Pretty much all paralegals can attest that it’s hard to find employment in the legal field when you’re fresh out of paralegal school and you don’t have much legal experience. I have also heard paralegals say that it’s as hard to break out in a different area of law when you have been practicing in the same field for many years. I tend to agree with them, especially if you read all the paralegal employment ads requesting 5 years of experience in a specific field. So, how do you break out of a practice area?
I asked this same question to a former colleague last year after I started my virtual paralegal services company for attorneys. She had successfully made the move from local government law to probate. I wondered how she did it. She said a lot of the skills you acquire practicing in one area are transferable to other areas. She also told me that it may help if you're willing to come in at an "entry level" if you're starting over in a new practice area. She was right!
Most of my past experience related to local government law with limited litigation, probate and real estate experience. Although I love local government law, it’s a narrow field with low employment opportunities for paralegals. I felt it would be easier to offer my services in other fields. So I started promoting my services in areas I had limited experience in and lowered my rate to gain the experience. It worked!
I did more litigation, estate planning, probate, and recently entered the world of family law. How did I get into family law? By transferring my litigation skills to the new practice area. One thing I noticed, and this may have to do with the type of attorneys I work with, is that solo practitioners and small law firms are usually more open to work with someone who has limited experience in one area.
So go ahead. Don’t hesitate to change practice areas if you don’t like what you do or need another challenge. It can only benefit your career, and you may bring a fresh perspective to your new employer.
If you have successfully changed practice areas, please share your experience with us. Was it difficult or easy? What convinced your employer to hire or contract with you? How do you like your new practice area?
Disclaimer: The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. Your Paralegal Help Desk's blogger is not an attorney and cannot give legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should immediately seek the advice of a licensed attorney in your state.