Paralegal growth. Is there really such a thing? A paralegal can certainly learn more and take on more substantive work, but where does a paralegal go from there? Unlike other business roles where employees work their way up the path to leadership, many paralegals don’t have anywhere to go unless they take the big step of attending law school.
So what is there to do? For one thing, ignore my previous paragraph. We all know that paralegals ROCK! Where would all the great lawyers be without us? As far as growth, there are so many ways we can grow, not just in our careers, but overall, which results in a more productive paralegal. But how do you begin?
1. Join Your Local Paralegal Association. I was a member of my local paralegal association for over five years before I began participating in meetings and networking events. Sure, I read the newsletters but I was afraid to take that first step of meeting my peers. My goodness, they were… strangers! Luckily, those strangers soon became friends - friends who have helped me in my growth by encouraging my participation within the association and by teaching me (by watching them) to become more confident in my chosen career.
2. Education, Education, Education. I can't say enough about the importance of education. If you already have your degree, consider participating in educational seminars both locally and nationally. Oftentimes, employers will pay your fees and travel expense. If you do not have your degree yet, take a class or two at your local community college or university (many employers offer tuition reimbursement). Find and participate in free webinars. The brain is meant to be used for learning, so keep it active by challenging it with new information on a regular basis.
3. Volunteer. Who has time to volunteer when we work full time, take care of our kids, exercise, do housework, taxi our kids to their extracurricular activities, and try to fit in a social life? Yes, it is difficult for many to even think about adding something else to our plates, but it can be done. Many companies/firms support volunteerism and allow their employees to take time away from work to volunteer. Consider taking one evening a month (or quarter) to volunteer at your local food bank, animal shelter, or your local Legal Aid Society. Not only are you helping others, but you are helping yourself emotionally, physically, and intellectually.
Wherever you are with your career, always remember that there are many ways to increase your growth as a paralegal. Paralegals are the epitome of hard work. Don't let yourself become passive in your career growth. Even if your firm does not promote paralegals to the next staffing level, increasing your knowledge and taking steps to grow makes you a more valuable employee. You never know what the future may hold and you will never regret any of your learning experiences… I can guarantee you that!