Job Title: Paralegal
Current Employer: Dowling, Aaron & Keeler, Inc.
Where: Fresno, CA
Years of Experience: 14 years
Other Relevant Work Experience: Secretary
Education: Los Angeles Mission College Sylmar, CA Paralegal Certificate
Salary: Use the PayScale Research Center to find median paralegal salaries.
Paralegal Job Profile – How to Become a Paralegal
In this Salary Story, we hear from Rita, a successful paralegal who knows the ins and outs of working as a legal assistant. She describes the duties of a paralegal, explains some of the challenges that paralegals face, and offers advice on how to become a paralegal and be successful in the field. For more career information, check out the paralegal links at the bottom of the page.
PayScale: What are the duties of a paralegal?
For litigation cases assigned to me, I am responsible for overall case management under the supervision of the assigned attorney; drafting and responding to discovery requests, preparation of client status reports, document control, drafting pleadings, trial preparation of exhibits, motions in limine, jury instructions. For trademark assignments, I complete initial clearance research of potential trademarks, analysis and discuss with the attorney; research potential conflicts; prepare draft trademark applications; communicate with the client over all aspects of the trademark application and defense aspects; draft responses to office actions; oversee calendaring of applications and registrations and all deadlines associated with same; and prepare draft renewals of registrations.
PayScale: How did you become a paralegal?
I did not intend to become a paralegal; before landing a job as a legal secretary, I had never heard of a paralegal. After being unemployed for a few years, I attended 18 months of Job Corps, a federal training program. As part of my completion of Job Corps' Transportation Communications Union program, I took the federal placement test in San Francisco. Success at this test led to an interview and job with the Internal Revenue Service at their San Jose District Counsel's office as a legal clerk. After a year, I was promoted to legal secretary. During this position, I became interested and motivated to become a paralegal because of the complexity of work and higher income.
PayScale: What do you love about your paralegal job?
I love the independence of my job. I love the flexibility my employer affords me. I also love to work with clients. I enjoy working for litigation clients, but I much prefer trademark clients; it feels good to be part of the success of their business and to contribute to public awareness of their products and services.
PayScale: What are the biggest challenges you face as a paralegal?
Although I do love working independently, this requires me to have great discipline. Discipline does not come naturally, especially for a chatterbox like me!
PayScale: What advice would you give to someone about how to become a paralegal?
My advice is to be alert, focused, dedicated, an extremely hard worker and one that does not consider any task too small or beneath you. You also need to be able to troubleshoot. No two cases are alike and often you come across a new situation. You need to be able to figure out your next step. You must take initiative to find out the answer. You will find greater success if you anticipate questions and find out the answer before your attorney or client asks it.