Sunday, February 27, 2011

Two JD's and One Paralegal fighting for a job





Yeah, I am still here. I went on eight job interviews this past week and it has been very exhausting. Five of the jobs were for sales/contracts management jobs, and one was for marketing for a health care company. Only two of the jobs were in the legal industry, one as a file clerk and another as a paralegal.

I interviewed for a paralegal position with Iona, Hugh, Jass LLP* in the south bay of Los Angeles.

I showed up at the paralegal interview in my black suit, clean cut and writing samples in my brief case. I spoke to the receptionist about my scheduled interview and how I arrived 20 minutes early to meet with the hiring partner. As I waited patiently in the lobby, I picked up The New Yorker and Forbes and began to stare at the clock. Suddenly, a cute little east Asian girl came running into the lobby and rushed up the secretary.

"Thank you for giving me the key to the restroom, is the hiring manager ready yet?" she said.
"Yes, just have a seat, and he will be with you in a minute or two." replied the secretary.

The cute little Asian girl sat right next to me and started picking up the magazines. She told me that she loved reading The New Yorker, and how she was very enthusiastic about her job interview. She wore a tight grey flannel pant suit and her perfume was too strong. I didn't say anything to her, but she must have been extremely nervous since  she kept giving me her life story.

It was the Amy* the cute Asian girl. She said " Iona , Hugh, Jass*  is very good firm. I even remember hearing about some of their cases when I was in law school. I am sure they will be able to help you with all of your construction needs!"

Suddenly it hit me...

Amy thought I was a client waiting in the lobby and that I was going to Iona, Hugh, Jass* for civil litigation needs. I didn't reveal the true nature of my status as a poor paralegal, or that I was there for a job interview, but I just let her go on and on. In the next 10 minutes or so I pretty much found out that she was  looking for any legal job she could find.

She graduated with a BA in Journalism from a state school and then went to Southwestern for law school in LA. She used to work at a high end cosmetics line at a big department store in LA ( think Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus) and made about $40,000 working cosmetics, and was sick of working in retail so she applied to law school. She told me her managers in cosmetics were making $60,000-70,000 a year, and that she may end up going back to work in retail if she can't find any law related job. During our conversation, she even spilled the beans and said,

" I am actually a recent law school graduate who finished in 2009. I am interviewing for an entry level paralegal position at Iona, Hugh, Jass*.  I've heard such great things about this place, and I hope I can learn the practical skills of civil litigation and get promoted to being an associate attorney if they hire me. I am sure they will be the best attorneys to help you with all your legal matters."

I told her "Well, good luck on your job interview. Hopefully they will pick a smart woman such as yourself to work as a paralegal for this firm." and she replied "I hope so, but the competition is fierce in this economy. I just saw one of my old classmates leave before I arrived. I think he was interviewing for the paralegal job I want!"

The secretary called Amy from the lobby, and she said "I have to go now, but it was so nice meeting you. Please, Please pray that I get this job.. I REALLY NEED IT! Have a great day!"

The secretary then came up to me and said I would have to wait another 15-20 minutes before my interview.

However, I already got the reality check, and I knew that my interview was probably over before it even started.
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THE BOTTOM LINE:

Listen folks, it's pretty pathetic when you go for a Paralegal job interview and everyone who is interviewing for that position has a JD. The vast majority of law school graduates, even from many top schools are working as paralegals and taking the jobs away from other paralegals, because they can't find anything else.

The girl I met even told me that once you leave the profession as an attorney or work in a non legal related field, it is extremely hard to get back into the legal profession. My interview went well with the law firm I interviewed with, but I am not getting my hopes up since they are also interviewing law school graduates for paralegal positions! If you do foolishly decide to attend law school, be forewarned, you may end in a job that is quasi legal. You will be a paralegal, file clerk, administrator or legal secretary. Taking out 180k in debt and spending 3 years in law school to get a job where you will answer phones, work on Microsoft Word and use Outlook all day long really isn't worth it.

-The Poor Paralegal

* Name has been changed to protect privacy
Iona, Hugh, Jass  = I own a Huge Ass

22 comments:

  1. You know the legal business is in the toilet if WOMEN are having problems finding jobs! Shoot, with all the preferences they get in college admissions, jobs, and promotions, it's a wonder there are any women out of work in the legal field or any other field for that matter...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tks very much for your post.

      Avoid surprises — interviews need preparation. Some questions come up time and time again — usually about you, your experience and the job itself. We've gathered together the most common questions so you can get your preparation off to a flying start.

      You also find all interview questions at link at the end of this post.

      Source: Download Ebook: Ultimate Guide To Job Interview Questions Answers:

      Best rgs

      Delete
  2. Seriously though, it depends on the firm; some don't want JDs for paralegal positions, while others are open to the idea. The whole key in interviewing is to show how you can meet the employer's needs; you need to spin every answer you give with that in mind. I've done that in the past, and I beat out college grads WITH EXPERIENCE when I worked for a certain, Fortune 500 company back in the late 1990s; this was before I had my degree, so good interviewing always helps. Remember, always show how YOU are the best one out there for meeting their needs, and why they'd be foolish to pass on you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You shouldn't be interviewing in a "black" suit. What are you going to a funeral? Wear blue or dark grey. Didn't anyone ever tell you not to wear a black suit? Do you see attorneys wearing black suit? NO! Maybe that's why you are having difficulty finding a job. You might as well wear a tuxedo.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Just because someone graduated from law school does not necessarily mean that person passed the bar and is licensed to practice law. I know two paralegals who have JDs, but have been unsuccessful so far in passing the NY bar.

    I think it will be only a matter time the paralegal profession will get phased out due to the overwhelming number of attorneys out there, and paralegals will end up replacing legal secretaries. Paralegals were more or less created to help reduced costs and handle administrative end in the legal practice. Problem is most attorneys are clueless in how to delegate work (which in fairness law school does not teach courses in management). On the other hand, I know a few attorneys who work at firms which cut down on their administrative staff and it has been hell for them. From my experience, most attorneys don't want to deal with the details like record keeping, follow-up, and returning calls; most attorneys have way too much on their plates.

    money.

    One question, why do you want to work in this field? I always wanted to go to law school, but I did not desire to strap myself in debt, which I ended up becoming a paralegal. I think you need to question why you want to work in this field which is falling apart.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @6:45: Are you a Baby Boomer? That don't wear black is so old school. Most companies and offices have corp casual attire anyway. As long as the person is well groomed, knows his stuff, *and* is not demanding a salary over 20% percentile of the average income in the field, that's all that really matters.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am one of the people TMF describes. I barely got through Law School and could not pass the Bar, for the life of me.

    People find it hard to believe, but no matter how many times it was explained to me, I could not organize an essay the right way, and I especially had a very difficult time spotting issues.

    And Honest to God I tried my best in Law School.

    MY job applications and resume submissions after school, among other types of positions, were often for paralegal jobs here in New York. But I was always viewed as overqualified for them.

    In fact, there were even paralegal want ads that said "No JD's". (From reading this post and the comments, I guess the situation is different now.)

    But back then, I also registered with legal placement agencies specializing in Paralegal positions.

    One day, I went for an interview with one such placement "headhunter" and it was a really bizarre experience.

    The guy was a fast talker, and decided to take the three of us that were in the waiting room into his office in order to "save time".

    Then he proceeded to negatively critique the resume of one of us, right in front of everyone else.

    I just got up and walked out before it was my turn.

    It was really strange.

    And Re:Casual Office attire. I was once on my lunch break on dress down Friday. I had a tie on though.

    An old man came up to me and asked me if I knew what aisle the Oatmeal was in.

    I think he thought I was the supermarket Manager.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Re: Black suits. I'm not a babt boomer thankfully. My parents are selfish boomers - all they care about is going on vacation, and buying a bunch of crap while their only son toils away by working as a temp attorney in an attempt to pay down his exhorbitant student loan debt. I don't make the rules of the legal industry, I just try to abide by them for my own financial security. Quit wearing black suits!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Actually, many firms and corporations don’t WANT JD’s to fill paralegal positions. At my company (a Fortune 500 company everyone has heard of), when we have a paralegal type position available, we get a TON of resumes from JD’s. Be we won’t interview them. That’s because we know that either 1.) They’re thinking the job might ultimately lead to an attorney position, when in reality there’s no possibility of that happening, and 2.) We also know that if they get an attorney position offered to them by a firm while they’re working for us, they will likely leave to go be the lawyer they trained to be. So…we don’t interview JD’s for paralegal positions.

    When we interview, we’re looking for bright, personable, experienced paralegals. “Too stuffy” won’t work, and neither will “too casual”. We’re particularly impressed when you know about the company, and the “issues of the day” in our industry. It shows you’ve done some homework and prepared for the interview. For paralegal positions, we also don’t care where you went to school, as we know that it is not determinative of how smart you are, or are not. (Although, we do require a Bachelor’s degree, mostly just to cut down on the number of applicants.)
    But it’s most important that you can think quickly on your feet. We will ask some questions like, “No one is perfect. Everyone has something they can improve upon. What are you NOT good at?” Or, “Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. Tell us about a time at work where you did something, and screwed it up?” It’s amazing how many people didn’t expect that question, and don’t have a good answer.

    We often ask questions that may seem irrelevant, but which are really a test to see how quickly you can think on your feet. Because of this, many people “flunk” our interviews. But the people who don’t, and who are hired, tend to become really, really good employees. Because our interview process is tough, it is rare that we hire someone who doesn’t work out.

    One more tip: Have a personal webpage specifically set-up for your job search. It should be well-designed, have your resume, a few appropriate personal quips, and should just reflect a smart, thoughtful person. Why should you do this? Because 97% of your competition won’t! Show us that you WANT a job, and have put a lot of work into getting one. We will greatly respect someone who shows that they have put a lot of work into getting a job, because that’s a person who will generally put a lot of work into…work.

    Everything I’ve just written above is commonsense. And yet, I’m constantly amazed at how many people don’t even get these basics correct...and then wonder how come they’re not finding work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That, Doug, is much appreciated. Thank you. Your insight applies to not only the "legal" field.

      Delete
  9. Why was my comment erased, correctly stating that many employers seeking paralegals don't even want JD's to apply to begin with?

    I also gave some interview tips in that posts, and stated that when looking for a job, everyone should have a website they use to market themselves.

    Why on earth was that erased?

    Lame.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I did not delete any comments what so ever. I don't know how your comment got deleted, but it wasn't me.

    I agree, I know many law firms who will not hire JD's and it's really sad.

    The good news for me is that I am in the final round of interviews for jobs that pay $50,000-70,000 in IT and Software Sales.


    Hopefully I will find a good job and won't have to worry about competing with JD's for jobs.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I agree on the black suit; such a suit is appropriate at a funeral or for a limo driver, but not for an interview. A good bet is a gray or blue pinstripe suit, white shirt, wingtip shoes, and a conservative tie. If you can still get it (buy it if you have to), John T. Molloy'sDress for Success is a great resource. Amazon sells it, and I'd highly recommend it. You can go to Amazon's page for the book here.

    Also, if you're applying for paralegal jobs, I'd strongly urge you to attain Microsoft Office certifications. Yes, my friend, they do exist, and they set you apart from other job candidates. They set you apart because you have demonstrated a certain level of competency in MS Office, which is used in the legal business as well as all others. Here is the Microsoft Office Specialist page where you can learn more.

    If you don't have the money to pay for MS Office training for the certification, here's what you can do. Register with temp agencies such as Office Team, which offer FREE TRAINING in MS Office. Also, they'll send you out on assignments where you can learn new skills on someone else's dime. You might also get a job you like out of the deal if the client likes you.

    Please also remember that Office Team's parent company, Robert Half, also has a legal division, Robert Half Legal. RHL has an office in Los Angeles.

    If your interviews for IT & software sales don't pan out, you might also consider Robert Half Technology. They'll send you out on jobs to client companies doing IT related work. You can search for jobs and acquire experience on someone else's dime. You'll get exposed to many different companies, industries & businesses you didn't know existed, and so on. For someone searching for a job, temping is a great way to go! I've done it in the past, if necessary, will do it again. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  12. The "no JDs need apply" is almost on all bulletin board and print Ads.

    I strongly believe that law firms who do interview JDs do it to send a message to the masses of staff and associate attorneys that, "that poor interviewee smuck could be you! You better fall-in-line and increase the billable hours." It's a buyers market and you are easily replaceable.


    theyuppieattorney.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  13. I know some law firms who have hired recent JD's for paralegal positions, however ended up having to re-hire once the new JD finds a job as an attorney. In NY, there are firms which hire recent JD's for litigation support and research, however a majority of the paralegal positions ads I have seen are for paralegals with 3-5 years of experience. Paralegals mostly handle the administrative end of things, so I can see why hiring a JD is not that desirable in most cases. I do think eventually the role of the legal secretary will get phased out and be replaced by paralegals.

    On another note, good luck with your interviews! I hope you receive some good news soon.

    ReplyDelete
  14. They won't hire any of the JDs. They interview them because they're bored probably, but not to actually hire them.

    Why would people waste time interviewing for a job that isn't actually open to the interviewees? Because it shows the other employees how bad the market is and for legal requirements. Most advertised jobs already have a chosen hire, usually internal. They then bring a stream of people in to interview anyway.

    You have a better shot than the JDs. Nobody wants a JD because they're simultaneously overqualified and underqualified.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly right!
      Unlicensed JDs are fairly unmarketable, so I've both been told and experienced.
      Yeah, I know this reply is dated (I actually just found this post), but the economy hasn't changed, and I'm still interviewing...

      Delete
  15. I am a paralegal as well, a male one. What I have learned is no matter how qualified you may be, or how many billable hours you are capable of producing, it doesn't mean squat if you don't have the proper approach. What I mean by approach is the traditional methods of applying through HR or a company staff recruiter don't work for most people. One, because 95% of HR people are incompetent (several experiences across various industries have confirmed this), and two because everyone else is taking that approach, they are inundated with resumes. Best approach, really the only approach is to make connections with attorney's at the firms, somehow. One way to do it is by sending a formal letter with formal envelope labels and then calling them for follow-up AFTER work hours, where the gate keeper/receptionist/secretary has gone home. You would be shocked at how many will actually be there and answer their phone at 8:30, 9pm to whenever at night. Second thing I would suggest is if the program you graduated from has a law school, they should have connections of attorney's who graduated from there in that city. I'd contact your school and ask about that. That's how I got one of my jobs.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is very eye opening and disheartening. I received my ABA approved paralegal certificate in June 2009 and have yet to find a job in the legal field. Im starting to believe it is because I have been in retail management for the last 15 years and I can only guess the lawyers believe my skill set are not transferable. People tell me to network, which is impossible since I am a single mother having a hard time obtaining child care for necessities (work and school) let alone for networking. So I decided to get a Master's Degree in Accounting Forensics because my guess is, not many paralegals can do accounting and discover how one may have cooked the books. Either way.. I will still be considered overqualified educationally and under-qualified in experience.

    Signed,

    60K in loans and counting on a retail salary..

    Any tips you can give me.. please, feel free to email me at Misfit4Lyfe@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great piece of writing! I am confident this is going to help a lot of community.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I truly like to reading your post. Thank you so much for taking the time to share such a nice information.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Tks very much for your post.

    Avoid surprises — interviews need preparation. Some questions come up time and time again — usually about you, your experience and the job itself. We've gathered together the most common questions so you can get your preparation off to a flying start.

    You also find all interview questions at link at the end of this post.

    Source: Download Ebook: Ultimate Guide To Job Interview Questions Answers:

    Best rgs

    ReplyDelete