3 Mindset Shifts for New Paralegals

Your mindset is so important to your success as a new paralegal. Let’s look at 3 mindset shifts you can make early in your paralegal career.

1.  Stop calling yourself a “newbie” paralegal.

They will think you are the person who you think you are.

By referring to yourself as the “newbie paralegal,” you are giving yourself an unnecessary label. Labels are never good for anyone.

In the gaming world, a “noob” is a derogatory term for a novice gamer.  The definition of a newbie is a newcomer or novice (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/newbie).

Why not just call yourself a paralegal? And ask that others do the same. 

2.  You are not a “nonlawyer” – you are a legal professional.

Back in the day, when I worked for BigLaw and spent most of my waking hours in the concrete jungle, it was nothing to hear that “nonlawyer” title said a half dozen times a day. Back then, there were two classes of people who worked in the law firm:  attorneys and non-attorneys. But that also used to be when it was perfectly acceptable for law firms to have attorney cafeterias that non-attorneys were prohibited from using.

It’s been said that the use of the non-attorney/nonlawyer title came about to make it clear that certain people in the law firm were licensed to practice law and others were not. What other professional uses that classification? For example, imagine going to the doctor’s office and the doctor introducing their nurse as a non-doctor. Or to your accountant’s office, and they introduce their receptionist as a non-accountant.

The label of “non-attorney” or “nonlawyer” shouldn’t exist anymore. But, if that label does exist where you work, replace it (at least in your mind) with “I am a legal professional.” Why?  Because sometimes, all it takes is a shift in your mindset.

Here is a more in-depth discussion on the term nonlawyer

3.  This is not just your paralegal job – this is your career.

People work at jobs; they invest in their careers.

A job gives you a paycheck, while a career gives you a profession.

A job mindset means you show up at work and do what you’re told (and not much more) so that you can collect that paycheck and go home. 

A career mindset means that you are focused on career development to ensure you are at your full potential. Just know that when you receive that paralegal certificate, your learning has only just begun.

Knowing that you are going into an entirely new profession, one of the most important questions you want to ask during the interview is:  Does the firm pay for continuing education (CLE) for its paralegals? Or, does the firm have a formal professional development program that provides training for paralegals?

things attorneys look for in a paralegal

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You’ll know what your attorneys need before they ask for it.

Your attorneys will think you’re the rockstar paralegal who can read their minds!