Non-traditional paralegal jobs—an important topic not only for new paralegals entering the field, but for retaining paralegals who are already working in the field.
I had the honor of speaking on the panel for Alternative Paralegal Careers with five other paralegals at the Minnesota Paralegal Association convention this month. I was able to share my experiences as a paralegal and a paralegal educator at Minnesota School of Business and overseeing the paralegal programs at Minnesota School of Business, Globe University and Broadview University.
I also was able to hear the stories of five other paralegals in non-traditional roles who shared what they did in their roles and what path they took to get there. Each had an interesting story and great advice for those looking for jobs outside of the law firms. Here’s what I learned from my fellow panelists.
Not every paralegal starts out wanting to be a paralegal. Many of us came to the profession from another career or several careers. Having a variety of job experiences can actually be good if you are looking a non-traditional paralegal job.
A background in finance or real estate can be a first step into a paralegal job in a law firm or for working in title companies, bank legal departments or for businesses that have franchise or real estate. Businesses buy land or lease space for their stores and have many contracts with vendors. Fast food restaurants sell franchises.
What do you have a heart for? Discover what makes you happy and find out if you can make a career out your passion.
I admire Nancy, who spoke about her passion for helping others find affordable housing. She is a Paralegal Manager for the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund and Twin Cities Land Bank. Not only does she use her real estate background in her new job, but she also is a manager of other support staff. The best part is that paralegals who work for nonprofits report a higher level of job satisfaction because they are helping others often during stressful times. The reward is seeing all your hard work pay off in a great result for the client
Look at the other side
If you are tired of working in a law firm setting, look for other employers that you deal with in a similar or related area of law. Sometimes working on the other side of an area of law can spark a passion for your work that has died out. Enthusiasm for learning a new skill is easy when you are just starting out as a paralegal.
The learning curve seems almost straight up. It gets harder if you become disinterested in your area of law or if you are not finding the challenges you did when you first started. There are many opportunities for paralegals in the court system, government agencies, insurance companies and corporate in-house counsel.
Take on more responsibility
This could mean moving into management or learning a new skill. Technology and management skills can lead to new careers such as litigation support or legal management. Litigation support is an area where there are jobs that will likely increase in future.
There are litigation support jobs in law firms, but you may also be working for a legal vendor working with many different law firms as client. Legal management uses project management, long range planning and hiring skills.
Whether you are just entering the paralegal field or having been working on for a while, the good news is there are more opportunities for your paralegal degree besides a law firm. If you educate yourself on the different areas and seek out networking opportunities, you can find those new careers.