New Years day has just arrived as I write this – so here's a New Year's resolution for those considering a paralegal career or those looking for a path toward career advancement.
Improve your visibility by networking among your peers, at association meetings, at breakfast meetings held by your local bar association and… you get the idea. If you merely remain a 9 – 5 fixture at school or at your present firm, the chance you'll be considered for a new job or a significant promotion are between slim and none. You need to know which law firms or agencies are understaffed and ready to look for new talent, and they need to know of you and your talents. Associations, clubs, and institutes are always looking for speakers at meetings, and blogs are always in need of new material – participate! Get your name out there, so when you become aware of potential new jobs, you will have an advantage over some anonymous résumé addressed “To Whom it May Concern”.
You still have chances to network, even if you're not in a large metropolis such as New York City or Washington DC. Those who live in smaller towns can drum up online business by participating in appropriate blogs (search on Google Blogs and type in ‘paralegal', for example). Alternately, search for ‘paralegal forum' in Google as you would in a normal search, then click on the word ‘More' on the left side of the search results. The list of search options will expand, showing ‘Discussions' as an option. Click on that option to limit your search results to those web sites which are interactive – places where you can post comments or respond to others' comments. Play with it! Other search engines may offer similar search options – play with them; enjoy your self while examining your options.
If you intend to comment on legal blogs and forums, make sure you follow their rules for posting, and make your comment appropriate to the ongoing discussion. If you really want to develop your online presence, put up a web page to better highlight your capabilities, and link back to that web page in the signature section of your comments. Over time, your web page will get more and more visitors, and you may be able to begin building a clientele for free lance paralegal work. Paralegal schooling and training have their place, but they are not a substitute for visibility among potential clients (not to be confused with the high visibility of Baby New Year).
You may even find yourself in the position to hire the law firm you work for to help with certain tasks or to help with your workflow! Careful with this option though; your bosses may fail to see the humor in your establishing an online business, and you may find yourself having to choose between your burgeoning online business and your employment at your day job. Explore your options carefully before exposing your hand. Let you imagination go – you could become one of your employer's more significant clients!
Good luck with your New Year Resolution!