Laura Smith’s Job Observation Report and Reflection
I wanted to do an observation at a law firm larger than Karen Barlow’s because that’s the sort of environment I thought I’d ultimately want to work in. Karen helped me set up an observation at Sato, Lomanaco, and Partners—a large firm downtown—where I was able to observe one of their paralegals, Simon Craig. Simon was really patient and helpful and took a lot of time out of his day to explain everything to me, which wasn’t something I was expecting. It was a totally different feel than the Barlow office. The firm is large enough—there are 8 partners, 2 junior partners and 7 staff attorneys—that the paralegals are all working in one section of the office. None of the paralegals had a real office—they were all at open workstations and cubicles. There didn’t seem to be a lot of face time with the lawyers—communication was either by phone or e-mail. I was really surprised by how much paperwork Simon had to do. His desk was piled with stacks of paper and he said that I was seeing him on a good day! Just in the time I was there today, file boxes for three new cases were dropped off at his desk. He spent a lot of time filing, Xeroxing, and documenting various procedural issues for about seven cases. He said he really liked the job but found it very stressful at times because each attorney has a different way of doing things and it was hard to keep everyone straight sometimes. I had been thinking that each lawyer would have an assigned paralegal, but apparently the way this firm does it is that most paralegals work for all of the junior partners and staff attorneys. The partners each have an assigned paralegal, but they also can pull from the paralegal “pool” any time they need extra support. There were about 20 paralegals and everyone seemed really, really busy. The environment felt a little tense at times and I overheard one of the paralegals talking to someone who seemed really angry about a mistake the paralegal had made. It also seemed pretty exciting, though. Simon said that he liked the cases he worked on—they were complex and interesting and he’d learned a lot. His plan is to go on to be a lawyer, and he said that he felt his job was really preparing him well for the future. I liked the energy in the office and the sense that everyone was working really hard and being productive. I observed Simon issue a subpoena and also make several calls to witnesses who will be needed for upcoming trials. It was all very interesting and varied work.
I am still interested in becoming a paralegal, though I think I might aim for getting hired at a mid-range firm. Sato and Partners seemed a little too stressful as a place to start. Maybe after I have a couple years under my belt in a smaller environment I’ll either move up to a larger firm or go get my law degree. The work is definitely a good match for my skills, personality, and values. I like that there is a good degree of interaction with a variety of people and I also like how much organization is required. I think if I can find the right firm, I’ll really enjoy working as a paralegal.