Not a trad. question, mother needs advice. Help appreciated.

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hyakku
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Not a trad. question, mother needs advice. Help appreciated.

Postby hyakku » Fri Dec 23, 2011 5:54 pm

Tl; DR at the bottom for those who don't have time.

Sup all, this is a bit of a strange question, but I realized that this is also where ill get the hard truth, regardless of how ugly it will be. The story briefly is that my mother has worked for an extraordinarily small law firm (think two partners, one is now retired) and is the paralegal under the remaining partner. The firm seems to be doing fine, or at least okay (it's a local firm in NJ primarily focused on BKs) no risk of shutting down or anything; the lawyer is relatively well respected, has a prime location across from the courthouse and is a cool guy. She has been with him for quite some time (around 10+ years).

Series of health complications induced by medical malpractice has left my stepather jobless and may not be able work again. Despite the hospital admitting their mistake that nearly killed him (they didn't try to lie or anything at least) the "Christians" in them decided to reward them for their honesty because it also provided aid to non insured locals. While I admire that, it now means my mother is largely the breadwinner of the home. She pulls roughly 33k annually.

Two issues have her considering at least looking for other work:

1. The partner she works with is older, and while he doesn't wish to retire, anything can happen as you get older.

2. With my stepfather not working, things have become a lot harder to manage, and she presently isn't able to put anything aside for retirement (although I have no intention of them ever having to pay for much in their retirement)

I'm asking on TLS because she's in a strange position. She has a paralegal certificate (perhaps degree, but doubtful, she did a twoish year program that I can't really recall because I was so young) from a local school, would definitely likely be TTT, although it's pretty respected in the area. I believe that would only make her qualified for secretarial paralegal work correct?

I don't really feel qualified to give her advice, but i know she can't really just go to NYC for big law with her degree. Does anyone have any information about possible options for her? Its not mandatory, and I'd prefer her to keep the job security for herself until I can take care of them, but I also know thats not something I can guarantee. With her doing so much of the personal work for the partner, I suggested she may want to look into the bar, but again, while I've looked into it I'm not knowledgable enough to know whether 15 years of work in her field would be enough for that, although I'm sure shed be down to study up.

Tl;DR Mother is a secretarial paralegal working at a small local firm making just to stay afloat and not enough to establish retirement or rainy day funds. Didn't graduate from any huge institute, and is wondering what are some options outside of the obviously impossible transition to big law.

Forgive any typos, was on an iOS device.

Anonymous User
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Re: Not a trad. question, mother needs advice. Help appreciated.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 23, 2011 6:12 pm

If she's old enough for her kid to be posting coherent thoughts on TLS, then it's likely she'd face age discrimination at big law firms. There is a stereotype (potentially based in truth) prevalent among a lot of industries, not just law firms, that older folks don't learn new things as quickly. And even if you invest in training them, they either retire after a few years or get health problems or die (sorry, but you know what I mean).

That being said, I think her only available course of action is somewhat obvious: search for jobs the same way any other person looking for a new job would. Networking, classifieds, walking in to firms, etc. Try to get some interviews, negotiate salary, see if she gets an offer she likes. If not, then she's stuck staying in her current gig.

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Geetar Man
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Re: Not a trad. question, mother needs advice. Help appreciated.

Postby Geetar Man » Fri Dec 23, 2011 6:22 pm

From what I read, it seems like she only has a paralegal certificate from a TTT school in her area.

First question: Does she have a law degree that accompanies this certificate? If so, she's been a paralegal this entire time?

I'm actually going to assume that you're first asking if she can take her paralegal certificate and get a job in BIGLAW. My answer to this is yes, it's a possibility. But I would advise her not to quit her job UNLESS she has secured a permanent position in another.

The second question I inferred was that you were asking is if she could study for the bar and pass, with no law school? While I believe that this has been done before, it is highly improbable that she could pass. One would have to have a decent amount of knowledge about the law and I think that her being a paralegal for whatever amount of years will NOT be sufficient in giving her the knowledge that is required to pass the bar.

In short, she should keep her job unless she finds a better paying job. Right now, it's pretty hard to find jobs so if she feels that her law firm might be on its way down the drain, she should start looking for other jobs.

Hope that helps.

c3pO4
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Re: Not a trad. question, mother needs advice. Help appreciated.

Postby c3pO4 » Fri Dec 23, 2011 6:37 pm

I'm not sure how biglaw paralegal hiring works, but I don't think it's nearly as prestige/institution driven (or at all) as associate hiring. If she has relevant experience to a practice area, I think she'd be able to get a job. But idk.

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kalvano
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Re: Not a trad. question, mother needs advice. Help appreciated.

Postby kalvano » Fri Dec 23, 2011 6:44 pm

Experienced paralegals are more valuable than attorneys. I bet if she quietly shopped her resume around, she could find a much better-paying job.

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hyakku
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Re: Not a trad. question, mother needs advice. Help appreciated.

Postby hyakku » Fri Dec 23, 2011 7:56 pm

Thanks for the advice so far all.

Anon #1, I was thinking the same in terms of bias, and I think she understands that well. Sorry if the post is unclear, I'm certain she doesn't want to move to big law. I think she would simply prefer something that pays slightly more with added benefits. She started working with him it was the late 90s, and she's stayed with them because of the flexibility they offered. The partners are also great people, and a huge reason she had taken the job was because she was still single and raising me at the time of acceptance, and even after getting married they allow a lot of flexibility in terms of family emergencies, etc. They are also very close to home, reducing travel costs, etc.

Presently she's certainly not in a huge rush to leave, but being that I've been gone for years, the flexibility that was once such an asset isn't as necessary.

To geetar, I probably responded to your post with some of what i just said, but thank you again for the advice. I believe she does just have the certificate. My question was more a long the lines of what she might be looking at outside of big law. We do live very close to NYC, but as I said, I think the long hours of big law isnt exactly she's looking for. Her goal is more to have a decent increase in pay while still maintaining a similar 40-50 hour work week, a few added benefits, etc. Essentially just to be more near the mid law or shitlaw type of pay scales.

Thank you c3 and kalvano. Also, I don't think it's something she has to hide or anything. The partner is very understanding of the situation and I believe he realizes that they've both benefited from the situation for a while (her in terms of schedule of flexibility, him in terms of being able to save some on an experienced paralegal he trusts). I think as he gets older and scales back dome, he feels the other paralegal and assistant my mother has essentially mentored will be able to grow into her role. Or at least, that's the sentiment I've gotten. She's fortunate to have an understanding boss.

Thank you again for the advice you all, I feel like I've got a much better picture I can paint of the legal market. I'm sure she's aware of the realities, but being in a job for a decade and a half probably insulated you to a lot of the changes. She's done a lot of her own research, but i wasn't quite ready to send her to TLS :lol:

choochoo
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Re: Not a trad. question, mother needs advice. Help appreciated.

Postby choochoo » Sat Dec 24, 2011 3:00 am

Would she consider being a legal secretary at a biglaw firm? She might not be using all of her paralegal skills, but I believe some of the work overlaps. My dad's secretary at a big firm definitely makes more than 33k and gets a lot of benefits (she's in her late 40s, non-NYC market though). From my understanding, she works pretty regular hours, leaving between 4:00 and 5:00 each day. The environment would probably be a bit more stressful, but she only really has to work overtime in the days leading up to a big trial (which is rare because most of the cases settle).

Just a thought.

Anonymous User
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Re: Not a trad. question, mother needs advice. Help appreciated.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 24, 2011 7:24 am

I will have to concur with some of the comments here. The barriers to entry for a seasoned paralegal at a well-paying firm in NYC are not nearly as onerous as those for associates. If your mom has the requisite experience and skills, the prestige-whoring is not going to be an issue. As someone earlier said, she should quietly shop around her resume to see if she gets any bites from the big boys who pay the big bucks in Manhattan. That she has bankruptcy experience may help her more than usual, since that's a counter-cyclical practice area that's easily transferable and that's expanding these days.

I was a Big Law paralegal in NYC for three years after college. My paralegal supervisor in one of the departments I worked in was rumored not to have her college degree. She did have a paralegal certificate, though it's likely bottom-of-the-barrel TTT if she didn't even have a college degree. Despite this, she was probably more well-versed in the law of the practice she worked in than half the Ivy League associates who waltzed into (and out of) the department. She was intelligent, with a very keen eye to detail (to the point where she could get really officious). She was probably earning well above 100K due to her deep institutional experience and just sheer efficiency. Your mom, as a new hire, would probably be earning around 60K to 70K easily (and that's just base salary).

It is Christmas Eve after all and I'm feeling extra generous. PM me for more info, and hopefully I'll see what I can do (I also have a relationship with a Big Law paralegal recruiter who keeps emailing me). Let me know.

RPK34
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Re: Not a trad. question, mother needs advice. Help appreciated.

Postby RPK34 » Sat Dec 24, 2011 8:09 am

My mother has worked as a paralegal at a few small firms (2 firms with 1-2 attorneys, 2 other with under ten) and she has never had a problem transitioning from one firm to the next. Honestly, if she has been working in the area for a while, she'll probably have a reputation with some of the other small firms that have similar practice areas. Even recently when she left a firm, despite the down economy and living in a horrible legal market right now, she had no problems getting a handful of job offers.

Most small attorney's know that if they have a paralegal who does their job well, they're worth their weight in gold.

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hyakku
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Re: Not a trad. question, mother needs advice. Help appreciated.

Postby hyakku » Sun Dec 25, 2011 1:55 pm

Thank you all. You've given me a lot to be able to relay to her, and im extraordinarily grateful. I'll let you all enjoy the holidays for now, and try to shoot you a pm later (anon) in the week. There's no rush this week and no need to bog yourself down with this after you've already helped me so much. Thanks again everyone and Merry Christmas.




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