Any veteran paralegal will tell you that even in a bustling law office, working in isolation is a common part of the job. For some personality types, this is a beautiful thing. But if you’re the extroverted type or just someone who simply needs a little in the way of human interaction during the day to feel connected, this much alone time could be something of a challenge for you.
Such was the case for Dana Fischel, an Advanced Certified Paralegal in California and Advanced Specialist, and Treasurer for the Inland County Association of Paralegals (ICAP). Years ago when Dana first got her start, she quickly became acutely aware of just how isolating her work could be. “I felt the need to connect with the people who would understand what I’m going through as a new paralegal.”
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Maintain the Connections You Make in School and During Your Internship
When studying to become a paralegal we’re surrounded by like-minded people, from professors and lecturers to fellow students. All through school and internships, we benefit from the wisdom of practicing professionals who share ideas and information about their experiences in the field. Together we consider the big questions about ethics, laugh at inside jokes, and ponder complicated scenarios while fleshing out answers. We make new discoveries. We accept new challenges and find innovative solutions. Classmates applaud us, boo us, and professors provide feedback.
That all changes very quickly once we graduate. We’re cast into the world like a tiny rowboat launched on open waters as our fellow tribes people wave goodbye from shore. Our family and friends don’t really understand what we do and our boss has enough to worry about without having to answer a bunch of newbie questions. Those first few months can feel pretty lonely, especially if you’re the only paralegal in the office.
Social Media Provides an Easy Answer, Though Not a Complete One
Statistics show that the average person has over 300 Facebook friends, and roughly the same number of LinkedIn first-tier professional associations. We now spend about two hours a day interacting with people through some form of social media. How can we possibly be isolated when we can get to know the members so completely – what bands they like, their birth date, and what books they read. In about two minutes after meeting someone in the group, you’ll know more about them than you may have even cared to – ok, so they vote Independent, work as a paralegal in a large tech company, and have a boyfriend that teaches yoga.
It’s so easy to find blogs, associations, and Facebook groups all involved in the legal profession. We can join free webboards where like-minded paralegals can share office talk, work on theoretical problems, and basically have an incognito bitch-fest if we like.
Our virtual world allows us to make a bazillion connections and associations. We can interact at our convenience, anytime day or night. We can reach out to our friends with quips, likes, emojis, gifs and personal opinions. We can read their posts and they can read ours. Sky’s the limit when you have a smartphone or tablet in your hand, right?
At the end of the day, however, what do we really know about these virtual people we call friends? Outside of factoids and smiling photos, aren’t we still missing something?
Camaraderie and Networking Through Your Local Paralegal Association
During school and internships we developed the kind of connections where a person could say, ‘I know you. I’ve seen how you conduct yourself. I’ve seen how you dress. I’ve witnessed how patient you are. You would be a great candidate to work as an advocate for the elderly. I’d be happy to recommend you for the job in my office.’
Face-to-face you can read expressions and hear laughter; you can sense distress or apprehension and offer perspective. Virtual relationships are easy and convenient, but meeting people in person allows us to develop the kinds of relationships that can lead to referrals and job references… Something that is virtually impossible to do in the virtual world.
Yesterdays meeting is today’s meet up. And a meet up is just code for relationship opportunities. That’s what Dana found when she searched for a local paralegal association and discovered ICAP.
Dana met students and teachers at ICAP. There were young and old. There were the experienced and those just starting out. And everyone had something to offer. The more experienced members become invaluable mentors. They helped the newbies steer clear of ethical pitfalls. They shared career tips. They made invaluable introductions that helped the new blood find work. They offered counsel and advice based on years of experience.
Dana said that newbies also had a lot to offer. They helped the more established members understand new techniques and advancements in office technology. They also offered innovative ideas, and fresh energy and excitement to the group. Everyone had something to contribute.