Andrea Wagner, Author, How to Land Your First Paralegal Job by LawCrossing


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									LEGAL STAFF TRAINING CORNER                                                                                                  1. 800. 973.1177

                            Profile: Andrea Wagner, Author, How to Land
                            Your First Paralegal Job
                            [7-26-04 by Zamzam Syed]
                            Andrea Wagner, the author of one book on how to break into the paralegal profession and one book on
                            how to break out of it, offers a lot of helpful advice to aspiring and current paralegals who want to know
                            what to do next.

As the author of How to Land Your First            charter members of the CACPS, the Commis-         firm is set up and how a corporate legal divi-
Paralegal Job, Andrea Wagner is the per-           sion for Advanced CA Paralegal Specializa-        sion works. It also touches on paralegal edu-
fect person to offer advice in this week’s         tion. We started through the California Alli-     cation and how to choose a proper school. I
LawCrossing Legal Staff Profile. Ironically        ance of Paralegal Association; our mission        believe that these methods are applicable to
enough, Andrea no longer works as a legal          was to test experienced paralegals so they        most job searches, so this book can be used
staff member; she is a Human Resources             can get advanced specialization and certifica-    for other job searches, as well. The content
professional at the Anti-Defamation league in      tion. This was an advanced certified legal as-    of a paralegal search is different, but the
Los Angeles, California. But then again, she       sistant examination; a paralegal would need       general techniques apply to all entry-level
is also the author of the book Where Do I Go       around three years of experience and to have      searches.
From Here, which is designed to help legal         successfully passed the CLA (certified legal
staff professionals transition out of their jobs   assistant) examinations sponsored by NALA         Q: So where does the search start?
and into new careers. LawCrossing was for-         (National Association of Legal Assistants) to
tunate to speak with Andrea about her varied       become certified.                                 A: Trying to decipher what type of law you
career and get some amazing career advice                                                            want to practice is a good starting point. For
for our readers.                                   Q: How did the book come about?                   example, litigation is stressful and might
                                                                                                     routinely require all-nighters and overtime,
Q: Can you talk a little about your career         A: After working in paralegal placement, a        while something like probate has a slower
path? Where did you get started in terms of        colleague of mine formed a publishing com-        pace -- there isn’t much of a rush when your
goals and training?                                pany. The book started out as a handbook for      client is dead! Start out by checking out Mar-
                                                   the University of West LA to help entry-level     tindale Hubble, or another law firm search
A: I started out as a teacher. After my BA         jobseekers find work. The first edition of the    source. If you went to college, try to find
from UC Berkeley, I went on to get a Masters       book was published in 1992, and right now I       an attorney who went to that college. Write
in Theatre, and initially taught Drama. Then I     am working on the 4th edition, which is being     an alum and ask for information, look in
got my paralegal certificate at the University     published by Prentice Hall’s text book sec-       newspapers and job boards, and send out 4-5
of West Los Angeles, and went on to work           tion, Aspen Books.                                resumes a week, call next week, or e-mail to
as a paralegal for a while and eventually                                                            make sure your resume was received. E-mail
began working as a placement counselor             This is really the easiest to read and under-     is fine, but nothing works like a phone call to
for University of West Los Angeles, placing        stand book; it gets right to the point and uses   make a connection.
paralegal students and alumni into law firms.      the right blend of humor and sarcasm to get
In the mid 1980’s, when the economy was            the point across. It doesn’t read like a text     Q: What sort of qualifications do most para-
booming for law firms, I worked for one of         book, but is actually fun. I have updated it      legals have?
the first paralegal placement agencies in Los      every two or three years. The latest edition
Angeles, which was quite successful. When          contains extensive lists of internet sites and    A: Large law firms tend to hire individuals
the recession of the late 80’s - early 90’s        resources updated to reflect changes in the       with bachelors degrees and ABA-approved
hit and law firms stopped using recruiting         market. The information in the text changes       certificates, but they also hire new college
firms, I continued working on career place-        less because, how to write a good resume,         graduates who want to work in a law firm to
ment with a non-profit. Now I work in Human        when to send thank you notes or what to put       see if they want to go to law school or gradu-
Resources with the Anti-Defamation League          in a cover letter is fairly standard. How to do   ate school. If a firm is looking for a career
in Los Angeles. I taught at various paralegal      a job search does not change much. The book       paralegal, they tend to go with those who
schools for 10 years, and was one of the           further provides information about how a law      have a paralegal certificate. A person can

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LEGAL STAFF TRAINING CORNER                                                                                                   1.800. 973. 1177

get an AS degree in paralegal studies right       representing clients in front of agencies like      Should non-attorney professionals be al-
after high school, or if you have a bachelor’s    the DMV and the Workers’ Compensation               lowed to practice law? Often the middle class
degree and are serious about being a career       Board in administrative hearings. The way           can’t afford an attorney but they are not poor
paralegal, it might be a good idea to enroll      to get these jobs would be to find workers’         enough for Legal Aid. California passed leg-
in a paralegal certification program. Some        compensation attorneys and administrative           islation to provide legal document assistants,
firms will pay for the right person to get the    agencies.                                           who are bonded by the state to do limited
certification while they work.                                                                        legal work. This provides a safe alternative
                                                  Mediation is another field that former legal        for people who can’t afford attorneys.
Q: What other reflections do you have on the      professionals can choose to work in. The
Paralegal Profession?                             County Bar puts on a program where non-             Q: Thanks for all this great information,
                                                  attorneys can get training in arbitration and       so any thing else to tell our readers about
A: The ABA defines a paralegal in terms of        mediation for human resources. Media-               yourself, besides this serious stuff?
what paralegals cannot do. A paralegal is         tion and arbitration are usually well-paying
always required to be supervised by an at-        careers and easy transitions for former legal       A: I love to ski, travel, and take care of my
torney; so a paralegal, despite having legal      staff professionals                                 two-year-old grand daughter.
knowledge, cannot practice law. The ABA
says a paralegal cannot give legal advice,                           Q: Any opinions on non-
cannot hire clients or make an agreement,                            bar certified JD’s practic-
cannot sign legal documents, and cannot                              ing as paralegals?
represent a client in court. This puts the
paralegal in the support position at all times.                      A: Well I knew one -- she
                                                                     was considered a “Super
Q: What are some of the things that parale-                          Paralegal;” she was a
gals or other non-attorney legal profession-                         disbarred attorney. The
als do in the legal field?                                           attorneys in the law firm
                                                  would listen to her a lot more and she did
A: Well one could be a freelance parale-          pretty much everything the attorney did, but
gal -- that’s still a paralegal, but one who      could not sign documents and had to work
works under the supervision of an attorney        under the attorney. Most attorneys do not
on a short-term basis or project-by-project.      like to work with former attorneys since they
Usually, an individual can start out work-        can go off and retake the bar.
ing for a placement agency and then build a
reputation. It requires self-marketing in an      Q: What are your reflections on the para-
effective way, but I have known people who        legal profession in general and what you’d
have done it well.                                like to see for the future?

Q: Your second book is about transition-          A: I have had the opportunity to look at this
ing out of the paralegal profession, any          field from many angles, from the paralegal
thoughts on that topic?                           angle and then from the outside, working on
                                                  providing paralegals for attorneys, where I
A: In that book, I talk about dealing with        was in the peer position to attorneys. A lot
not-so-nice attorneys and using transferable      has changed in terms of what is required
skills to market yourself out of the paralegal    of paralegals, or legal technicians, as they
profession.                                       were called when I got started. Right now,
                                                  California requires a paralegal certificate
A paralegal or another non-attorney profes-       and requires paralegals to maintain MCLE
sional can represent clients in administrative    credits. I think certification is good; it allows
hearings in front of a commissioner. Some         the paralegal to be more of a professional.
people have effectively made a career out of


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