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Should You Work as a Paralegal if You Can't Find a Job as a Lawyer?

With associate positions hard to come by, new graduates -- desperate to find a paying job in the legal profession -- are applying for work as paralegals, legal secretaries and law librarians, according to Long Island Business News. The story sites one new grad, Jessica Sparacino, who secured a job as a paralegal at Jackson Lewis, but that was only because she'd been working in that position through law school. For the most part, law firms and other employers aren't willing to hire JDs for non-lawyer positions.

In general, lawyers are either over-qualified or under-qualified for many of the available non-lawyer positions. For example, one firm that advertised for an administrative assistant was inundated with lawyer résumés. But the firm declined to hire a lawyer because it felt the candidate would simply leave once a better job came along. Marjorie Jassin, vice president of Law Library Management told the Business News: "It is totally inappropriate to have an attorney in a library ... because most attorneys do not have the necessary library science skills and degree to work in a law library."

David Gabor, a lawyer whose firm turned down a JD for an administrative position, offered the most useful advice. Rather than take a low-level job, Gabor says that unemployed attorneys should start their own one-person practices.

“I deal with people in transition all the time,” said Gabor, an employment lawyer. “If you’re looking for a job, the worst thing you can do is sit around waiting by the phone.”

Denise Doty, a Long Island attorney who was laid off in October, decided to start her own firm after spending six months looking for a job and doing pro bono work. Doty -- who has 15 years of experience -- realized that no one was going to hire her for a secretarial position, so she decided to strike out on her own. Now she has a growing client base that she's developed through word-of-mouth and social networking sites.

I agree with Gabor. If you spent three years in law school, you shouldn't be looking for work as a paralegal or a secretary. You should be finding a way to practice as a full-fledged lawyer.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on August 7, 2009 at 02:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

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