a greater amount of substantive billable work and less admin.
That's not true at all. It depends entirely on how the firm is structured and the size of the law firm based on how many employees there are, and not billable hours or revenues.

There's a law firm here that has no legal secretaries. There used to be a receptionist, but she left and they never replaced her. Every attorney has one to three paralegals working for them, and the paralegals handle all secretarial duties.

When I worked at the 3rd largest law firm in Florida, we had 750+ attorneys and paralegals. Every attorney had their own secretary and at least one paralegal. Junior and senior partners also had a full-time or part-time law clerk, usually a law student, but not always. Three law libraries, one on each floor and each with a librarian, one for appellate law, one for administrative law and for civil and criminal law.

A legal administrator ran everything. He wasn't a lawyer, but he had an MBA. There was an office manager at nearly all offices. The satellites didn't have office managers, but the branch offices did.

If you don't want to do secretarial work, you should probably shoot for a medium to large firm or even a mega-firm, or the business world, or government.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wise Old Gal View Post
You will be paying $5000 to get an entry level job at a pay of probably $15 an hour. I did the same as you and found that nobody will hire a legal assistant who has no experience.
A legal assistant is not the same thing as a paralegal.

In fact, legal assistant like legal secretaries are on their way out, because they're being replaced with something new, called a legal administrative assistant, which combines both.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wise Old Gal View Post
I have had attorneys ask me questions during an interview that were illegal, how old are you, how is your health, or just inappropriate comments on why I got my college degree in that subject or how they don't need people who call in sick.
Are you sure it was an attorney? A lot of times it is the office manager or legal administrator who does the hiring and they aren't necessarily lawyers.

Personally, I don't have a problem with such questions and employers should be free to ask them if they want.

And, no, I don't want to hire someone who calls in sick every 5 minutes, because I'm actually hiring two people, them and the person I have to hire to do their job when they aren't there.
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Old 06-28-2019, 05:17 PM
 
Location: Round Rock, Texas
10,772 posts, read 10,180,494 times
Reputation: 14294
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mircea View Post
That's not true at all. It depends entirely on how the firm is structured and the size of the law firm based on how many employees there are, and not billable hours or revenues.

There's a law firm here that has no legal secretaries. There used to be a receptionist, but she left and they never replaced her. Every attorney has one to three paralegals working for them, and the paralegals handle all secretarial duties.

When I worked at the 3rd largest law firm in Florida, we had 750+ attorneys and paralegals. Every attorney had their own secretary and at least one paralegal. Junior and senior partners also had a full-time or part-time law clerk, usually a law student, but not always. Three law libraries, one on each floor and each with a librarian, one for appellate law, one for administrative law and for civil and criminal law.

A legal administrator ran everything. He wasn't a lawyer, but he had an MBA. There was an office manager at nearly all offices. The satellites didn't have office managers, but the branch offices did.

If you don't want to do secretarial work, you should probably shoot for a medium to large firm or even a mega-firm, or the business world, or government.



A legal assistant is not the same thing as a paralegal.

In fact, legal assistant like legal secretaries are on their way out, because they're being replaced with something new, called a legal administrative assistant, which combines both.



Are you sure it was an attorney? A lot of times it is the office manager or legal administrator who does the hiring and they aren't necessarily lawyers.

Personally, I don't have a problem with such questions and employers should be free to ask them if they want.

And, no, I don't want to hire someone who calls in sick every 5 minutes, because I'm actually hiring two people, them and the person I have to hire to do their job when they aren't there.
(Shrug)

Iíve done both positions. Iíve only worked at large international firms. Youíre probably talking about Greenberg trairig. As a legal secretary I was given a lot of high level responsibility. I probably would quit if I wasnít. For quite a while I had a hybrid role before getting enoughbillable work to transition full time. As for legal assistants/legal secretaries being on the way out...I scoff at that notion and most attorneys would agree. Iíve been in the legal realm for 25 years, including during the recession when law firms were forced to lay people off. Legal secretaries and paralegals were let go alike. Also a competent top notch legal secretary (which is what firms will always want and will pay for) really has no need to worry about on security. I guess if all you did was file, type, and stuff of that nature youíd worry about that. But as I said in my posts above there are file clerks for filing, record clerks for offsiting, mailroom staff for copying and mailing and word processing for document processing. The secretaryís role at a law firm has changed from yesteryear. Again I know this because I was one. If you show that you have the aptitude youíll definitely get chances to do more legal work. At my current firm we only have three paralegals with no plans of hiring others at the moment. We also have secretaries who bill time. The hybrid paralegal role isnít called legal administrative assistant. Also many companies are trimming the fat every attorney will not have their own secretary. I will say that as a legal secretary I never worried much about getting work. I was making over 80k (without overtime) too when I transitioned and there was no bump in pay. It was just official recognition for work Iíd done for years.
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Old 06-28-2019, 05:24 PM
 
Location: Round Rock, Texas
10,772 posts, read 10,180,494 times
Reputation: 14294
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tencent View Post
Some of these people never worked in a law firm before and would find this hard to believe. But I am certifying this has happened. The ironic part is these are attorneys and just because it's not their specialty doesn't matter - They are completely ignorant or just don't give a damn about employment law

I only use 5 sick days per year and never usually all at once. It would be considered "too much" although that is what is allowed BY LAW!!!!!
In our line of work what is valued tremendously is reliability. And for good reason. If you donít take your allotted pto thatís on you. I donít feel guilty taking it and I take it whenever I choose to take it. I will not come in with a fever, so today I stayed home. Unplanned but hey stuff happens. My office mates would have been far more mad if I had come in. Thankfully I lobbied really hard to work remotely so I was able to do the one important task that needed to be done today.

If you are a conscientious employee then thereís really no issue.
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