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?
Do you know what a Florida Registered Paralegal is? A Florida Registered Paralegal is someone who meets the definition of paralegal and the requirements for registration with the Florida Bar. The Rules Regulating the Florida Bar define a paralegal as:
“a person with education, training, or work experience, who works under the direction and supervision of a member of The Florida Bar and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a member of The Florida Bar is responsible”
Unlike paralegal certifications, you don’t have to pass a test to be a Florida Registered Paralegal. You must meet the education combined with work experience requirement or be certified through NALA or NFPA to be eligible. There is also a grandfathering provision for paralegals who were registered before March 2011, but resigned or had their registration revoked.
If you meet one of the eligibility requirements, the application process is quick and easy. You must complete the application form, pay an application fee and provide supporting documentation to prove your education, work or certification. You must also sign an acknowledgment that you have read Chapter 20 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar and will comply with the Code of Ethics and Responsibility. Lastly, you must be currently working and your current and/or previous supervising attorney(s) must provide an attestation.
To maintain your Florida Registered Paralegal status, you must complete a minimum of 30 hours of CLE every 3 years, including 5 hours of ethic or professionalism. You must also be continuously employed as a paralegal and pay an annual renewal fee.
So what are the benefits of being a Florida Registered Paralegal? Prospective employers may be more likely to hire you because your registration shows that you have the education, training and work experience as a paralegal. Your contact information is listed on the Florida Bar website. You also have access to the same benefits available to attorney members of the Florida Bar, including free access to Fastcase and discounted CLE programs.
I have to admit I was hesitant to become a Florida Registered Paralegal, mostly because of the continuous employment requirement. If you lose your job or resign, you also lose your Florida Registered Paralegal status. And then, once you are hired again, you must submit a new application and fee. Some paralegals may also be reluctant to register because the program is administered by attorneys (who are also employers of paralegals), as opposed to certification programs administered by paralegal associations. One may wonder if the Florida Bar has the paralegal’s best interest at heart.
As you can see, there are Pros and Cons to be a Florida Registered Paralegal. Please consider them before applying.
I am curious to know what other paralegals think about this topic. Do you feel it’s worth it to become a registered paralegal with your state bar association?
Do you have a hard time delegating? It’s understandable because you have always done everything yourself. You are just used to it. However, when you reach the point when you have too much work to do and not enough hours in the day to do it, you need to delegate. Even though you know you should delegate, are you still making excuses not to? These are the most common ones:
I can’t delegate because you are not in my office: As a virtual paralegal, I have heard this one several times. Maybe you feel you don’t have as much control over the work if it’s done outside your office. Or maybe you think it’s quicker to delegate if the person is right in front of you. It’s not when you follow the tips below.
I can do it quicker than you: This may be true at first, but if you delegate the same tasks on a daily basis, the person you delegate it to will get used to it and become faster at it…maybe faster than you.
You don’t work the same way I do: What you should keep in mind here is the end result, not the way used to achieve it.
I can do it because it’s quick and easy: You’re right, but if you combine all the quick and easy tasks you do throughout the day, it amounts to a good chunk of time you could have spent developing leads or doing substantive work.
Delegating is expensive: How much is your time worth? If your time is worth more than the time of the person you delegate to than go ahead and delegate. You will save time and money.
Do you still think your reasons for not delegating are valid? If so, let’s see what the consequences are:
As you can see, there may be risks when delegating, but they outweigh the consequences. If you are finally ready to delegate, here are some tips that may help you:
It’s time to let go and rise above your delegation fears. The end result will be positive for both your business and yourself.
With the advance of electronic filing and paperless offices, attorneys and paralegals use Adobe Acrobat Pro on a daily basis. Not only can you turn a Word document into a PDF, but you can also use it to sign, redact and Bates stamp documents. In this blog post, I’ll show you how to use these tree basic features with Adobe Acrobat XI Pro.
Save time and paper! Instead of printing, signing, scanning and then emailing your electronic document, sign your document directly with Adobe Acrobat Pro. Under Fill & Sign, select Place Signature. You have several options to create a signature:
Redaction is often used for litigation and public record requests. Once done, there is no going back. So don’t forget to save a copy of the original document before you redact it. Under Tools, select Protection and click Mark for Redaction. With your mouse, select the text you want to redact and click Apply Redaction. If you are looking for specific words to redact, use the Search and Remove Text function. You can also change the Redaction Properties if you want to pick a different color or add text over the redacted elements. You can even refer to the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act provisions.
Bates numbering is used to organize and find litigation documents. Under Tools, go to Pages. Click on Bates Numbering and select Add Bates Numbering. On the top left corner of the window, click Add Files. Then you have the option to add files, folders or use open files. Let’s say your documents are already open. Click on Add Open Files. Select which open files you want to Bates number. When you’re done click OK. You can then format the numbering by choosing the font style, size and color. After selecting where you want the Bates numbering to appear on each page, click on Insert Bates Number. Select the number of digits and the start number. Add a prefix or suffix, if necessary, and click OK. A Bates numbering preview will appear. If everything looks good, click OK and Adobe Acrobat Pro will apply the Bates numbering to your documents.
Hope this quick tutorial was helpful. If you have any questions, comment below.
Thanks to the General Practice Solo Small Firm Section of the Florida Bar, I attended my first legal tech seminar last week. On Day 1, the speakers talked about courtroom technology, e-discovery, social media and blog ethics, Microsoft Office, PowerPoint and Adobe Acrobat. Day 2 was mostly on practice management. There was also an interesting conference on social media discovery and jury selection. I learned a lot and met great attorneys and paralegals. For those who couldn’t make it, these are my favorite tips of the Wild Wild Tech Seminar:
The GPSSF Section will host another legal tech seminar next January. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to keep up with legal technology and trends.
About a month ago, I attended a paralegal dinner where the speaker talked about how to be a successful paralegal. She brought up some good points until she said paralegals should never say no when attorneys ask them to do something (not surprisingly she is an attorney!). As an example, she asked a paralegal how she would answer if the attorney asks her on Friday to work over the weekend. The paralegal said she would do it. Then the speaker said, what if I ask you the same thing next Friday, would you do it? As a good paralegal (and knowing what the speaker wanted her to say) she said yes again.
Well I am glad I don’t work with this attorney. Don’t get me wrong, I do every reasonable request an attorney asks for. However, we all know someone who takes advantage of others. You give an inch, they take a mile. During my 12 years in the legal field, I have had to say no to an attorney known to be unreasonable. I am glad I had the strength to do it. The attorney didn’t like my answer, but got over it. By saying no I taught the attorney to respect me and appreciate my work.
Attorneys face similar situations, especially with potential clients. Some clients are more difficult to work with than others. You have to find a way to identify them and reject them before it’s too late. They may have a frivolous lawsuit, they may not have the funds to pay you or they may be a liability to your practice. The best way to identify them is during the client intake process (see When to Say No: 10 Ways to Select and Reject a Client by Edward Poll). Most importantly, if in doubt, follow your gut feeling and say no.
You may also have to say no to opposing counsels, especially when they make unreasonable demands or threats. You don’t have to explain why you disagree. They are not your clients and they are not worth your time. If your reply is as wordy as their demands, the dispute may escalate and your client will ultimately pay the price. By keeping it short, you may actually destabilize the opposing counsel and turn this situation in your favor.
So next time someone, be it your boss, client or opposing counsel, asks an unreasonable demand, don’t be afraid to say no. Respecting yourself and setting boundaries will teach others how to treat you.
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.