My Career as a Paralegal

Until a few years ago, many paralegals were not professional trained. I was one of those who worked her way from receptionist to paralegal at a small, family law firm. I can honestly say that this was the best job I’d ever had, and it was a career I’d chosen on a whim.

I’d been working as a medical record clerk at a local hospital when a friend of a friend needed a secretary on very short notice. Since my current position was “part-time, as needed”, this was a chance for me to have steady work. I jumped at it. Initially, I was a receptionist, keeping track of the attorney’s schedule and answering phones. Within a few weeks, I was acting in a legal secretary capacity, having taught myself how to format pleadings and other documents. Within a year, I was interviewing clients, and setting up the ground work for certain types of cases, mostly divorce actions.

I enjoyed the aspect of helping people. For instance, we had a young man in a custody battle over his children when he learned that his ex-wife’s boyfriend had physically abused his kids. We were able to get immediate custody and then permanent custody for the father, who lived out of state but made extraordinary effort to see his children regularly. Of course, we closed the office early the day of the hearing because the mother of the children had a history of using her car to make a point. Our office was a storefront at street level.

Some cases take years to complete. I came into one of those cases, a personal injury lawsuit, and after seven years with the firm, it still hadn’t been completed when I left. Knowing that I had a hand in helping the victim receive his rightful settlement (about a year after I left) made my time with the firm worth all of the stress I’d had to endure.

And there is stress. One client, who was a regular for criminal services, also hired my attorney for a divorce. When matters weren’t going his way, he came into our offices when I was alone. I called the opposing counsel to ask her a question on his behalf and left the phone off the hook without placing her on hold so she could hear what was happening in the office. Thankfully, when he went on violent offensive, she was able to call the police for me.

Ultimately, I left because of the stress. I became concerned that I would make a mistake that could cost someone dearly. This may have been because I was never formally trained, but if you are seeking a career in the legal field, you must take it seriously. Your actions will affect lives.

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