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Virtual Paralegalism

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Paralegals Hit Hard by the Economy

While there are indicators that the economy is showing small signs of recovery, the reality is that many of our fellow paralegals are still out of work and suffering severe hardships due to the loss of income and key benefits, such as health insurance. Showing our support for paralegals who are struggling to find work, and helping them if we are in a position to do so, is part of being a member of the larger paralegal community.

The National Law Journal includes Phoenix paralegal Theresa Prater in a feature story about how the economy has affected legal professionals. Prater is finding that her 27 years of legal experience may be hindering her job search, with some potential employers intimidated by her knowledge and her former salary. She is teaching an introductory class to paralegal students but is honest with them about the scarce paralegal opportunities in the Phoenix area right now.

The Tennessean is reporting that North Dakota paralegal Cindy Shawcross lost her job and health benefits in July after a motor vehicle accident. A thyroid cancer survivor who exhausted her retirement savings trying to maintain group health insurance, she’s now unable to pay for follow-up care for that condition, and hoping to qualify for a free mammogram needed to further examine a new lump in her breast.

Karen Prows, a California paralegal employed by the Solano County District Attorney’s Office, was informed last week, along with fellow office assistant Judy Smart, that their jobs are ending October 10, as reported by the Contra Costa Times. Not only is she worried about the people she serves in the Crime Victims Assistance Department, but she is also wondering why she is one of only two employees laid off, out of 156 employees eligible for early retirement.

Finally, Michelle Singletary, a financial columnist for the Washington Post, has been featuring Maryland paralegal Bobbie Wilson and her husband, Juan, in this year’s “Color of Money Challenge”. Wilson lost her job in January, following her husband’s job loss in 2008. The couple has five children. Although she has located temporary work which has been extended from October to December 31, the couple received a foreclosure notice for their home.

These stories remind me not only to appreciate the simple act of showing up to work, but also that we’re a community of intelligent and resourceful legal professionals. It’s been inspiring to see many individuals and groups stepping up to the plate to support others struggling to find work, with job banks and leads, resume assistance, food drives and even just plain encouragement and a sympathetic ear, but sometimes it makes me wonder – could we be doing more?

2 Responses to Paralegals Hit Hard by the Economy

  1. It's not unusual to hear about this situation. Where I currently live, paralegal jobs have been literally non-existent for a very long time and this is not likely to change. Law firms are not hiring, those that leave the profession are not being replaced, and it makes it harder to find work in the legal area.

    Additionally, people here don't want to relocate for opportunities in other states. Unfortunately, I have advised many new students fresh out of paralegal school that they may need to relocate to find a job and that's the reality.

    Paralegal programs here are seeing dropping enrollments because of the economic slump as well. I've recently been told that the program I've been teaching in will be discontinued. The last of the paralegal students will be completing their studies at the end of the Spring 2010 term. We have had no new students for three terms, so essentially, our program will allow the students already enrolled to complete their studies, but the program will become extinct.

    In essence, the down economy is affecting all sectors of the business world. Hopefully, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, but it isn't going to soon enough, I'm afraid.

  2. Thank you for your excellent and thoughtful comment. I am so sorry to hear about the end of your paralegal program. I still think that it is a wonderful career for many people, but as in any profession in this economy, people have to do the research to train for the growing specialty areas and consider relocation to less economically depressed areas, especially if they are the primary wage earners. If students don't want to re-locate, then I think they have to really dig to find related jobs which use paralegal training, but will likely not be with private law firms.

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]gmail.com

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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