Visiting Paralegals Give College Students the Nitty-Gritty on the Profession

Law professors and paralegals recently visited students at Skyline College in San Bruno, California to give them an in-depth look at the paralegal profession. Speakers discussed a variety of options for entering law school, how to begin a career as a paralegal, and the opportunities available within the profession. It also gave students from the college the chance to meet paralegals who might eventually hire them once they complete their education.

Jocelyn Vila, a former paralegal, addressed the old adage “that paralegals are just people who didn’t become lawyers,” saying that it is completely false. “Paralegals have their own skill set,” she said.

While an attorney in a law firm may spend most of his or her day working directly with clients or in court, the paralegal is left to handle most everything else.   A paralegal’s responsibilities typically include research, logistics, paperwork and scheduling. It may sound like a monumental task, but paralegals can make $49-71 thousand annually in a small or medium sized firm and upwards of $95,000 in a larger one.

Ellen Dela Pena, a litigation support vendor explained that the people side of the legal system is left to the attorney, while the paralegal handles the paperwork.

Panelists stressed the fact that being a paralegal is often a thankless job and advised that the job still needs to get done. Panelist Ricky Castenda explained that attorneys don’t often thank paralegals for their hard work so it is necessary to have a thick skin when working in that field.

Students at the event welcomed the information from the professionals but some spoke of the frustration of unpaid internships upon graduation.

Jon Lucchese, a recruiting manager from Robert Half Legal spoke of the importance of networking, stating that paralegals should take every opportunity to meet new contacts.