As we approach a New Year it is important to start considering what direction you want your career to go in. One career to consider for those who currently are or have worked as paralegals is that of a law office administrator. In order to be successful in this role it is important to understand the various aspects of working as a law office administrator. Consider these factors in order to determine if this should be the next step on your career path. There are five key areas that legal administrators focus on within a law office:
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Some paralegals mistakenly believe that the only way they can advance in their careers is to become an attorney. Becoming an attorney is not always the next rung on the career ladder for every paralegal. Although, both professions share some similarities the skill set that is needed to be a successful paralegal is not the same set of skills that is needed in order to be a successful attorney. Most practice areas require attorneys to attend court hearings and/or trials and the use of great oratory skills, presentation skills, as well as other characteristics that allow them to persuade others is a must for them to be effective. A paralegal may be excellent at drafting motions, pleadings, and other legal documents, but may not have the best oral communication skills. Being an excellent communicator does not mean that a person can communicate equally well in writing and orally.
In some circumstances a paralegal may be a better fit for another career within the legal industry. With the changing legal landscape a paralegal that is looking to grow within the legal field may choose to work in another career in the legal industry and if pay is a motivating factor can earn just as much as some attorneys make.
Following are just a few examples of careers that a paralegal can easily transition into and the expected salary range for each one:
Becoming a legal administrator is a great option for paralegals who are self starters, motivated, and possess the ability to lead teams. A legal administrator handles a variety of functions for law firms including financial management, human resources, marketing, as well as other aspects of a law firm's operations.
According to the Association of Legal Administrators a legal administrator should have the following skills and abilities:
Transitioning into the eDiscovery career from a paralegal career can be an easy transition for paralegals that are technologically savvy. The technology explosion necessitates the use of specialized professionals that understand technology as well as legal processes and procedures. In this episode of The ESI Report, Michele Lange interviews Joe Edlund and Matt Samet, two e-discovery case managers from Kroll Ontrack about the role of the eDiscovery Case Manager. Learn more about the eDiscovery Case Manager career.
Due to the lack of money the access to legal services is a challenge for underrepresented communities across the globe. The inability for underrepresented communities to receive the assistance they need results in the use of unconventional methods to deal with issues that can be resolved with the use of the appropriate legal channels. Vigilante justice or what is considered mob justice in some parts of the world is employed when the legal process is taken out of the equation and one or more individuals take it upon themselves to remedy a wrong. Unless the appropriate channels to address these challenges that are legal in nature are provided as a viable option for seeking redress the communities that utilize these methods will never understand that taking the law into their own hands can create more problems than it solves.
The United Nations has implemented strategies to assist with "strengthening justice in areas including: monitoring and evaluation; empowering the poor and marginalized to seek response and remedies for injustice; improving legal protection, legal awareness, and legal aid; civil society and parliamentary oversight; addressing challenges in the justice sector such as police brutality, inhumane prison conditions, lengthy pre-trial detention, and impunity for perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence and other serious conflict-related crimes; and strengthening linkages between formal and informal structures." When you analyze these areas into some of the challenges that are occurring in many impoverished and underrepresented communities across the globe there are key areas where paralegals can provide their assistance.
Some of these areas include:
There are some organizations like Namati who provide paralegal training in order to allow for the effective delivery of legal services to address some of these legal issues. Namati as well as other organizations minimize the gap between those that need the assistance of legal professionals and those who are able to provide such services. In some communities there is an overabundance of attorneys, but in others there are little to no attorneys. When there are attorneys available they may charge more than what is affordable by the average person in that community. This is where paralegals can provide the needed legal assistance in order to allow those who are struggling to overcome various legal hurdles to obtain adequate access to justice.
Timekeeping is an essential aspect of a paralegal’s job and a paralegal must think in line with how an organization is structured to understand the ramifications of unmet billable hour quotas. Unmet billable hour quotas means the loss of potential profits for an organization. Working within an organization that requires time to be tracked can become extremely frustrating when the proper tools are not in place to track time. Even when you do have the necessary time tracking tools it can be confusing to determine how much time to allocate to all of the tasks that compete for your time over the course of a week, month, etc. Whether or not you are required to bill for your time does not matter in the big scheme of things. What does matter is how effectively you are working and how long it is taking you to complete various tasks that you are assigned to. If there is a lack of understanding on the part of the paralegal that they are mini-organizations within an organization then the understanding of why timekeeping is so important will be confusing.
Similar to an organization it is not only important to know what you are making but also how you are making it. An organization has a pulse on their earnings as well as how they are stacking up against the competition. Are their prices in line with that of competitors? Do their service offerings allow them to function as well or better than the competition? Can they offer more bang for the buck? These are all important questions for a paralegal to consider too. Is the amount of time you are billing for, which equates to real dollars and cents line up with other paralegals within your organization? Can you compete with your colleagues as far as the quality of your work product is concerned? Do you have a grasp on the proper allocation of time being spent on the various functions within the paralegal role?
The answer to these questions should not be an afterthought but considered and planned for throughout the course of working on various functions. How can you improve upon something and reach a goal that is invisible? If consideration is not taken at the onset of working on specific tasks, projects, and functions the elimination of timewasters will go unrevealed. The revelation is the key to why there is a need for a concise and proactive approach to timekeeping for paralegals. Often you will be told that the value you place on yourself is the value that others place on you. Placing value on your time is what is being done when it is tracked. Unmet billable hour quotas means that you do not place much worth on your time so rather than getting paid for performing a meaningful task you would rather waste it by spending it doing something other than what you are being paid for.
From the time your day starts to the time that it ends it is crucial to know where your time is being spent. If too much time is being spent on the phone with your boyfriend or conversing with friends and colleagues on social media sites billable hours will go unmet. Now if you are a specialist at creative timekeeping this may not seem to pose a dilemma, but eventually either billable hour quotas will not be met or work product will suffer. One of the two will eventually suffer due to the lack of effective time management and/or timekeeping practices. Improving your timekeeping is the first step to take on the route to maximizing paralegal efficiency, but there are other ways that will increase efficiency and determine how much time you are billing and for what.
Start improving your efficiency today by utilizing the following methods:
These are just a few examples of ways that can be implemented to improve paralegal efficiency. The best method is to understand your worth and work in line with the goals that you have set for your work day, week, month, and year.
With the advantages that social media offers to connect with almost anyone across the world legal professionals who were once leery of its use are now jumping on the social media bandwagon. In most respects this is a huge plus for the legal profession that typically lags behind other industries when it comes to the use of technology for communicating but there are also legitimate concerns to consider.
The pervasion of the reality T.V. syndrome has transformed socieity into one comprised of mini celebrities who must update their “loyal fans” on everything that goes on in their lives from what their cooking for dinner to who pissed them off at work and how they told that person where they could go. Legal professionals are not exempt from this syndrome and it can have disastrous effects on their careers and firm’s reputation. Legal professionals who were once tight lipped are more apt to say things than they would before the reality t.v. syndrome took hold of our culture.
There is no lack of guidance for clients about being cautious when using social media while being a party to a legal matter but the guidance for legal professionals is sparse. Because of LinkedIn groups that bring together professionals who share interests, professional associations, careers, and other commonalities legal professionals can get too comfortable with sharing information in group discussions that can come back to bite them and/or their employer later on.
Following are a few quick tips on how not to allow LinkedIn to destroy your career and the reputation and credibility of your firm.
Although, a book can be written about how to effectively use LinkedIn for Legal Professionals the previously mentioned tips will go a long way to ensure that LinkedIn’s incredible ability to connect professionals around the world is not used as a forum to vent about grievances about a current or previous employer. Even if your concerns are legitimate don’t allow the reality t.v. syndrome to override your professionalism and destroy your career or firm’s reputation.