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Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Small town paralegal in the city. Once ran a law office, now being run by one. Med mal defense litigation. I think it's growing on me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Time Out for A Moment of Encouragement

When I first decided to enter the paralegal career, I geared up to constantly be on the defensive. I just knew that many attorneys, especially young ones fresh out of law school, would look down on me and my lowly position on the legal totem pole. In a few instances, my assumption turned out to be correct. Fortunately, ignorance is usually the proponent of such attitudes, and ignorance is fairly easy to cure. I remember talking to one baby lawyer last year about my studying for the NALA certification exam, and how I excited I would be to be able to add "CP" or "CLA" to the end of my name. All of a sudden, an understanding came to his face, and he said, "So that's what those letters mean! I thought our staff was just making it up!" I do not know whether he appreciates the staff members at his firm more because of my revelation, but I believe that conversation revealed to him that paralegals, while we usually have not spent three years in law school, take our jobs and roles very seriously.

Even more fortunately, I have met many more lawyers who respect the paralegal's role, whether they take the time to realize it or not. My Boss, for instance, grew up working in law firms. He learned early on how important the non-attorney staff are to a firm. He once told me a story about winning over a particularly grumpy lawyer at a firm he interned with during law school - all because he was on friendly terms with a secretary who knew exactly how the grumpy lawyer liked his briefs drafted. When my Boss calls another law firm, unless he has a specific reason to talk to the other attorney, he usually asks for the attorney's paralegal. He consistently lets me know when I've performed well or done something that makes his job run smoother and easier.

I also date a lawyer. Now, he might just be biased because of our relationship, but he's been only encouraging and never condenscending when I talk about my job and what kind of roles I would like to play both in the smaller realm of my office and the larger realm of the career itself. He seems to recognize that value of staff, the knowledge we can bring to the table, and the various roles each person on a legal team plays.

I am intrigued with the state bar associations that have begun to outspokenly recognize the paralegal's role in a law firm. It is encouraging to realize that so many lawyers out there understand how important the paragal's role is.

Legal Talk Network has released a podcast aimed at paralegals - The Paralegal Voice. It is a tribute to the growing role paralegals are taking on and the expansion of this career.

For all of these reasons, I have learned to let go of the defensive position I took at the very beginning of my career. While there will be lawyers who fail to understand the positive aspects of using paragals, and while there will be paralegals who fail to understand the importance of their own place in their firm, the legal community is quickly opening itself up to paralegal professionals. I am excited to have entered this world when I did, while the profession is dynamic and expansive. It makes me happy to read about legal teams working together and depending on each other, rather than lowly paralegals cowering in the corner with angry attorneys yelling at them.

I say we keep it up.


  1. It's blogs like this one that will help spread the word that paralegals and legal assistants aren't "lowly" but instead are crucial to the practice of law - just as knowledgeable, skilled and valuable. Keep up the good work!

  2. Law firms would have a hard time being successful without paralegals. To get trained as a paralegal click on the link.

  3. As more and more paralegals become true professionals as you have, the more and more of the bar has, and will continue to, come to recognize the significance of the paralegal profession to the legal system. I join with Lynne in saying, "Keep up the good work."

  4. I'd just like to add... hip, hip, hurrah! It would be wonderful if continuing legal education for attorneys included paralegal utilization with a quick overview of certification. It might make a world of difference.