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Paralegal, the One Job You Can’t Find in the Classifieds

Of course paralegals get a happy glow when our profession is mentioned as a hot career in a cool economy, but sometimes representatives of paralegal programs say things in the news that make me want to go “hmmmmmm…”

If I sound a little cranky in this post, it’s only that I want people thinking about getting a paralegal education to do their homework and consider the realities of the profession itself and the economy. If you stay at all current with national legal news, you already know that law schools are churning out new graduates that have crushing student loan debts and can’t find jobs as lawyers – or legal jobs period – and that many legal professionals, paralegals included, have lost their jobs since 2008.

You’ll also know that some new paralegal graduates are finding it harder than ever to find that first entry-level legal job, with the added competition of more experienced laid off legal staffers – and even law school graduates – competing for every job available.

So no, I was not thrilled to read in a recent article “Popular careers in a cool economy,” the following quote from April Hopson, the Paralegal Studies Program Manager at Columbus Technical College, about locating a paralegal job and keeping it:

Paralegals is the one job you’re not going to find in the classifieds. A lot of attorneys hire by word of mouth or by networking. We’re just a very close-knit community, and that’s a good thing. I tell most of my students that once you get a job with an attorney’s office or the government, or wherever you want to be as a paralegal, the only time you’re not going to have that job is if you choose to leave.

Grammar issues aside, I’m going to have to put my 20 plus years of paralegal experience out there, including five years of teaching in a community college paralegal program, and state that many legal employers do place classified ads for paralegal and other legal staffer jobs, either directly or through placement agencies.
And I’m hoping that my readers and colleagues across the country that have experienced layoffs over the last several years in an economy that is making it extremely challenging for any new graduate in any field to find work will jump in and add their thoughts about whether they could have kept a former job if they’d simply chosen to stay. (I can hear it now: “Thank you for downsizing me, but I’m not leaving.”)

I am not saying that a paralegal degree is not a route to a fantastic and interesting career, but I am saying you need to do your homework before selecting a program, realize that not every graduate is going to land a paralegal job immediately or easily, and that in this economy, very few of us have lifetime guarantees of continuous employment.

Do you use the classifieds as part of your paralegal job search? Is your employment as a legal staffer so secure that you can keep your job as long as you want to?

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