We are pleased to welcome Chere Estrin, editor-in-chief for SUE and KNOW magazines, as a special guest blogger. Please read on for the first installment of Chere’s five-part blog series on trends in the paralegal profession.
Remember when corporations were trusted entities, jobs were had by a quick reference check (or none at all) and anyone who wanted to, could call themselves a paralegal?
Recent trends moving the business world have affected the way paralegals exist. What’s unfortunate is that driving some of these changes are mishap, misappropriation or careless mistakes. Still, other trends seem to be evolving from the inevitable force of technology, client boycott of exorbitant fees, increase in global demand and industry wide consolidation.
To maintain credibility in today’s marketplace, paralegals seeking to advance their careers need to join up with an emerging new school of legal, social and business practices. Failing to do so can put you in a precarious position. I am reminded of the shaping of technology in the legal field years ago. Those paralegals failing to jump on the technology bandwagon caused their careers to stall midstream, a fact that remains true today. Ignore certain important trends and chances are you’ll be left sitting at the dock as the ship pulls away.
A rather strong statement, you say? Let’s take a look at four important trends that are changing the face of the paralegal field:
Trend Number One: Social Networking
Even though you might not get what all the excitement is about (particularly if you are past 40), social networking on the web is hotter than ever. Sites such as Facebook, My Space, Linkedn, and other Web 2.0 communities have caused instant friendships with people who know more details about you in the click of a mouse than what previously may have taken years for you to share.
You can create a profile that includes your date of birth, hometown, high school, college, employer, political views, marital status and so forth. Then you start inviting people to be your friend. Other people invite you to be their friend, too, including people you don’t even know. On business networking sites such as Linkedn, business “friends” write references for you and people are introduced to potential clients, employers and colleagues.
Originally for college age kids and younger, sites such as Myspace.com and Facebook have swept the nation. “Oldsters” are also swarming onto Facebook, tilting the demographics so that today more than half of its 43 million members are older than college students. It’s become a place where businesspeople network by sending silly virtual gifts such as a virtual martini to break the ice with sales prospects. Not to be left out, Paralegalgateway.com, a very successful website for paralegals, created its own space on MySpace.com. Over 400 paralegal members so far have joined. Members have pictures of their pets, children and loved ones along with information about their personal lives, hopes, wants, dreams and desires.
How has social networking changed how some paralegals are perceived? Participating in social networks creates an opportunity to be investigated by employers checking references and current employers seeking more information about you. If you are still of the mindset that employers only check the references that you give them, please come out of the 20th century. Nowadays, Googling someone is only one small component for checking backgrounds, attitudes, personal information, political affiliation, possible security threats and more.
If you’re coming across like a party animal, making inappropriate remarks about your employers or have a hidden side you think only your “friends” know, be advised! You have probably also let present and future employers take a peek at your inner paralegal. The new vanguard of social networking can make or break your chances of getting that new job.
Reprinted with permission from KNOW, The Magazine for Paralegals, www.paralegalknowledge.com
About the author
Chere Estrin is the Editor-in-Chief of SUE Magazine, a publication for women litigators (www.SueMagazine.com) and KNOW, The Magazine for Paralegals. (www.knowparalegal.com). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.