Hate Your Paralegal Job? What Field Provides a Quick Escape?

If you hate your paralegal job, and are wondering what field might provide a quick escape, I really like the list provided over at the Practical Paralegalism blog:

If you have read my book, then you know that for me there really was only one answer. Small business owner! My experience with the paralegal field is that it is a dead-end job.

Unfortunately, my experience over the years with lawyers and law firms is that they are interested in exploiting paralegals by making them actually perform five jobs at once. The “paralegal” must also be a receptionist, waitress, administrative assistant, travel agent, and paralegal. Sometimes you even have to be the file clerk too. I have no idea why the people in charge think this is an efficient way to work, but they do for some reason.

The “paralegal” will become absolutely burned out by the stress of trying to perform actual substantive casework on files that have been piling up while she has been booking vacations for her boss and his girlfriend, scheduling depositions, and answering the copy salesman’s phone calls multiple times a day. Paralegals as a class of people are highly intelligent, organized, and helpful people. However, just because someone may be capable of performing five different jobs doesn’t mean that they actually want to do that for the long-term. It is a completely unlivable situation to catch hell from your boss because you were busy trying to cancel all of his appointments and failed to email him the draft discovery responses before he had to leave for his 4:00 pre-dinner cocktail hour.

Most lawyers view paralegals (and associates too, for that matter) as servants, not as highly skilled professionals who bring value and intelligent world experience to every client’s case. This is unfortunate, but it is my true experience.

I have heard some stories from people who have fought and made a “quick” escape to executive assistant work. The story doesn’t tend to have a happier ending, though. Remember, CEO’s are complete psychopaths too. The only difference is that they tend to have better private jets than the lawyers. But it doesn’t matter, because you most likely will not be enjoying the view.

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Lawyers a/k/a Psychopaths – Second on the List, Just After CEOs

In case some of you haven’t noticed, most lawyers are complete psychopaths. Don’t believe me?

Check out this article from Business Insider

The defining characteristics of the lawyer as a psychopath is their universal lack of empathy and complete detachment from other human beings. Scared yet?

How about this ABA Journal article that declares that the legal field attracts psychopaths?

The Recovering Paralegal is of course, not surprised by any of this. I have seen it all firsthand. I have known for years that lawyers are psychopaths. It just makes me feel a little bit better to see some scholarly research to legitimize my personal opinions.



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Why Are There So Many Asshole Lawyers?

Just brilliant.

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Quitting a Job You Hate

Some years ago, I was seemingly trapped in a litigation paralegal job that was literally sucking the will to live right out of me. While on a quest to get some peace on vacation, I found myself on a guided hike through the Red Rock Canyons. I struck up a conversation with my guide. He looked at me and said: “Yeah, I get a lot of people out here who hate their jobs. Why don’t you just quit?”

I was stunned. Clearly this man was an idiot, who was completely incapable of grasping the inner complexities of my little world, and how every little intricate layer of the life I built revealed an issue or detail that prevented me from “just quitting.” I believe I gave him a more tactful response, in the way of declaring: “But it isn’t that simple.”

This time, the sage guide looked at me as though I was the one with the mental problem. He said: “Yes it is.”

Looking back in my rearview mirror on the job and city I left in the dust, I realize of course that the guide was right. Most things really are simple. Everything is as easy or as hard as you make it. Decide what you want, and set your course. The inner complexities are probably just fear and insecurities, not actual problems that are preventing you from changing.  

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Being Called in on Saturday

An associate lawyer I know shared this little nugget with me. Once, when she was just starting out, her cell phone rang early on a Saturday morning. There weren’t any deadlines coming up, and she couldn’t for the life of her figure out why her boss was calling her. When she answered the phone, he only gave her a cryptic: “I need you to get in here.”

She of course got dressed quickly and sped through several traffic lights to get in the office as soon as possible. When she arrived, her boss passed her in the hallway. She said to him: “What do you need?” His response? “I just think you need to be here working on Saturday.”

We both agreed that of course if he had something specific in mind, it was reasonable to ask her to work. The point is, there was literally nothing going on. She was begging for billables and he wasn’t delegating any tasks. She sat there and cleaned her office for a little while and then went home. Ridiculous!

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Regular People

Ran into a lawyer today. He regaled me of a horrific time he had just had while being forced to travel via commercial airplane. Apparently the weather suddenly took a turn for the worse, and the airline cancelled his flight. He said:  “Thankfully, there was a Westin at the Airport, but I had my nanny, and my two kids, it was hell. I felt so sorry for all those regular people just standing there at the gate. They looked like they didn’t even have any credit cards.”

I just nodded my head in agreement. Yes, that surely is a terrible problem you had to overcome. A. Big Shot Attorney has it so rough!


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Hate Your Paralegal Job? What Other Fields Can Provide an Escape?

If you hate your paralegal job and are exploring other career opportunities, I really like this list (even though it is a few years old) that was posted on the Practical Paralegalism blog:

If you have read my book, then you know that there was really only one viable long-term answer for me, and that was to become my own boss. Find a business you love and grow it. You can find yourself in a paralegal job that is tolerable, but that isn’t what life is supposed to be. We should be thriving and growing in all aspects of our life.

My experience in the field led me to the conclusion that being a paralegal was a dead-end job for me. I understand that not everyone feels that way, and it probably has a lot to do with personality traits. I have seen a lot of lawyers over the years who view paralegals as servants instead of valued professionals who have intelligent perspectives to bring to each case. Unfortunately, my experience is that a majority of lawyers and firms want to exploit their paralegals into working five jobs at once. You must at all times be able to switch between being a receptionist, waitress, travel agent, administrative assistant, and paralegal. This is just exhausting. Making the mental switch between different roles and tasks while under constant performance pressure to complete actual case work is just not a livable situation.

Paralegals as a group of people are highly capable, organized, and helpful creatures. But, just because we are capable of doing five jobs at once does not mean that we want that, or that it is actually the most efficient way to use us for generating profits and helping clients. It’s sad, actually. To have a pile of case files in front of you with a list of substantive work to complete, and to have to mentally fight to concentrate to accomplish the smallest thing because your boss needs you to answer his phone, book his plane tickets, and schedule a deposition. Then, at the end of the day, he will bless you out because you didn’t get the draft discovery responses to him before he left for his 4:00 pre-dinner cocktail hour.

I have heard some transition stories from a few people who have been able to become executive assistants. However, the ultimate outcome was the same as far as what happens when you just pick another psychopath to work for (you are just choosing a different type of hell). Psychopath lawyer vs. psychopath CEO. Pretty much the only difference is the size of their private jet, but you probably aren’t going to be on it, anyway.


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A. Big Shot Attorney Seeks Secretary with Benefits

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10 Reasons You Have to Quit Your Job in 2014

This article gives me chills!


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Sacrificing to Make Your Lawyers Richer

I am in the middle of reading The Everything Store, Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon and I was just compelled to post. The thing about working for any organization is that it is designed to exploit you until you drop. You quit and then they will just find someone else to replace you, no big deal. You pack up your things and it will be as though you were never even there.

I am not even 150 pages in, and there are two points that have already reached out and slapped me in the face. The first point was that when Bezos began the company, he expected everyone to work constantly, sacrificing everything else to build the company. If it is your company, that definitely makes sense. If you are just working in a company, you are a fool to let yourself get exploited like this. Killing yourself to make someone else richer is not what life is. The days where loyalty and hard work are rewarded are long over. I believe the official name of the department is Human Resources, but we should just call it Central Office of Exploitation. The moment you quit running at 8 mph on the treadmill is the moment you get replaced. The book even explicitly states that if anyone had the gall to hint at a work/life balance they wouldn’t get hired.

On page 101 we have a direct quote: “Then the steely-eyed founder replaced them with a new and more experienced group of believers. Watching the company move on without them gave these employees a gnawing sensation, as if their child had left home and moved in with another family. But in the end, as Bezos made abundantly clear to Shel Kaphan, Amazon had only one true parent.”

This is how every law firm feels about its employees too, folks. This struck a chord with me because I remember all too well how it stung when I realized that I had given my heart and soul to an organization who did not care about me the way that I cared about them. In particular, I remember sitting across the desk from a named partner (and my direct supervisor) and he brought up the word “sacrifice.” I told him in no uncertain terms that my days of sacrifice were over. I was not prepared to make personal sacrifices for someone else’s company anymore. No additional bonus money or overtime pay was in it for me, so there was no point in it. He didn’t get it. He needed me to work 60 hours a week, that was all he cared about.  

I remember another conversation with a partner at a different law firm. This guy looked me in the eyes and said “You can have all the overtime you want. I want to see how hard you can work.” I tried that out, and when I compared my paychecks, I was dismayed to find that after just ten hours of overtime I was actually working at way less than my hourly wage after the taxes got through with me! I went to the bathroom and vomited after I thought about what all those hours really meant. I figured I had generated an additional $2,000 for the firm in billings and got to keep a whopping $16.00 an hour for my trouble. It makes me sick to this day.

When you sit back and think about how you sacrificed your personal health, your relationships, and even your very spiritual growth to help a law firm generate thousands of dollars only so you could pretty much just afford to treat yourself to one nice meal on Saturday night, I’m sorry but that tends to make me feel like a real asshole. I would rather sit home and have a few friends over for burgers instead of the scrap money.  

And in small towns, they conspire to cap your salaries, you know. I was told as much by Mr. Overtime before I got hired. He named the other two big firms in town and told me to “Check them out, I’m sure they won’t give you a better offer. You think we don’t talk to each other?” These men sit around the bar at their golf club and make gentlemen’s agreements that they won’t pay their paralegals more than $55,000 a year so that no one can leave and do better elsewhere (as best I can gather). The lawyers will tell you that “the market is bad,” and then drive off in their $120,000 Porsche. The market is bad because the top dogs in town conspired to keep the market bad, and there will always be someone new to exploit for hard work in exchange for peanuts.

My greatest wish for paralegals (and all employees, actually), is that everyone quit being an employee. We all need to leave and take our skills away and work as independent contractors for an actual living (and fair wage according to our skill sets) for other individuals who value what we have to offer. Because the organizations sure as hell don’t value us. And they never will.


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