The skills that you’ve acquired throughout your paralegal career have opened the door to unlimited employment opportunities if you are looking for a paralegal career path that does not have the title “paralegal” that utilizes your paralegal skills and experience.
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Here are 15 Alternative Careers for Paralegals:
- Legal Staffing Recruiter
- Professional Development and Training Manager
- Pro Bono Program Coordinator
- Project Manager for legal support vendor
- Legislative Affairs Director for a county government agency
- Business Development/Sales for legal support vendor
- Professional Blogger/Marketer in the legal field
- Litigation Support Analyst
- Executive position at a venture capital company
- Foreclosure Specialist
- Contracts Administrator
- Compliance Specialist
- Investigator or Process Server
- Conflicts Specialist for a law firm
These are actual job titles of people I personally know who were former paralegals.
The list of alternative paralegal career options could be unlimited. Start by doing a Google search for one of the titles on the list, and you will discover even more job opportunities that you have gained from your prior paralegal career.
Maybe you’ve been a litigation paralegal for several years (or corporate paralegal, real estate paralegal…fill in any practice area here), and you’re looking for a career change. You might be interested in exploring some alternative paralegal career options. Your paralegal degree, combined with your paralegal skills, can lead you to career options that utilize the skills you have acquired through your paralegal experience.
Ask yourself: What do I enjoy the most about being a paralegal?
Are you a litigation paralegal who enjoys networking and sales conversations? Then maybe a sales position for a legal vendor would be a better fit than managing document review projects as a litigation paralegal in a typical law firm setting. I interviewed an eDiscovery Vendor on the podcast and asked them what it takes to go from a litigation paralegal to an eDiscovery project manager. Listen to Andrea and Kevin’s eDiscovery Q & A episode.
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Are you a litigation paralegal who has been working with e-discovery tools? Maybe you would enjoy working for an e-discovery software company as a project manager. I had a podcast interview with Kim Bookout recently that you might find some inspiration from! She shows us where your paralegal career path can take you if you think of career mobility. Listen to it here.
Are you a corporate paralegal who enjoys the operations and financial side of managing projects and have an undergraduate degree in business management? Then maybe you would be better suited for a VP of Operations or an Office Administrator at a small company that would allow you to combine your education with your paralegal skills.
What do you have experience in, what are you good at, and what gets you motivated?
Are you a litigation paralegal who loves to do legal research and writing more than interacting with clients? Then a job in a research company would probably get you more research assignments than being a paralegal at a large law firm that already has dozens of associates doing most of the research. Or, maybe you don’t have to leave the paralegal profession…you just need to take a litigation paralegal position at a smaller firm that uses litigation paralegals more for legal research and writing. Another alternative paralegal career path might be to work for one of the legal publishing companies or online legal research companies.
You have developed many skills to expand your paralegal career path.
Kristine Wilder, Manager of Records & Information Management for Walt Disney Company, agreed, “it has been many years since I worked as a litigation paralegal, but I continue to use my paralegal skills every day in my position.” Wilder now uses those skills to assist her and her team when they are establishing new information compliance policies for over 195,000 employees across the various business divisions of the Walt Disney Company. Wilder now feels like she is charting her own course every day and not limited by views that she can only do a limited type of work or have limited interactions.
When you move outside the law firm and corporate legal department, you also move away from the labels we have all grown accustomed to in the legal industry: paralegal/attorney, attorney/non-attorney, or professional/staff. Wilder added, “In my current role, there are no labels or limits to what I can achieve. Without limits, I now enjoy driving initiatives, looking at the big picture of the company, and how I can best serve the company without any restrictions that hold me back in my position here.”
When are thinking it might be time to start Act II of your career, consider drafting up a plan to help you evaluate your options and decide which career path you might want to take.
Step 1: What are you passionate about?
This does not mean thinking about the new title that you want. It means doing some soul-searching on what makes you happy, what you enjoy about your paralegal career, and what you do not enjoy. Ahmadieh did exactly that when he was contemplating what he wanted out of his career. He suggests that you “turn off the tv, the radio, and all of the other devices – and just think. Think outside the box. Think about what it is that makes you happy, what aspects of your paralegal job you enjoy, which aspects you don’t, and where your strengths are.”
Step 2: Do a career assessment.
If you have been working as a paralegal for most of your career, it might be helpful to talk to a career coach or take a career assessment test. It would be worth the investment to learn what areas you excel in and what brings you the most joy and satisfaction.
A career coach can help you assess your professional situation with a greater degree of insight, analysis, honesty, and encouragement. A coach can evaluate your work history to help you better define your skills and abilities. They can also help to build your confidence to overcome limitations you may have put on yourself. Coaching sessions help you explore your career strengths and develop a plan for moving in a new direction if you decide you want an alternative paralegal career path.
I would recommend choosing a career coach who specializes in the legal industry. For example, Bert Binder is a paralegal career coach who had 20+ years in the paralegal profession before moving into the coaching industry.
Step 3: Know what that new field requires for success in that field.
Some career alternatives might require some additional training or education specific to that industry when you decide to make the career transition from paralegal to another field. Find out what those are before you make any decisions about your paralegal career options.
For example, if you are considering a teaching job, you would have more options available to you if you had a master’s degree. If you are interested in a sales position, you might want to explore some courses on sales techniques. You would also want to talk to as many legal support vendors as possible to learn what it takes to be successful in that position. Make sure you understand the pros and cons of any role you are considering transitioning to.
Step 4: Update your paralegal resume.
If you have spent most of your career working as a paralegal in a law firm, it’s probably been a while since you took a look at your resume from a different perspective. First, you’ll want to make sure that your resume is up to date. Get some of our paralegal resume drafting tips here.
But then you have to look at the list of paralegal skills that you have acquired throughout your career and revise your resume to focus on those transferable skills that would apply to the new career path that you want to take. One place to start is to search for job postings for that new position and see which skills they list as “preferred” and which skills they list as “must-have.”
Another Paralegal Career Path – Become an Entrepreneur
One other path that your paralegal career can take you on: becoming an entrepreneur! That’s what I did after almost 20 years of working as a litigation paralegal and then as a paralegal manager. When I was employed as a paralegal manager, and before that as a paralegal, I would have never thought of “entrepreneur” as one of my paralegal career options. But it turns out it was! In 2010, the Paralegal Boot Camp was started, and it’s been more than 12 years now! It’s been so rewarding to be my own boss and build a company doing things that I enjoy every single day.
Meet the Author
Ann Pearson is the Founder of the Paralegal Boot Camp, and host of the Paralegals on Fire! Podcast Show, and passionate about promoting the paralegal profession.
Ann spent 20 years working as a paralegal manager and a litigation paralegal before opening the Paralegal Boot Camp in 2010.
Ann’s training programs focus on adding immediate value to a paralegal’s career and bridging the gap between what a paralegal learns in school and what they actually do on the job.
Visit the About Us Page to learn more about why Ann started the Paralegal Boot Camp.