Job seekers looking for a rewarding career in the field of law have several choices. One of those career choices is a paralegal, the behind-the-scenes support staffer who goes a long way in assisting the attorney prepare for court. For those unfamiliar with jobs in the legal field, and wondering which location to choose to begin their career, this article outlines the office environment, and the importance of the work a paralegal performs.
Paralegals Help Run a Smooth Office
A paralegal, also called a legal assistant, performs tasks requiring some knowledge of the law, and is employed by an attorney’s office or in the work environment as a freelancer for a group of lawyers. They have completed a prescribed series of courses in law and the legal process, and must constantly update their training and qualifications to meet recertification requirements.
Because they sometimes work for a group of attorneys, a paralegal must be able to adapt to different personalities, and flexible enough to take on last-minute assignments as necessary. Having an easygoing personality is important in this type of professional work environment, in order to cut down on the frustration level. In additional to splitting his or her time between multiple bosses, a legal assistant is also expected to follow the office structure and rules.
Paralegal Work Environment and Atmosphere in a Law Office
No job is always a picnic, and the work environment and atmosphere can be tough. A legal assistant employed with corporations or government usually works a 40-hour week, although those who work for law firms sometimes work long hours when they are under pressure to meet deadlines.
The earnings and wages vary widely, depending on education, training, experience, type and size of employer, and the location of the job. In 2008, typical annual earnings were as low as the upper $20,000 range, to as high as more than $73,000. Generally, a legal assistant working for a large firm or in a large metropolitan area earns more than one working for a smaller firm or in a less populated area.
For some, the type of wealthy atmosphere found in a highly-paid position is a draw. But geographical location is only one factor to consider when choosing where to work. For example, the annual salary can exceed $60,000 in New York, and fall just shy of that in the Washington, D.C. area. On the other end of the spectrum, the pay is approximately $38,000 in Jackson, MS, and about $37,000 in Charleston, WV. Several other cities fall in the middle of the scale tying location to salary. Atlanta paralegals can draw a median salary of $47,492; in Los Angeles, $52,042; in Boston, $52,943; and in San Francisco, $56,877.
Paralegals in High Stress Environment
However, location versus pay is just one consideration to weigh. Of high importance is the work atmosphere. A tense, hostile work environment can eventually burn out even highly motivated employees. Joel Rose, a writer for the Legal Intelligencer, says many attorneys are contentious because many contentious people choose to become lawyers. Lawyers with big egos, combined with office politics, contribute to a negative atmosphere, and they can make legal assistants feel caught in the crossfire. Conversely, a more laid-back, relaxed atmosphere can greatly lower the stress level in the office.
So when deciding where to look for work as a paralegal, weighing job responsibilities and pay against office personalities and other intangibles is the best course of action for the long term.
Good luck in your job hunt!