- par·a·le·gal. A person trained in subsidiary legal matters but not fully qualified as a lawyer.
In 2021 this definition feels rather outdated. It may be true in theory, but in practice it’s quite lacking. Many would argue that today’s paralegals actually constitute the heart of the legal practice. And as of late, the exceptional ones can be difficult to find. The role of the paralegal truly began its evolution in the 1960s and has continued to develop and expand ever since. When the position began, it was primarily administrative in nature, but that was then. The modern paralegal is quite different, and now routinely performs complex, substantive legal work. It would not be overstated to say you cannot run a modern legal team without them.
- Rise of the paralegals, New Law Journal, 2019
- From Apprentice to Paralegal: The Rise of the Paralegal Profession in America, Degruyter, 2017
So where can you find these essential, sought-after legal workers? The short answer is everywhere. However, in today’s legal market many are passive job seekers who are not actively seeking a career change. As the importance of the position role has grown, paralegals have finally been given the recognition they deserve, with promotions, strong salaries, bonuses, continuing education training programs and more. A lot like attorneys, skilled paralegals will enjoy a long tenured career with their law firms or corporate legal teams.
As this talent is frequently not active on the job market, the key is to be open-minded. Open to the right salaries (which can be upper six figures in some cases) , the right titles, paths for professional development, mentorship and other enticements. Fully remote work or a hybrid of remote and in-office work is rising in popularity amongst these professionals. The flexibility to hire remotely will broaden the available talent pool and your search results will increase dramatically. And be mindful that it’s a competitive talent market, in-demand candidates will not be tempted by an insufficient offer. In short, consider the real, tangible, and essential value that an experienced paralegal brings to the firm – and make your offer accordingly.
Director of Recruiting