Paralegal Job Can Make Career Sense, But Document Review Is Dubious, Experts Advise

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Looking to get a foot in the door for an entry-level attorney job in a rough economy?

It can make sense, from a career-advancement standpoint, to seek work as a paralegal. But a contract attorney gig focused on document review likely won’t do more than pay the bills, experts say.

“It’s a con. It’s not really lawyering,” writes Mirriam Seddiq on her blog Not Guilty, pointing out that she knows the ropes, because she’s worked as a contract lawyer herself.

While it’s easy to tell yourself you’ll look for more meaningful work or volunteer, you don’t, she writes. “You sit your ass in that cubicle and hit shift F5 and before you know it a year has passed and while you have amassed no late fees on your credit cards and no overdraft fees on your bank account, you have also amassed no new skills.”

Legal search consultant Ann Israel, however, recently advised a law graduate who failed the bar exam the first time around and hence lost her job as an entry-level associate to consider working as a paralegal.

“Because of the economy and what is currently going on in the legal job market, I do not believe that any future reputable (as you put it) employer would question why a recent law school graduate would take on paralegal employment in the fall/winter of 2010/2011,” writes Israel in an Advice to the Lawlorn column in New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

Working as a paralegal will also give the recent grad a chance to study for the bar while “reliev[ing] some of the stress that first-year associates typically experience,” continues Israel. She advises the fledgling attorney not to give up and to make studying for the bar a top priority.

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: “Down in the Data Mines” “With Glut of Laid-Off Lawyers, Temp Jobs are Harder to Find—and Pay Less” “After 17 Years as a Stay-at-Home Mom & Contract Lawyer, Amy Beckett Lands a New Job”

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