Paralegal work from UG

(Please Ask Questions and Answer Questions)
aquaokay
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:04 pm

Paralegal work from UG

Postby aquaokay » Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:50 pm

I apologize in advance if this is in the wrong forum and/or can be answered by the search function - I looked and couldn't find anything, but I probably suck at searching and my situations kind of specific (if there is something out there that's similar though and you can find it, that would be a huge help to me). Any advise/info/experiences/useful resources is/are greatly appreciated.

Here's my situation:

I'm a senior at a fairly shitty university south of DC looking to apply to LS next fall (taking the LSAT in June), and my goal is to work all of next year to get some experience in the legal field before I throw 3 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars (hopefully less, though) into it. I'm originally from NY (not the city) and honestly just want to get out of the south. NY is a possibility but I'm open to anything on the east coast north of Maryland basically). Really not looking to move back home (even if it would be better financially), so next year I really just want a job that I can support myself with and will give me a better idea of what practicing law is like. I'm only really interested in civil law, in particular family law, and my long-term goal is to open up my own private practice. I don't care about making a lot of money or about prestige. Right now I have an unpaid internship at a small legal aid organization that mainly works in family law (3 FT attorneys, 5 FT staff). I'm getting academic credit now, which I won't be able to get next semester, but I'm probably going to stay with them just for the experience/resume. I've mostly been closing cases but recently they've had me do some intake and discovery stuff. They've always told me to let them know if there's anything I'm interested in doing, but honestly, I don't even know what I should be asking for.

So, here's what I'm wondering:

1) Is it realistic to try and get a paying legal job with only 9 months of part-time legal experience in a very unprestigious law office from a UG that nobody has heard of where I want to practice?
2) If so, (a) where would be the best place to look, and (b) what's the best way to look (is it all just mass mailing/phone calls?)
3) What would potential employers look for in paralegals and what specific tasks do they expect one to be able to do (particularly in a family law office)?

Sorry for the novel. Again, any help is greatly appreciated! Thank you!

doing_it_in_a_car
Posts: 147
Joined: Fri Oct 29, 2010 6:43 pm

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby doing_it_in_a_car » Sat Nov 05, 2011 11:55 pm

I graduated UG with a <3.3 GPA in a liberal arts degree and 3 months of legal internship experience. I applied to paralegal positions everywhere through Craigslist, official law firm sites, and through friends and connections.

Got ~3 total interviews over the course of 6 months, after sending out about ~100 applications. I put my >170 LSAT score on my resume (like a tool). I originally thought that HR people wouldn't want to see it because I thought they assume you'll just leave for law school after they train you - but a lot of the big firms expect that anyway. In my one interview with a V10 firm, I got the impression that the LSAT score impressed them. And that they expected paralegals to just leave in 2 years anyway.

I eventually landed a job at a small but busy immigration law office in NYC. Some of my friends who got paralegal jobs had no legal experience whatsoever. One was pre-med, one was an English major. Just put yourself out there, and you should be able to expect to find a job to support yourself. Lemme know if you have more specific questions, would be happy to help more if I can.

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby vanwinkle » Sun Nov 06, 2011 12:10 am

Law firms often hire people specifically as temporary-track paralegals these days, from what I understand. They'll have both temporary/term and "career" paralegal positions, the latter being for people who really are looking for a long-term job. There's nothing wrong with making your long-term aspirations known, and it can help you find the kind of position that'd actually suit you best.

User avatar
No13baby
Posts: 440
Joined: Fri Aug 19, 2011 12:42 am

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby No13baby » Mon Nov 07, 2011 12:46 pm

I found a paralegal position off Craigslist with no prior legal experience whatsoever, and told my interviewers straight-up that I was only planning to work for a couple yaers before law school. You should be able to find a family law position, especially since you'll already have experience with the formatting/documents/etc. unique to that area of law.

One caveat: I did not get any requests for interviews until I moved to the city in which I now live. I think you'll have more luck if you move somewhere and then start applying, not the other way around. I've since looked through resumes for a couple other positions at my firm and we've never once considered someone who lived too far away to come in for an interview on immediate notice.

User avatar
Gail
Posts: 977
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2011 11:11 am

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby Gail » Wed Nov 30, 2011 2:37 am

So. I'm going to bump this because I feel bad making my own thread.

I've been searching pretty intensely for an entry level, junior track paralegal job around Chicago. I've looked at staffing agencies and have found nothing. Craigslist, nothing. Any advice? What are good legal staffing sites? National or Chicago based?

User avatar
crossarmant
Posts: 1116
Joined: Fri Jan 14, 2011 8:01 am

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby crossarmant » Wed Nov 30, 2011 11:14 pm

aquaokay wrote:I'm a senior at a fairly shitty university south of DC


From VA, are you at Mason?

Anyways, I worked through a staffing agency for a year in an in-house counsel gig with a big bank before LS. I feel like it definitely helped out so it may be worthwhile. It is definitely hard to get interviews with a lot of firms, I've gotten more rejection letters than imaginable. Though to be fair, from what I and my friends experienced, it's the same thing across all jobs. Keep your chin up and realize that working in the field will [1] Give you a leg up when applying to law school, or [2] make you realize you want a different career path. Either ways its in your best interest.

User avatar
Dr. Filth
Posts: 1158
Joined: Thu Jul 21, 2011 7:22 pm

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby Dr. Filth » Thu Dec 01, 2011 4:45 am

So is putting your LSAT Score on there TCR? I've been worried how to make myself not look so horribly with a 3.0 lib arts.

User avatar
Ialdabaoth
Posts: 240
Joined: Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:26 pm

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby Ialdabaoth » Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:03 am

Bump for the LSAT score on resume question. And what score would one need in order to make it worth putting on there? I have a 168 (96th). My instinct would be 170+ for something like that, but I kind of feel like it's an arrogant thing to put on a resume at all, since a high LSAT score probably doesn't translate into success as a paralegal.

nsbane
Posts: 163
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2012 9:35 pm

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby nsbane » Tue Jan 31, 2012 4:42 am

I worked as a paralegal for two years in state government. With that in mind, I would suggest:

Don't put your LSAT score on your resume. You will be filing motions. That has nothing to do with anything on the LSAT. It is not relevant to the work you will be doing AT ALL. It will only signal to your interviewer that you will be leaving ASAP. Also, law can be a pretty hierarchical gig. If you scored higher on the LSAT than the guy interviewing you, he could resent you. My feeling is anyone who got hired after putting their LSAT on the resume got hired in spite of that, not because of it.

User avatar
Ialdabaoth
Posts: 240
Joined: Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:26 pm

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby Ialdabaoth » Tue Jan 31, 2012 11:04 am

nsbane wrote:I worked as a paralegal for two years in state government. With that in mind, I would suggest:

Don't put your LSAT score on your resume. You will be filing motions. That has nothing to do with anything on the LSAT. It is not relevant to the work you will be doing AT ALL. It will only signal to your interviewer that you will be leaving ASAP. Also, law can be a pretty hierarchical gig. If you scored higher on the LSAT than the guy interviewing you, he could resent you. My feeling is anyone who got hired after putting their LSAT on the resume got hired in spite of that, not because of it.


That's what I've been leaning towards too. Thanks!

aquaokay
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:04 pm

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby aquaokay » Tue Jan 31, 2012 9:26 pm

@ crossarmant (only 2 months late): not Mason, idk about how our academic reputation stacks up, but we're definitely less well known than them. Literally anyone I've met in NY who has heard of it only has because they have a family/friend who went there. Hoping it won't hurt my chances too much when applying for jobs.

For anyone looking for a paralegal job: it is absolutely true what other posters have said about places not caring that you plan on leaving soon for LS. I've started to apply to places now and it seems like since they are all entry-level positions, the majority of them really don't even want anything beyond a 1-2 year commitment.

Also, like Gail was asking, where did you guys look for jobs? I've been using idealist.org, which is amazing for finding public interest stuff, and some people have mentioned craigslist, but is there anything else? Did anyone just cold call or send their resumes to places? Is that just a complete waste of time?

Thanks!

User avatar
2LT_CPG
Posts: 272
Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:26 pm

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby 2LT_CPG » Tue Jan 31, 2012 9:34 pm

I got an offer from a midlaw firm in the NYC Financial District last May as a yearlong position specifically designed for aspiring law school applicants taking a year to work. It was super nice and I would have loved to accept it, but I needed to devote all my time to studying for the LSAT over the summer, so I turned them down.

I got that offer by responding to a craigslist ad with my resume/cover letter. I suspect that I got an interview because the interviewing partner went to my undergrad. I get the impression too that a lot of firms start recruiting these types of paralegals/clerks in the Spring. The best cities are gonna be the big legal markets - DC and NYC. I tried to get something similar post-LSAT in October, but I had no luck because I was living in Philadelphia and it didn't seem like many places were hiring.

The method is definitely resume/cover letter bombing the various job sites in their legal section. You may get one non-scam response out of five-hundred you send, but it's doable.

User avatar
tanzie
Posts: 14
Joined: Mon Jun 06, 2011 8:49 pm

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby tanzie » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:36 pm

Aside from Idealist and Craigslist, you might also want to try indeed.com (it pulls job search queries from an array of job boards, which is helpful). In the New York area there are a number of legal staffing firms which specialize in temp, temp-to-perm and perm assignments. I would think that they could certainly accommodate your time constraints. I recommend Filcro.com -- they have quite a good legal section. Not sure what other cities north of MD would have a good employment base aside from Philly or Newark, but you might want to peruse the major local papers' classifieds of those cities as well. If you don't want to live in New York, you could always live in Jersey/Long Island/CT and commute to the city, which definitely has the most lucrative and varied options for paralegal work. And I definitely agree with other posters that many firms are understanding of paralegals' career goals. As long as you articulate your willingness to work hard and your interest in the law, your potential employers should be cool with your situation.

Also a note on the LSAT scores -- while newer attorneys might still be familiar with the 180 scale, older attorneys (the ones with 20+ years of experience) tested under a different system and might not even realize what 170 or 168 means. These would probably be the attorneys doing the interviewing (especially at smaller firms), so you might risk sounding like a bit of an ass. And if you supplant your score with an explanation of the percentile on your res, then you would probably sound like an even bigger jerk. That's just my opinion, though, so use your best judgment :)

Good luck in the job search!

aquaokay
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:04 pm

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby aquaokay » Sun Feb 05, 2012 10:57 am

Thanks for the replies!

@ 2LT_CPG: yeah, just from the searching that I've done I'm amazed at how all the jobs are located in so few areas. I've heard that NY has the most legal jobs, but I had no idea by how wide of a margin. It seems like if NY has 20, DC will have 5-7 and everywhere else like maybe 1 or 2.

@ tanzie: Thanks! I'll definitely check out Indeed and Filcro! I've got no problem with NY and it seems like I'll probably end up there if I can land something. It's good to know about the LSAT thing too - a while back in another thread I remember some posters saying that it was a good idea to put it on because they'll know you can get into a good school or something, but thinking about it, I don't know why they'd really care as long as you can do your job well. And like you and some others have said, you definitely could just end up looking like a tool.

aquaokay
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:04 pm

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby aquaokay » Sat Feb 18, 2012 3:38 am

Sorry to bump my own thread, but in my job search a new question came up and I was hoping someone had insight into this:

I'm definitely interested in doing public interest work after LS, but it seems like there are much more paralegal positions in private for-profit firms than anywhere else. Of course, ideally I would land a public interest job, but if I didn't, but was able to get a job in a for-profit firm, would I be hurting my chances of getting into public interest work later on (since, from what I understand, public interest places are skeptical if you don't have a consistent history of working for them)?

tl;dr: does working as a paralegal in a for-profit firm before LS hurt my chances of getting a public interest gig later on?

CanadianWolf
Posts: 10439
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:54 pm

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby CanadianWolf » Sun Feb 19, 2012 12:15 pm

There is no uniform answer for small to medium law firms or for state government positions. Apply & see what happens.

The most prestigious law firms (DC & NYC) recruit paralegals straight out of certain select undergraduate schools (e.g., Ivies, Baby Ivies, Stanford, Northwestern & Chicago) & require at least a two year committment. They have formal training programs which allow/require all incoming paralegals to start on a common date. The big DA's offices may require a two to three year committment & Spanish/English fluency for certain positions.

nsbane
Posts: 163
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2012 9:35 pm

Re: Paralegal work from UG

Postby nsbane » Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:18 pm

My advice:

1) Work the paralegal job at a private firm to earn $

2) Volunteer at a non-profit that does work you're interested in. Example: On the weekends I volunteered at the International Rescue Committee teaching refugees English and helping them adjust to life in America.




Return to “Law School FAQ”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest