Quick Paralegal Summary

What is a Paralegal?

A paralegal (interchangeably called a legal assistant), is a person who helps an attorney draft legal documents, conduct research, prepare for court hearings, and manage other administrative tasks in a legal office setting. Some paralegals enroll in a two-year, ABA-approved program, while others start as a law firm receptionist and work their way up to becoming one through experience. The more of either, or both, the better.

For example, I enrolled in a paralegal program at my community college while working as a receptionist at a firm and moved through the ranks as I gained experience and confidence. My school had a great program that linked law firms and internships, which was a great way to build a portfolio, network, and get a solid list of references.

After accumulating experience and education, paralegals can increase their salary and credibility by taking exams for certification. NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants) offers the Certified Paralegal exam as well as Advanced in specified areas of the law. California is the only state (that I know of) that offers a state-specific paralegal certification exam through CAPA (California Alliance of Paralegal Associations). Stay on the lookout for a more expansive list of these types of certifications in future blog posts.

My first desk after being promoted to a full-time legal assistant. Fully equipped with Word 2007, a Steno notebook, and motivation provided by the Justice League.

What Does a Paralegal Do?

Paralegals work under the direct supervision of an attorney and are prohibited from practicing law on behalf of the public, although in some areas they’ve been granted the ability to perform limited tasks (more on that later). The best analogy I can think of is this: a paralegal is to an attorney what a nurse is to a doctor. They work closely with the clients, know their files like the back of their hand, and collaborate with the attorney to determine the best course of action.

Paralegal-specific tasks include keeping billable time for yourself and attorney(s), keeping up with court dockets, drafting and submitting legal docs and filings, checking for conflicts-of-interest, and researching relevant law and cases. The majority of the work is billed to the client for that matter, so keeping track of your time is essential. Regardless of your hourly/salary, the supervising attorney will (usually) charge the client a fixed hourly rate for your work. It’s beneficial for both clients and attorneys because paralegals save clients money and save attorneys time.

Responsibilities

One of my first tasks as a new paralegal was to clean out and organize all these files in one week! Even though this is considered admin (nonbillable) work, it made my job easier when clients needed us to represent them.

Depending on the position and firm operations, paralegals are expected to take care of administrative and time-consuming tasks, in addition to legal ones, so that the attorney can focus on practicing law. Things like call screening, responding to vendors and clients, scheduling appointments, even cleaning and organizing files and the office space are all considered “other duties as assigned.” Although most of these tasks are nonbillable, they’re essential to operating a productive and efficient office. Some paralegals tackle these tasks throughout the day, while others reserve a chunk of time to knock these items out. Whatever your style, it’s paramount that a paralegal can wear both hats.

One thing paralegals cannot do under any circumstance is engage in the practice of law. Paralegals are prohibited from practicing law, including forming client/attorney relationships, setting a fee, or rendering a legal opinion. Not sure what counts as practicing law? Click here for the ABA Model Guidelines about utilizing paralegals. I’ll be covering this in-depth in future posts, so be sure to follow on Facebook and Instagram for updates!

This is BY NO MEANS a limited list of duties and responsibilities assigned to a paralegal. If you can think of more examples or have any questions, leave a comment! I hope that by providing a brief overview of what this career entails, you can decide whether it’s right for you, or, if you’ve been in the game for a while, recognize any ways your job has changed since you started.

Fortune favors the bold!

Best,

Jes

Who’s That Girl? It’s Jes!

Introduction

Seasoned paralegal, new blogger, lover of naps & chai lattes.

Hey, everyone! I’m Jes, founder and driving force behind Victory Legal Admin. I can’t express how excited (and slightly nervous) I am embarking on this incredible journey towards solo entrepreneurship, contributing to the digital community, and everything in between with the launch of Virtual Legal Admin and my blog, Victory Journal. I’m completely brand new to the blogging scene, experienced and educated in legal studies, and eager to create a career that highlights my best skills with the freedom of being my own boss.

Where I’ve Been

I started working in law firms and attending paralegal school (both full-time) around five years ago in South Carolina. I worked for the most brilliant and disorganized attorney I’ve ever met at an old school, paper heavy firm a couple blocks from the most breathtaking waterfronts I’ve ever seen.

In addition to school and firm, I worked as a server at a gastropub four days a week and, in my spare time, worked as a stage manager for the local university performing arts center and hosted open-mic nights on the weekends at a burger joint to pay the bills. I hustled hard and hardly slept until I saw an opportunity to move somewhere a paralegal would always be in need: Washington, D.C.

One of the reasons I love running so much is because you can set, measure, and achieve realistic goals. Progress is part of the journey!

After getting my A.A. in Paralegal Studies, I moved north to NOVA and settled in Alexandria, Virginia working as an office manager and bona fide paralegal for a solo practitioner at a boutique law firm. I can honestly say I’m one of the lucky few that got their dream job fresh out of the gate. I don’t want to sound like I’m gushing, but I cannot say enough great things about the work environment and experience at that firm. Today I look to my former employer as a mentor and a role model because: i) she treated me as a professional since day one, (ii) rewarded me when she felt that I deserved it, and (iii) was patient with me as I learned and grew into the position.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m originally from Georgia, born and raised. I went to high school in a quaint mountain town and moved to South Carolina directly afterwards, my family scattered to the winds in the peach state. There was an opportunity to go back, and I took it. I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I had stayed, but that’s looking in the rear view mirror and I prefer to focus what’s outside the windshield. I focused mainly on my degree and while working at a firm that was at the center of my social hub. I worked as the only paralegal at a law office above the coffee shop across the street from my downtown loft. Graced with convenience and a sense of community, I was also down the street from the running store and my favorite bar across the way. Living on “easy street” gave me the flexibility to structure my life in a way that both satisfied and enriched me.

Time management is a balancing act of organizing priorities based on importance and urgency.

This may shock you, but even with a degree and firm experience, running the ship on my own was a daunting, sometimes overwhelming task. While there was no shortage of failures as I adapted to my new role, there was also a bounty of learning moments that soon turned into defining characteristics of my productivity and organization style. These were the most crucial professional moments in my career because I had to administratively run a business, seamlessly organize someone’s life, and participate in community ventures by representing myself and the firm at professional mixers and charitable events. During this time, I decided to pursue my B.A. in legal studies online and found a healthy balance between my work, school, and social obligations.

For my final semester of college, I sold whatever belongings I could, stored the rest, and moved to Copenhagen, Denmark. I won’t go much into it now, but you can bet I’ll be sharing my experiences in dedicated posts sprinkled within this blog (including, but not limited to, legal/crime fiction film and TV commentary). After spending four months in Europe, I finished all of my coursework required by Penn State University and am expecting my hard-earned degree to come in late spring. Now that my schedule is free of modules, quizzes, and finals, I feel now that I can dedicate myself to running a business and blogging full-time.

California, Here I Come


One of my favorite ways to document my progress is using a Bullet Journal. I’ve pretty much orchestrated my entire life around these books and carry my current one with my everywhere. This white one is retired, but I use it for pressing flowers – there’s so many in NorCal to choose from!

To top it off, my fresh start is none other than in Sacramento, California. I’ve lived on the east coast my entire life, so settling into and starting my business the final frontier is a welcome challenge. (You can read about my professional background here.) Plenty of the content here will feature articles specific to California because of my geography and client base, but I want to quickly cover what other states I’ve worked at so far, in case anyone can learn from my experiences. If you have a question or want me to go more in-depth about one jurisdiction or another, just ask!

I’ll admit, if feels like an overwhelming undertaking. Where do I start? What information can I trust? What are the most pressing matters, and what actions can I take to satisfy them? It’s easy to get discouraged when approaching a goal without a plan or the resources to achieve it. In between projects and prospective clients, I’ve scoured the internet high and low for the best way to move forward in establishing a successful business and maintaining a strong online presence. So far, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve found is this: document your progress.

What I’m About

Victory Journal will cover a range of topics such as notary public procedures, legal community quandaries, office management and productivity tips, and how to run a business. While the majority of my posts focuses on helping those in the administrative and legal field, I also plan on showing how I maintain my work/life balance by posting about my travel adventures, personal milestones, and other revelations.

Most importantly, Victory Journal is my blank whiteboard for manifesting ideas, tracking goals, figuring out what works, and learning life lessons in both victory and failure. Not only is it a great source for personal motivation, but by publishing my progress I hope to help those of you also taking a leap in yourself and to save you time by weeding out unwanted information and consolidating helpful guides to one location.

That about sums it up for me and why I’m here! Keep your eyes peeled as I release new articles, posts, and other goodies as business takes off. Comment below or drop me a line at sacramentovla@gmail.com to join the mailing list and get announcements on big things planned down the pipeline. Fortune favors the bold!

Best,

Jes