Saturday, March 22, 2014

Albuquerque's paralegal market

I saw the following in craigslist and couldn't say it any better myself so repost it here.

"This is to inform Abq. law firms the capacities of a paralegal. It's necessary because they seem oblivious to the obvious. Paralegals are not secretaries or assistants. They are trained in academic programs to handle many attorney functions except the practice of legal representation. They are fully capable of doing the following: legal research and writing; understanding and communicating legal concepts; organizing the prior two in legal memorandums with intelligent, coherent plans of action; interviewing clients and other sources to obtain pertinent facts; not only organizing legal documents in preparation for testimony and trial but offering invaluable insights into how to proceed in those settings. There is a host of other legal functions they can fulfill beside this initial list. Basically the paralegal can do anything a lawyer can do except represent someone.* Get over your monumental hubris.
"Also the pay scale for such work far exceeds the meager secretarial salaries offered in most such job postings, generally $10 an hour to start up to a whopping $17 for five years experience. This is a profession and should be compensated accordingly. A much more reasonable pay scale is that used by the Federal government. Of course they know the capacities of paralegals and use them accordingly. This link is the base pay on the GS scale with adjustments for locality. Paralegals start at GS05, and GS07 if they have superior academic performance. In Abq. (p. 33) that amounts to $31,628 for 05 and $39,170 for 07 starting pay. Generally given good performance paralegals move two grades after each year of experience up to GS-11. After three years experience starting as GS05 the pay would be $57,982 at GS11. After that there are annual increases. Another year of experience (4 years) equals $59,915. 11 is the highest grade for the profession unless the paralegal goes into supervision.

"Wake up Abq. law firms. Paralegals are not secretaries or assistants that answer phones, make appointments, make travel plans or fill out legal templates.* And give up the notion that the paralegal should do a secretary-assistant's tasks in addition to what they're capable. If you have enough work for all of that then hire both a paralegal and a secretary and give up trying to fit two jobs into one. When the federal government is ahead of you in understanding paralegal capacities, appropriate pay scales and fair labor practices it is indicative of your ineptitude, greed and labor abusive policies. Perhaps it's time to give up being the Walmart or McDonald's of the legal world?"

* For further information on federal job descriptions differentiating the paralegal (0950) from the legal assistant (0986), see the Occupational Handbook.

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