March 3, 2017

Requirements for the Job

Posted in Career Options, Job Search tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:30 pm by Yvonne LaRose

Are you ready to apply?

Are you ready to apply?

A job posting from Monster crossed my desk this evening. The firm is seeking a family law legal assistant and calls for an “experienced family law legal assistant for CFLS”. (Do you know what CFLS stands for? No, it isn’t fluorescent light bulbs.)

In addition to understanding what type of family law is being practiced by this AV-rated firm, it’s important to comprehend the scope of what the work involves. This position is not for a newcomer but there is room to grow. The candidate needs to have 3 to 5 years of this type of family law experience.

The ad goes on to set forth some of the standard things one would expect for this type of role and firm: “knowledge of filing procedures and court forms, excellent grammar and proofreading skills . . .” Even a legal secretary needs to have these skills.

But the legal assistant or paralegal is another step along the professional spectrum. What’s the difference between the two? A legal assistant and a paralegal are simply two different names of the same fruit. Which is used depends on the preference of the speaker. Standard requirements for this type of work are easily found and are universal in application. However, the scope and breadth of the work can grow depending on the amount of trust, ambition, and accuracy the person has demonstrated and the willingness of the attorney to allow them to do more.

Also called for in this ad and also part of the standard expectations of the position are “detail oriented, reliable.” You want your case to get the correct consideration. You want all the pertinent information. You need to know what applies and which is the most relevant. Typos are not allowed. Poor grammar says the case was done in slap-dash manner and doesn’t carry a lot of meaningful weight. Furthermore, there are a lot of people depending on the paralegal to show up for work on time and ready to work. They are also expecting someone who will get their work done on time with no excuses.

There is an incentive for allowing the paralegal to do more because their time is billed to the client just as is the lawyer’s. The difference is that the paralegal’s time is billed at a lower rate than the lawyer’s, making legal services more affordable for more people. In addition to making legal representation more affordable, the paralegal’s assistance allows the lawyer to devote more focus on their caseload and strategies for winning the cases or having a favorable outcome for the client. The more responsible and challenging the work, the higher the paralegal’s rate will be.

Communication is important in any work setting. It’s important when people are dealing with others. So the requirement to have the “ability to communicate and interact with clients . . .” is to be expected. There is a need to communicate as a professional, of course. But there is also a necessity (because this is a family law situation) to be able to keep emotions from exploding, to be able to do an excellent job of explaining things in a manner that is easily understandable to the client (who may be in a very agitated state or in shock) as well as with others involved in the case and court or administrative agency personnel.

What is important in this ad is the call for technical skills in certain areas and ability to use certain types of tools. It calls for people who are “proficient in WORD, Abacus, and Martin Dean’s Essential forms.” Notice that it says proficient in WORD, not Word Perfect. Do you know what Abacus is?

Reading a job ad and the job description seems like a walk through the park on the face of it. There’s a lot more to going through ads in order to determine whether you have the talents, knowledge, and skills necessary to be a viable candidate (as compared with just an applicant). It takes parsing through the language to make certain what the employer seeks is what you have to offer. If not, applying for the job is essentially a waste of your time and resources as well as a waste for the one reviewing the applications that are submitted.

Perhaps the cover letter will allow you to pause and consider what to say as you work on distinguishing yourself from your competitors by describing why you’re the best. Even in your darkest hour, this is the part that should bring you back into soaring toward your goals because you’ve done your own self affirmation.

Finally, consider whether being a paralegal is the right path for you. There are so many job titles that fall from the lips that related professions are seldom even considered but may be a better fit.

Read the ad carefully to know what is sought. Do your research. Then apply so you can get the interview for the job.

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