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legal assistant jobs and how to find them

Updated on February 19, 2009

I was a Paralegal (legal assistant) for 10 yrs. The best chances are for women. Hate to say it BUT this field has a real bias towards nice looking women. That is the reality. If you are a guy, your chances are not as good as a woman's if all things are equal. Since lawyers have the final say, it does not seem to matter whether the attorney is a man or woman. The bias in favor of women is clear to any guy. When you have say 10 paralegals in the firm and only 1 is a guy, and most of the attorney's are men, it is not rocket science. Similar to age discrimination if the skills are equal yet a 20 something gets it over a 40 something.

Suffice to say, the ratio for paralegals to attorneys is around one paralegal for every 5-10 lawyers within the firm. The reason is that most attorney's do not trust paralegals to do many things and treat them as a legal secretary. Bigger firms tend to treat them better and delegate more important duties that an attorney would normally do once you prove to them. This comes to Legal research, which most lawyers seldom delegate out. Actually, a Paralegal has more time learning that than a law student in a law school, I know, I went on and got my law degree.

Paralegal jobs are in big law firms with 50+ lawyers in big urban areas. That is where it is easiest to find them. Counties and small cities employ them but in very small numbers. They are used frequently in family law, personal injury, bankruptcy because of the numerous forms or investigative type work that an attorney needs and relies on. Much of the forms are boilerplate and the paralegal fills in the blanks and the attorney checks it out and if OK, signs it. Paralegals also do field investigations and client intake interviews for family law or personal injury. This is a frequent use in mid to large firms. In small offices with less than 10, you may feel like a secretary more than legal assistant, there is a lot of cross over duties and it all depends on how the attorney views what a paralegal\legal assistant is. It varies. A legal secretary handles correspondence and types very fast, like 100 wpm, they take the draft brief or whatever of the attorney and put it on legal pleading paper etc., correct semantics, spelling etc. They do not change the content. When done, the attorney reviews.

If the Paralegal does legal research, the attorney will review the findings and probably find something wrong and amend it, but the bulk of the work will be done by a respected paralegal. Paralegals seldom draft motions or presents written arguments on points of law in a brief, that domain is for "attorney" only.

The paralegal is always afraid of saying too much or helping too much as it may be construed as "giving legal advice", which only an attorney can. So, the fine line can get you into trouble all the time especially if a client claims that the paralegal recommeded to do something or use a specific form etc. This usually occurs when something in court goes wrong and the judge quizzes the party. The party, not wanting to get into trouble, claims that is what the "paralegal told me to do."  Yet, helping is what the paralegal is suppose to do.




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