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Working Girl Wednesday: Stuff They Never Told Us We’d Have to Do in Paralegal School

Working Girl Wednesday: Stuff They Never Told Us We’d Have to Do in Paralegal School

Like many working paralegals, I completed a two-year associate degree in paralegal studies, which included courses in civil litigation, bankruptcy, real estate and wills, but sometimes over the span of a 20-plus year legal career, I’ve wondered if the program should have included another class, “Realities of Working in a Law Firm 101”. I’ve found myself doing things they never told me about in paralegal school, both good (helping a paraplegic client try out a standing electric wheelchair) and not-so-good (getting estimates for a funeral – not mine).

So I asked some of my paralegal buddies on Twitter what things they’d done that weren’t mentioned in paralegal school, and here are the responses:

Good

@KiaJG: “I never imagined I would actually be arguing/[negotiating] settlements against attorneys but it’s my [favorite] part of the job now!”

I, too, love a spirited (if not heated) discourse with opposing parties via telephone.

@JoshChaikin: “I got to help the network guys install and setup new switches.”

Anyone who does that at our small firm gets labeled “IT Go-to-Guy” (not always a good thing).

@melihi: “Heading over to clean the office aquarium. It’s needed it for about four months now. eep.”

@lglduck: “That’s a good one, I have to clean our fish tank too.”

I am not good with the fishes, and am glad our firm doesn’t have any, so I don’t have to worry about any career-ending belly-side-ups.

Not-So-Good

@SrParalegal:”…Chaffeur!”

This includes detailed knowledge of your local airport and hauling luggage – and no tips.

@CathieCummings: “Babysitting client’s children while the client’s deposition is being taken!” Then Cathie added, “plus I got to change a very dirty diaper. Eeww!!”

I’ve taken screaming children out of conference rooms, and then outside, if the howling continued unabated and echoed all the way to the senior partners’ offices.

@lglduck: “Babysit! (as in the attorney, the associate, the clients)”

We like to call it hand-holding, and get ready to do a lot of it. Free practice tip: always have a box of Kleenex nearby.

@BabFab: “Watching over the partner’s wine collection in the server room.”

I can see how you might not want to leave wine unattended in a high-stress profession.

@jyscale: “I have 2 – waiting at boss’s house for TV delivery so he could be in court & taking him home from hospital after heart surgery.”

Seriously, in this case, she has a great relationship with her boss, and is happy to do it. But I’ve known paralegals whose responsibilities included everything from personal bill-paying to picking up dry-cleaning to purchasing family gifts.

@MargaretAgius: “Weird duty: Putting up w/office mgr who insists that extravagant gift gving is [right for] every occasion & forces participation.”

I’ve often thought that delicate interoffice relations, including “to give or not to give”, should be included in that “Realities of Working in a Law Firm 101”.

@legalninjaKris: “make coffee, buy your own desk (& then get reimbursed), go-to person when copier is jammed”

There is nothing worse than staring at the bowels of a copier that is bigger than your car, with a piece of paper jammed for all 26 letters of the alphabet lit up on the display.

Early in my career, when I didn’t drink coffee, I was politely asked to stop making it, possibly because I could never get the grounds to water ratio right – usually creating some kind of expresso-type mud with legs.

In summary, in the real world, a resourceful paralegal may wear a lot of hats not discussed in formal education programs: Captain of the Legal Debate Team, Unofficial IT Guy, Fish Whisperer, Super-Nanny, Taxi Driver, Gofer, Copier Internist, and Barista (again, no tips).

What have you had to do during the course of your employment as a paralegal that wasn’t mentioned in paralegal school? Please comment and share your valuable experience with the newbies!

6 Responses to Working Girl Wednesday: Stuff They Never Told Us We’d Have to Do in Paralegal School

  1. Great stuff! Yes, I also wear the IT hat at our office…literally, I have an orange piece of paper folded into a hat that says IT on it.

  2. Shipping and Receiving clerk- one of the partners was into eBay, big time. I frequently scheduled pick up of packages and signing for his eBay purchases was a regular occurrence.
    They tried to put me in charge of watering the plants, but I begged off announcing that I had a brown thumb. They still seemed surprised when the legal assistant who inherited the duty was laid off and the plants all died. I warned them.

  3. "Realities of Working in a Law Firm 101" should be required for graduation from all accredited paralegal programs. Come to think of it, it should be required before enrollment!

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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