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You Want to Be a Paralegal? Great Choice, but Let’s Be Real…

By Lesley Neff, M.A. | February 6, 2017

Paralegals on the courthouse stepsI was at a holiday luncheon this week, with the Indianapolis Paralegal Association, and the guest speaker from a local non-profit was sitting at our table. She asked the group of us why one would choose to be a paralegal; she seemed really interested in the career, trying to decide if it might be right for her daughter.

Thankfully, veteran paralegal superwoman, Lottie Wathen, was sitting next to me and took the lead on answering the question. Lottie is an esteemed paralegal in the community and works at Witham Hebenstreit & Zubek, in Indianapolis, doing bankruptcy work. She is also the Secretary of the IPA and a member at large of the Executive Committee for the Indianapolis Bar Association’s Paralegal Committee.
 
Right away, Lottie replied, “the absolute best thing about being a paralegal is the challenging nature of the job itself…the challenge is what keeps the drive alive and why, after more than 25 years, I can still say that I am happy in my profession.” (2016). Regardless of environment or specialization, every day is different, because no case is the same.
 
Lottie went on to explain that “not all jobs are created equal”, but that is true in any profession. Lottie would know; she has worked in every environment from bakery to bank.

Stress?
Some say the paralegal profession has a lot of stress. What doesn’t? As my dad always said, “with more stress and responsibility, comes more money.” The bigger your check, the higher your blood pressure. That is just how it usually works, and working in the legal profession is no different. 

Respect?
Some say there is a lack of respect for paralegals. Well, sure, attorneys can be difficult just like any other boss in any industry. It is what it is. Talented paralegals are highly sought after, more now than ever before, and the legal industry is recognizing this more and more. 

Money?
Let’s face it; this is still a career where men and women can make a good salary with good benefits without pursuing a graduate degree and the high debt to income ratio that rides along with it.

Job?
Can you get one? Some claim it’s hard to find a job. Well, it’s not handed to us for free, but there are plenty of opportunities for those who want them. Competent, qualified paralegals are in very high demand and difficult to find. There is an actual shortage, and top firms and companies compete for top talent.

Your choice to become a paralegal depends on a lot of factors, just like any life decision of the slightest bit of importance. It depends on the environment. It depends on the city. It depends on the boss. It depends on the area of specialization. It depends on one's work ethic or lack thereof. It depends on you. 

So, words of advice for the guest speaker at the luncheon and her daughter…go for it. Give it a chance, and you may find that it is a great choice for you. Marian Adult Programs’ advisors can help you take a realistic look at options for your future. Give them a call and ask some questions. Find out if it is a real fit.
 

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