Top Mistakes Guaranteed to Make You Lose Your Paralegal Job

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The thought of losing your paralegal job is a frightening proposition. While there are many reasons why a person may get fired, many of these reasons boil down to your own mistakes and not the company downsizing (although, this is definitely a possibility). The majority of law firms don’t have a problem firing a paralegal if they engage in misconduct or continuously make huge mistakes.

Although there are many reasons why you could find yourself in the unemployment line, the following mistakes are the top reasons why paralegals find themselves without a job.

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Mistake #1 – Harassment

Many law firms and legal departments within the corporate world feature a zero harassment policy. In fact, this policy is likely found within your hiring contract. What you may consider a socially acceptable joke may actually be incredibly offensive to another person. Therefore, the most important element to remember is to keep your conversations and body language as professional as possible. Sticking to this rule will guarantee you’ll never find yourself in the Human Resources office for making an inappropriate joke or comment.

Mistake #2 – Only Doing The Minimum

Lacking the necessary skills is one of the most common ways you’ll find yourself without a job. Moreover, if you do hold the skills necessary to perform the job, but you only do the minimum throughout your day to pass by, you’ll find yourself unemployed. Poor performance within your job, which may include missing deadlines, procrastinating and lacking respect when it comes to communicating with your employer or clients is the fastest way to lose your job. Always strive to go above-and-beyond what is expected of you. This guarantees your job security and really does make a difference within the workplace.

top-mistakes-guaranteed-to-make-you-lose-your-paralegal-job-image-2Mistake #3 – Lack of Team Mindsets

As a paralegal, you’re part of a much larger team. As the old saying goes, “there is no I in team.” This couldn’t be more true within this industry. The most important element to remember whenever you walk into your job is to see what you can do to help the entire team out. Accept additional work and always be available to assist wherever you can. If you clearly showcase you’re a team player, you’ll not only look great when it comes time to performance reviews, but you’ll actually help everyone around you perform their jobs better.

Mistake #4 – Bad Behavior

Never forget you’re working in a professional environment. Therefore, your behavior must mirror this. If you engage with bad behavior, such as inappropriate discussions or annoying your co-workers, you’ll quickly find yourself without a job and without a positive reference for future employment opportunities.

Powerful Tips for Entering the Paralegal Profession

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When it comes to entering the paralegal industry, the success you’ll experience begins with your education. In fact, a recent study performed by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations found that roughly 85 percent of all working paralegals received some level of formal education. This can involve either a certificate or degree program, or a mixture of the two.

Although there isn’t a strict educational requirement in order to work as a paralegal, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations states that in the majority of markets a two-year associate’s degree in paralegal studies seems to be the minimum qualifications many employers require. However, these educational trends can vary from across the country. As the demand for this profession increases, so does the recommended level of education. In fact, the NFPA now suggests that those who are interested in starting a fulfilling career as a paralegal should earn a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. Moreover, a bachelor’s degree in law combined with a certificate in paralegal studies seems to be the newest trend across the United States.

Tip #1 – Selecting a School

Once you’ve determined that a career as a paralegal is the best choice for you, you should begin your hunt for the best school. Although the National Federation of Paralegal Associations features a suggested paralegal studies curriculum, there are many schools that offer excellent training programs with coursework not only this guideline.

entering-the-paralegal-professionTip #2 – Attending an ABA-Approved School

According to the latest industry statistics, it appears the bulk of employers find a prospective job candidate more desirable if they’ve graduated from a paralegal program that’s been accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Although this isn’t a requirement to enter the workforce, graduating from an ABA-accredited learning institution ensures that the curriculum is the latest and covers all of the necessary topics you’ll need to be well-versed in to begin a thriving career as a paralegal.

Tip #3 – Distance Education Options

Distance education, or online schools, is officially defined as a learning situation where students operate in their own locations while the physical school and instructors are at a different location. While there’s been much discussion regarding the efficiency of distance education, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations has come out by saying that a distance education can be just as effective and powerful as a traditional classroom setting. The most important thing to look for when choosing a distance education option is that the curriculum follows the NFPA’s curriculum recommendations.

The Difference Between a Paralegal and a Legal Assistant

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Within the legal industry, there is a common misconception that has circulated for years – Is there a difference between a paralegal and a legal assistant? According to a recent study among legal professionals, an overwhelming number of respondents feature a strong desire to demonstrate a clear and distinct line between these two terms.

For the bulk of this profession’s history, the terms paralegal and legal assistant have been largely considered the same. However, as the legal assistant industry continues to change, the desire to have a different designation between these two titles has continued to grow. In fact, many professional associations have deemed it appropriate to completely remove the Legal Assistant title from its description of the profession.

Of nearly 2,000 professionals that took part int his study, roughly 42 percent were college graduates while 22 percent have graduated from a paralegal certificate program. When asked what title these professionals prefer, an overwhelming 50 percent stated they prefer being referenced as a paralegal.

The biggest debate within this industry is the lack of professional acknowledgment when these two terms are flown around. For example, the term “assistant” seems to diminish the professionalism. By diluting the job description and duties of a paralegal, many professionals feel the term “legal assistant” suggests they are not a college-educated or professional within the industry.

Because of this, the majority of respondents felt that they would rather choose the “paralegal” title in order to be recognized as professionals within the legal industry. Many feel the title assistant means they are nothing more than a secretary. If you or anyone you know has worked as a paralegal, then you are fully aware that many of these professionals do far more work than a secretary. In fact, these professionals often play an essential role within the tasks required for a legal case or proceeding.

Many professional paralegals feel that the designation between paralegal and legal assistant dilutes the value of their work. When these two terms are tossed around as describing the same job, many feel that they are be devalued. This is a major concern across the industry and one that many professional organizations are addressing. In fact, the National Association of Legal Assistants created an entirely new certificate designation to reflect this. Since 1976, NALA has offered a Certified Legal Assistant designation. However, within the past couple of decades, they’ve created an entirely new certification exam, the Certified Paralegal.

Enhancing Your Paralegal Skills Through Continuing Education

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Continuing Legal Education, also referred to as CLE, is a necessary educational step to ensure you continue to progress throughout your career. These learning modules cover a wide array of topics, such as substantive law to deepen your understanding of this constantly evolving and dynamic industry. Because this industry is never the same, it’s imperative that you – as a paralegal – remain on the cusp of these changes. The only way to ensure this is to complete CLE courses. What may be applicable today may not be applicable tomorrow.

Unlike other professions, which require continuing education coursework in order to remain licensed, the paralegal industry is much different. Your desire to learn more and be better in your career is the main motivational factor – not sustaining a license or certification.

Continuing education is typically given in a variety of formats. Many of these options are flexible in order to accommodate your work schedule. For example, they may be completed online or in a one-day seminar.

paralegal-practiceThere are many reasons why you should take part in CLE’s. However, the following are some of the top reasons you should take into consideration:

Reason #1 – More Qualified

By completing CLE courses, you’re making yourself a much more qualified professional within this highly-competitive field. If you’re looking for a way to stand out in the crowd, this is an excellent option.

Reason #2 – Increase Your Salary

By taking part in CLE, you’re enhancing your abilities within the industry. When you grow your skills, you automatically begin growing your asking salary. This is an excellent way to increase your salary and it also gives you a competitive edge during salary negotiations.

Reason #3 – Demonstrates Success

The paralegal industry is constantly shifting. By completing CLE’s you’re demonstrating your dedication to your own success within the industry, which automatically demonstrates your dedication to helping your employer succeed.

Reason #4 – Job Security

Generally speaking, the greater your education/training within the paralegal industry, the greater your job security. By increasing your knowledge, you’re enhancing your effectiveness within the workplace. This can have real-world effects on your job security.

Reason #5 – Increase in Confidence

By completing CLE’s, you’ll dramatically increase your overall confidence when it comes to working within this industry. It’s well-known that the more confident you are in your job, the more respect you’ll receive. There’s nothing quite like working within an industry you know well and are confident in tackling even the most challenging of cases and situations.