Through Our Eyes – From Firm to In-House

Katie Riddle is a young woman with blond hair and grey eyes. She is pictured smiling and wearing a blue shirt, and she is standing against a light background.Aimee, a white woman with brown hair, wears a royal blue blouse.By Katie Riddle and Aimee Roix

Currently, paralegals have many more employment and growth opportunities than ever before. Paralegals were once thought to be simply responsible for secretarial or administrative duties within their firm. However, this has now vastly changed in more ways than one. Today, paralegals handle more substantive work and often fill their task lists with detailed planning, drafting, and research assignments to assist their attorneys and clients. Taking on such duties has made paralegals irreplaceable in the workforce and has opened new doors for opportunities across the legal field.

One considerable new opportunity for paralegals is the shift in traditional work settings that has become more common over the past few years. While we have moved towards more of a remote/virtual setting for many legal professionals, we have also seen a change in the type of employers seeking to hire paralegals.  It is now very common to see paralegals working in places other than law firms. Today, you may see paralegals acting in a freelance capacity – in which they own their own business and their clients are attorneys that give them tasks and provide them with the required level of supervision for paralegal work. Additionally, you may see paralegals working in areas and settings involving public interests, the government, non-profits, and even in-house positions.

It is well known that paralegals offer a wide range of services and perform a variety of functions that are not solely applicable to work in a law firm. Paralegals have many transferable skills that can be valuable to employers across many industries. Although law firms undoubtedly provide the necessary experience and exposure that most new paralegals need, they are not the only career path available. In fact, as you progress through your career, you may find yourself interested in trying something different. You may be intrigued by in-house employment or often wonder what work-life would be like in a new industry. Alternatively, you may be a paralegal that really enjoys the day-to-day of law firm life and find it to be very fulfilling – which is great. Personally, after a combined 6+ years of law firm experience, we (the authors of this article) were eager and interested in pursuing something different – which came in the form of in-house employment.

Most people consider in-house work to be solely focused on litigation or defense, which is often not the case. In-house paralegals offer business and legal support to in-house counsel that cover a wide variety of practice areas – ranging anywhere from corporate compliance to research misconduct to contract negotiation. In-house paralegals may also support attorneys that are involved in major business initiatives, mergers, acquisitions, or other projects that come with major risks. Whether working for a private company, an educational institution, or a non-profit organization, in-house paralegals can provide invaluable support in all aspects of their employer’s business and goals. Paralegals involved in this work often have a hand in the day-to-day operations of a company and help protect their company from liability and risk. The diversity that comes with in-house employment means that your task list is always changing, and no day is the same. This diversity can give paralegals extensive experience in various practice areas and shape them into more well-rounded legal professionals. However, as with any new setting, a paralegal should always understand their limitations, experiences, and preferences within their in-house position.

If you are interested in transitioning to an in-house position or simply curious as to what in-house employment entails, we hope that you have found this article to be relevant and encouraging. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please feel free to contact the authors, Katie Riddle and Aimee Roix, for their perspective and experience on transitioning from firm to in-house employment.

The Paralegal Division Blog is managed by the Division’s Communications Committee. Via the blog, the Communications Committee provides information written by attorneys, paralegals, and other experts designed specifically for paralegals in the areas of substantive law, ethics, technology, paralegal practice advice, and more. If you are interested in signing up to submit a blog post on a future date, you can do so here. When you are ready to submit a blog post, you can do so by using this form.

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