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andrea Wagner author of How to land your first paralegal job gives legal career advice.
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 PAGE 1 continued on back 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 PAGE 2
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