Living in fear is living a life of mediocrity. Your fear may be of going back to school, networking with other professionals, job security or competency at work. Perhaps it is the fear of taking your career to the next level, as a paralegal student or a working professional. Whatever your fear may be, ask yourself if this fear is precluding you from achieving some of your goals in life or at work and paralyzing you to the point of stagnation. Are you afraid of the big, bad "wolf"?
Goal setting and achievement is something that not only translates into our personal lives, but our professional lives as well. As a paralegal, sometimes falling under the radar at work is a reality. But as paralegals we all share a common bond. We are a crucial part of the team. Often times it is our responsibility to get the job done and to get it done right, the first time through. To achieve such an encompassing goal, we may have to call upon and rely on others in the field with more expertise than ourselves.
Most, if not all seasoned paralegals, are procedural know-it-alls in their practice areas. At work, we as paralegals are asked to perform a myriad of tasks. Our tasks may include legal research, compiling data, drafting and analyzing legal documents in compliance with local rules, and administrative functions like calendaring. Frequently our assigned tasks may be routine like filing moving papers at the superior court, but there are occasions when we may be faced with the unknown, even for the most experienced paralegals. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your busy boss, encumbered with his or her own deadlines, hands over an assignment with little to no instruction and you ask yourself, "How do I file (fill in the blank) without it getting kicked?"
What happens when you are in unfamiliar territory and you have questions but no one to ask?
The San Diego Paralegal Association (SDPA) hosts an online community on Yahoo! Groups that is available to both members and nonmembers. This is a forum for paralegals to share ideas, experiences and to ask questions that we as paralegals face on a daily basis, including questions about local rules, general how-to's, job hunting, salaries, paralegal programs, Business and Professions Code §6450, MCLE credits, contract paralegals, the unauthorized practice of law and exempt vs. non-exempt status.
As a nonprofit organization, SDPA's mission is to promote "the paralegal profession through awareness, education and public service." SDPA achieves these goals by working with state and national affiliates to address the challenges facing the paralegal profession, by offering Continuing Legal Education programs, and by advocating involvement in pro bono clinics, community outreach programs and local government. SDPA hosts a variety of events for paralegals and paralegal students alike, providing ample opportunity to connect those in the profession and those transitioning into the profession with each other.
In a competitive work force, the more people you know the more your chances of seeking gainful employment increase. Networking with other paralegals exposes you to potential jobs and provides opportunities to seek mentors and career advice from veterans in the field. Your colleagues are some of your most valuable resources.
If you are just embarking on your career as a paralegal or if you have been in the field for 20 years, seek opportunities to develop yourself and your career by way of education in attending MCLE seminars, joining the mentoring program offered by SDPA or by taking on a leadership position. The opportunities are there. What's stopping you? Are you afraid of the big, bad wolf? Do something about it. Get involved and separate yourself from the rest of the pack. SDPA welcomes you to take an active stance. SDPA wants you!
Custodio, a Certified Paralegal, is the School Liaison Committee chair for the San Diego Paralegal Association and a paralegal for Butterfield Schechter LLP.