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Virtual Paralegalism

The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism

Reader Question: Is It Better to Be a Law Firm or Corporate Paralegal?

Reader Question:  Is It Better to Be a Law Firm or Corporate Paralegal?

Is it better to work for a law firm or a corporation? The reason I ask is I have seen so many scary stories of paralegals being talked down to and not treated well by law firm attorneys. Of course this is all on the Internet, but how true are these stories? ~ Thinking about a Paralegal Career

Practical Paralegalism’s Answer

Bad bosses are everywhere, not just in private law firms. But the practice of law itself is deadline-oriented, fast-paced, and sometimes extremely stressful. Like any other supervisors, some attorneys’ interpersonal and management skills are better than others.


Whether an attorney is hard to work for can be hard to determine from the interview process alone. If you are able to found out if it’s been difficult for a particular attorney to keep staff, that’s a better indicator of someone that may be difficult to work for.

To be honest, I don’t think it matters as much whether you work for corporate legal departments vs. private law firms. What really matters is that your supervisors and colleagues treat you well, and that you enjoy the work.

Interning in different legal environments and networking with legal professionals is a good way to get various perspectives on which environment is a better fit for you personally. Sometimes it takes working those first few “real” jobs to figure out what you really like doing – and where you like working best.

Readers, what say you?

11 Responses to Reader Question: Is It Better to Be a Law Firm or Corporate Paralegal?

  1. One major difference between the two is that Law Firms, especially medium to large sized ones, often have billable hour quotas for their paralegals to meet. That's not typically the case in Corporate jobs. There are plenty of pros and cons to both, but that's the one I seem to hear most often.

  2. If you are willing to trade a little less compensation for a more laid back office I recommend a very small firm. The firm that I work in has only 2 attorneys and it is a wonderfully supportive environment and I could not be happier! The trade off is that I have almost no benefits and make about 1o – 20% less than I would in a larger firm or corporate setting.

    Just my $.02…

    Sharon

  3. I never worked for a law firm so I can say nothing about that but I interned at the corporation that I worked for and found it a pleasant, positive place to work, and so, when I was later offered a job, I accepted.
    The article is, of course, correct. Good and bad bosses are everywhere. I think, though, that a tolerance for stress is probably more necessary in a law firm and a tolerance for routine is more necessary in a corporate environment.

  4. Hmmm law firm or corporate, I'd say whichever comes through with the job offer first! I've worked in-house my whole paralegal career from start-ups to big corporations and I wouldn't trade my path (even with the unexpected detours) for anything.

  5. I am a fairly new Paralegal and I am with a medium sized/small firm in insurance defense. I have been at the firm for 6 months and I have learned a great deal. I was hired to work for a specific attorney. I have been doing very well and was given a raise after 4 months but now, the main partner has lost yet another assistant and I am picking up Plaintiff cases on top of my billable defense work. I feel like there is a constant time clock on my head and I am now working for the partner too. He is very verbally abusive and has lost at least 7 assistants since I have been there. I spoke with the attorney I work for (who is second in charge) and she seemed to care, but yet, doesn't. What should I do? I have gained so much invaluable experience, but I am taking work home constantly, I am told by this partner that I am a loser, lazy, that maybe he shouldn't give me my paycheck…it is just awful, especially since I just received rave reviews 2 months ago. I am looking for a new job, but as we all know, times are tough….help?

  6. Molly, bless your heart, your situation is exactly what I mean when I say that a difficult supervisor can make any work environment, no matter how much you'd otherwise love it, miserable.

    If the verbally abusive attorney isn't going to hire his own assistant soon, you're going to have to decide how much abuse you're willing to take. You've already done what I'd suggest, i.e. talk to your regular supervising attorney.

    If your attorney is not willing to step up to the plate to keep you, then this may be a lost cause. You also should be paid overtime for any hours worked over 40.

    I know this is a terrible time to be looking for a job, but if you don't see things changing soon, I'd keep my head down, do my best work, not take work home if you're not being compensated for it, and discreetly look for a better work environment.

  7. Thanks, Lynne. I feel like I have to bill for things that haven't even been done yet just to show that I have billed for 6 hrs and then take work home. I work constantly. They want me to bill 30 hours a week and also do Plaintiff cases for the partner (which I can't bill for) plus my phone ringing off the hook…I am so behind, but I am their only Paralegal now. I am trying to keep my head down, but I am so burnt out. I hope I find a new job soon. I really don't even want to put in a two weeks notice when I find a new one because I am so miserable, but I also feel I should. What do you think?

  8. Molly, always give two weeks' notice – but be prepared to leave immediately in case the employer does not want you to work the full notice period.

    It sounds like you are seriously overloaded. Do you have an office manager or HR person you can talk to? Can you try talking to your supervising attorney again?

  9. I have spoken with my supervising attorney on many occasions about the partner and my stress level. I was very upset after one of his tyrades and we had a very long discussion, but nothing has changed in two weeks. I discussed his language toward me & them cutting back billable hours. Billable hours are not going to change. We have the most unorganized office with no clear office manager. I do office supply ordering, as well.

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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