Any lawyers, paralegals or PIs here?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Mommylisa, Jan 17, 2005.

  1. Mommylisa

    Mommylisa Well-Known Member

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    Are there any lawyers, paralegals or private investigators here? I am in a two year paralegal course at a local collage. I started this course because I like to do research (genealogy/doing property searches) but I have discovered that I like and am interested in all areas of law. Eventually I would like to freelance paralegal or become a private investigator.

    Problem is ...I need a job now and preferably one in a legal field. Any advice on how to get into this field? What are attorneys or private investigators looking for? How do I find a way to get started? Responding to local ads has not been fruitful. I am in my 30's with several years of office/business experience plus I only attend classes one night a week so that won't affect my availability.

    Thanks for any help
     
  2. Lt. Wombat

    Lt. Wombat Well-Known Member

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    A close family member is a lawyer and employs PI's to do the dirty work. I can tell you exactly what the industry takes for a PI to be sucessful:

    1) Connections at all levels, both the high's and the lows. His guys are mostly former cops that still have people on the inside who give out confidential information on people that no one but a cop or someone with court orders can get. They also know the street rats and know what the buzz on the block is.

    2) Ability to break the law and not get caught. His guys shake down junkies, hookers, executives, anyone witholding information. I think they must even do break in corporate jobs to get info and documents because he almost always finds who he is sent to locate.

    Is this legal? Heck no

    Is this ethical? Double heck no! But we're talking a lawyer here, ethics mean nothing to them.

    Oh and in case your wondering: the family member tracks down deadbeat dads for the state's and pedophiles who skip registration (not such a bad guy now, is he!!)
     

  3. Darren

    Darren Still an :censored:

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    I can second the fact that PI's that are ex-cops are the best one's at getting info. Without that background, you're probably better off getting a clerical job at a law firm or something related where you come into contact with lawyers frequently and then maybe get the job you really want through the contacts you've made.
     
  4. moosemaniac

    moosemaniac Well-Known Member

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    I work for 2 lawyers and I've done some part time stuff with a PI. Best way to get into PI work is to talk to one or two in your area and literally beg them to give you a chance with some small investigative work. Divorce surveillance, workman's comp, that kind of thing. As for a law office, you need to see what's the norm in your state and even in your county. You might be able to get started in a law office as a "runner" or errand person. Just listen and learn and offer to help out with typing, filing, what I call babysitting witnesses at court, etc. Good luck!

    Ruth
     
  5. amelia

    amelia Well-Known Member

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    I've hired more than a few paralegals/legal assistants over the last few years, so I guess I know something about the topic. From the handful of candidates I've interviewed who have come straight out of paralegal schools, I've consistently been told how difficult it is to break into the field.

    I have no doubt that what these folks are saying is true. The paraprofessional schools are turning out large numbers of people and, unfortunately, are often less than forthcoming with students about the reality of what's required to compete in the marketplace. I don't mean to diminish the training that you're working so hard to get, or to dampen your enthusiasm, but the knowledge and skill base gained from even the best paralegal program really isn't sufficient to allow you to jump right into a law office and be a useful resource. That is, unless you have top-notch secretarial skills and can offer those skills as an immediate "draw" while you gain additional legal experience on the job.

    On the other hand, I will tell you that the pool of experienced paralegals/legal assistants is, in my experience, pretty dismal from an employer's standpoint. Having interviewed literally hundreds of candidates over the years, my own impression is that the field is glutted with people who have reached their level of potential, are burned out, and don't really want to work very hard. In theory, this situation provides a real opportunity for someone like you if you can convince a potential employer to make the initial investment in bringing you up to speed. It was exactly this thinking that made me, about one year ago, take a chance on a totally inexperienced person who had just finished a paralegal course. She had excellent secretarial skills and managed to persuade me that she had the ability and drive to become a top-notch legal assistant in a short period of time. The bet panned out: In a year's time, she's become one of the best we've ever had.

    What I did, however, was extremely unusual. Most employers would have taken the safer and, frankly, easier route. Given that the large majority of employers out there do not want to invest the huge amount of time and effort required to bring an inexperienced person up to speed, my recommendation to you would be to learn as much as you can about what law firms really need, and to think very critically about what you have to contribute at this moment. Despite what the paralegal schools would lead you to believe, what's needed in most law firms is not somebody with a little bit of substantive legal knowledge. (Heck, firms can often hire a third-year law student or junior attorney for less than they pay a paralegal--and can squeeze twice the work out of them without ever having to pay for it.) What is really needed--and what's increasingly hard to find--are good, old-fashioned secretarial skills and in-depth knowledge of procedures.

    Even without a great deal of procedural knowledge, you may well be able to get your foot in the door if you have extremely good secretarial skills to offer. From even the most modest of positions in a law firm (a file clerk or receptionist in a small firm, for example), you can begin learning the day-to-day procedural ins and outs (e.g., court deadlines, format requirements, noting requirements, deadlines for motions/responses/replies, docketing systems, etc.) that will lead you into a job involving more advanced procedural and substantive work.

    As an aside, there is a great deal of confusion these days over job labels. I don't think anybody knows what the heck the word "paralegal" or "legal assistant" means anymore. In large part, this is because the term "legal secretary" is by and large deemed politically incorrect. As a result, you often find traditional legal secretary positions (which are still hands-down the thing that most law firms need most) being billed as "paralegal" or "legal assistant" positions. All of this causes a great deal of confusion, both for employers and for job applicants. The paralegal schools aren't helping the situation any by concealing from students the reality that "Erin Brokovich"-type positions don't exist in reality, and that what's really needed out there are legal assistants with excellent secretarial skills, vast procedural knowledge, and the ability to multi-task like crazy.

    That is not to say that there are not positions out there that are traditionally "paralegal" in nature--meaning that they involve primarily substantive work such as drafting demand letters and working up personal injury cases. But they are few and fair between, and are generally occupied by people who have been in the field for some time and who have acquired a vast store of procedural knowledge from having previously been in a senior secretarial/legal assistant role.

    True paralegals are not terribly useful in many practices--again because there are cheaper, more efficient ways of getting substantive work done through junior attorneys who are willing to work around the clock in the hopes of someday making partner. The areas in which you are likely to find the greatest opportunities for substantive paralegal work are those such as personal injury and probate, and, to a lesser extent, litigation. Getting your foot in the door (even if it means selling your secretarial skills) in a firm which employs support staff on a variety of levels would seem to me the best way of carving out a career path for yourself.

    I'd be happy to answer any additional, specific questions you might have. Good luck!
     
  6. Nette

    Nette Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Isn't "Vonettrich" an attorney? I think I remember reading that. You might try to PM her.
     
  7. Mommylisa

    Mommylisa Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the tips! I do have several years of clerical and accounting experience. I would not mind using these skills in a law office. I have a couple of months working for a criminal defense attorney I loved it (...well not that he was working for the defense) the thought process. I like going to the courthouse - searching deeds or obtaining other records. I even like observing court and would like helping with that. Right now I would just like an opportunity to gain some experience.

    As far as the PI, even though I plan to continue with criminal justice classes...I would just like to assist a PI, doing some of the research, clerical or mundane stuff.

    Can anyone here help refine a resume to be more appealing to legal professionals?

    Thanks