Laura Smith’s Mentor Resource Log Record and Updated Job Information Form—After Mentor and Occupational Interview
Name: Lindsey Chapin
Organization: Barlow and Smythe
Job Title: paralegal
Relationship to You: paralegal who agreed to do an occupational interview
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lindsey is my first occupational interview subject.
JOB INFORMATION FORM: UPDATED
Common Job Title(s):
Paralegal, Legal Assistant, Legal Investigator, Patent Agent
Major Job Duties:
Assist lawyers via research, document and case preparation. Conduct research to support a legal proceeding. Handle legal correspondence, maintain organization of documents in an established paper or electronic system. Prepare briefs, pleadings, appeals, wills, contracts, etc. Contact witnesses, meet with clients. Investigate facts and law of cases and conduct background research. Direct and coordinate law office activity. File pleadings. Gather and analyze research data, such as statutes, decisions, legal articles. Ensure law library is up-to-date.
Required Education and/or Certification(s):
Training in vocational school, related on the job experience, or an associate’s degree. Usually need one or two years of training.
Required Professional Experience:
One or two years of experience; might have a formal apprenticeship structure
Other Qualifications (special computer skills, languages, etc.):
Fluency with computers, hardware and software.
Position this Job Reports to:
Lawyer, Partner in a Law Firm, Other Manager
Job and/or Industry Outlook:
22.24% growth projected between 2006-2016
My mentor Karen Barlow says that her firm is constantly seeking good paralegals and that they have a system where someone like me can get on the job training as long as I’m getting at least an associate’s degree in the field.
Questions to ask a worker in this field:
What access technology would be required for work in this field?
In the occupational interview, Lindsey spent some time describing to me the types of work that she has to do. She asked me questions about what sort of access technology I use and then we both talked about what would probably be required to be a paralegal. It seems pretty straightforward—I’d need a screen reader and OCR software and maybe some assistance with the paper filing system.
What are your hours usually like?
Karen says that paralegals often work very long hours when the firm has a heavy case load. The paralegals at her firm are busy all the time and often come in early or stay late to make sure that everything is set for upcoming cases
Lindsey said that the hours are often really long but that it’s fun if you like the feeling of working hard to meet a deadline.
Is there a lot of variety in what you do from day to day?
Lindsey said that while there is a lot of variety in the work she does, often there are several days in a row that are consumed with filing, paperwork, and taking care of office management tasks. She said that every now and again it can get boring or repetitive, but that is more than made up for by the fact that you get to see some pretty interesting cases.
Is your firm large or small?
Small firm. Lindsey talked about how she chose a small firm specifically because she wanted to feel like she was part of a team and not just a cog in a huge organization. The trade-off is that she doesn’t make as high a salary as some of her friends at the larger firms.
How did you get your job?
Karen herself started as a paralegal, in order to get a feel for the law field. She liked it so much she decided to become a laywer. She gother first job as a paralegal through her personal network—her dad knew a lawyer who was looking for a legal assistant at his firm. She was about to graduate from college with a degree in English literature and took the job to see if she wanted to apply to law school.
Lindsey found the job listing at her career center and after sending out some feelers to her network found out that one of her professors knew Karen Barlow. The professor put in a good word for Lindsey after she applied for the job. She said the interview was pretty tough, but everyone was nice.
What sort of preparation did you have?
Karen learned on the job. She had very good computer skills and was highly organized, two things that are important for paralegals. She said that she had to learn a lot about basic law procedure very quickly in order to get up to speed. She read a lot at home because often there wasn’t enough time at work to do so. Her firm was accommodating of her visual impairment and didn’t have a problem with her using access technology.
Lindsey had spent a summer as a paralegal between her junior and senior year so she had some training already. She’s always wanted to be in the law field so she majored in pre-law in college so she had some good preparation and familiarity with a lot of basic law.
What are your goals for the future?
Lindsey is applying to law school. She’s going to become a lawyer and hopes to be a partner in her own firm one day.
Are there any special skills you need to do this work?
Lindsey said that it would be best to have a good understanding of how Lexis/Nexus, an online law literature database, works. She said that she uses it all the time and you have to be fast and efficient when you’re looking things up. She also said that since the lawyer she works for specializes in labor law, she needs to be able to support that work with good knowledge about the field as well.