New year, new … job? The legal field is struggling to find paralegals and fill vacancies during the “Great Resignation.” For paralegals, that creates opportunities to break into the field or to advance your career.
Guest Tony Sipp, a paralegal manager for a national law firm, says it’s more important now than ever for paralegal professionals to know their worth, highlight their skills, and pursue their dreams. Firms are hiring now.
Hear what hiring managers are looking for today – from soft skills to tech, including e-filing and e-discovery and Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Listen to Sipp’s valuable job seeking and interviewing tips as we head into a promising year for paralegals. Even if you’re happy where you are, it doesn’t hurt to look around or ask for what you want.
Special thanks to our sponsors NALA, ServeNow, and InfoTrack.
Jill Francisco: Before we begin today, we’d like to thank our sponsors ServeNow, NALA, and InfoTrack.
Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining me for another exciting and informative episode of The Paralegal Voice on the Legal Talk Network. I’m Jill Francisco, an advanced certified paralegal, immediate past president of NALA, and your host of this episode of The Paralegal Voice. I have over 25 years of paralegal experience, and I’m so excited to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for the paralegal profession with you.
And I am very, very super excited to have Tony with me today. It’s Tony Sipp. He’s a paralegal manager at Manning & Kass, ELlrod, Ramirez, Trester, LLP, which they have seven nationwide offices that he manages the paralegals. And he is also a former president for the Los Angeles Paralegal Association, and I have to give the plug. I think that’s probably how we originally met a few years ago going to the national conferences for NALA and stuff, met Tony because. of course, you stood out with, you always had something going on and I kind of gravitate to those type of people.
Anyway, and Tony also does a few other things like he is also a council member for the Greater Valley Glen Neighborhood Council, which I love to always bring up some of those side things that paralegals are into because it kind of shows that paralegals, the skill set, I think that paralegals have really apply to a lot of things not only our community, but professionally and whatever.
Anyway, I’m super excited to have you here today. And so, anyway, like I said, I’ll give you a little chance. I want you to talk a little bit about your background if you would like to, but I did want to read all your resume because I know we have some good things we’re going to chat about today and I want the listeners to get as much as they can. Tony, welcome. Thank you for being with me.
Tony Sipp: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Jill Francisco: I know that Tony’s awesome and I want my listeners to get just a little taste of kind of a little bit more of his background. Tony, what do you have to say today?
Tony Sipp: My name is Tony Sipp. I am the past president of the Los Angeles Paralegal Association, also a council member for Greater Valley Glen Neighborhood Council and the chair of the Government Relations Committee. And I also spent some time before I got into the legal field dabbling in politics and worked for a congresswoman down in Orange County and came back into law again, and that’s pretty much it. I like to cycle and get out and try to do good for the community.
Jill Francisco: And then how long and you’ve been at your current position doing mostly like the paralegal manager because I know you were also a paralegal for many years, so you’re not unfamiliar, not new to this.
Tony Sipp: No, I’m not. I’ve been doing this for well over 13, 14 years now. I started off on plaintiff side, went to defense side and I like defense side so I kept doing that.
Jill Francisco: Same.
Tony Sipp: It’s really good. I enjoy what I do. I love what I’m doing. When I became the paralegal manager here, I think people see a paralegal manager, actually, I don’t know how they see a paralegal manager but a lot of it is just — it is managing people but it’s on a different scale. It’s more dealing with problem solving skills.
Jill Francisco: And I think probably as a paralegal, you brought those to the table and that’s probably one of the reasons why you got into that and that’s really what I wanted to kind of — one of the reasons why I wanted to have you on and have this discussion because I thought it would be very meaningful and useful to paralegals.
I think we’re in a time right now, we’re getting ready to go into 2022, which I can’t even believe it. I don’t know if we’d ever make it out of what, 2020, but we’re getting ready to go into 2022 and I just want to talk a little bit about, because I know it’s different, I know I get calls asking if I know any paralegals because it seems like so many firms are desperate to hire paralegals and I mean, I got one every now and then, but, I mean, it’s literally, I’d say once a week or least once every two weeks minimum where it’s plaintiff, and it’s defense, and it’s government, and it’s all across the board.
And so, I assume you’ve been experiencing that same thing not only in your realm and your exact employer, but I assume you see it because you’re in connection with others that are in your same position. What are you seeing right now with the market and stuff going on like that?
Tony Sipp: It’s tough, I’m not going to lie. I mean, I think since April of this year, I was asked to help also not only get paralegals but to also get attorneys. From attorneys to secretaries to paralegals, it’s like the great resignation actually really happened. And I realized that because it was nearly impossible to find talented people to work at the firm, either they weren’t applying or even when I went to look for them, they’re gone. It’s really difficult to find good talent. I got lucky fortunately, this year and I was able to find a few people, but I’m optimistic that January will be better but we have a lot of work and no people.
Jill Francisco: We are the same way where we are super busy. And so, I assume you still have some positions that you could fill if you had competent or whatever applicants. I’m going to say, and this is just my two cents, I think it’s a good time for paralegals, whether they’re in a curved position or even I think if they’re new to get out there and really hit the job market, because maybe like you were saying, in the past, you might have had to have no way, not deviating, I need X amount of years experience. No questions asked.
But now, it’s like, hey, somebody comes in and interviews. They’re showing good enthusiasm, they’re showing good excitement, they have the education, they have maybe some other experience, maybe not exactly what you were looking for, but you’re like, “Hey, this person I think shows potential.” And I think, so to me, and like I said, it’s just my two cents, I’m sure, see if you agree is I think it’s a great time to either switch or also if you’re new and I think new is always harder in the paralegal profession is breaking that first job. Can’t get a job because you don’t have experience, can’t get experience because you have a job.
Tony Sipp: I completely agree. If you have little experience, but you come into that interview with enthusiasm, you’ll probably get the job right now, but there’s a lot of people out there that don’t have experience that is needed for a particular position and that rule of three to five years, for example, of experience, you don’t even look at it, just apply anyway because it’s that challenging out there right now and you can almost name your price on what you want to do, if you want to work remote, they’re bargaining with people now, so it’s a big difference.
Jill Francisco: Yeah, and I was going to say that’s one thing that I’ve talked about in a couple past shows is that I like the opportunities that the changes in the legal field have brought to paralegals like remote working. I think that remote working is looked upon now as a benefit, just like insurance and 401k and it’s like because people have done that, and it’s like they like it and they can function and they’re probably even maybe happier, they bill more.
I mean, I feel like our firm particularly offered us two days, we could work two days remotely and it’s awesome because I do Tuesday, Thursday. I have a mix of both, so I still have that connection, but then I still get a break, and it’s like I still can be at home and just have my schedule and not have people coming in. I’m still in connection as you know from working remote all the time, but you just have a little bit more privacy and a little bit more input on how you can do your day sometimes. But, of course, we’re always getting interrupted.
Anyway, I love your advice to new paralegals and like you said, not to be discouraged when you see those qualifications in a job ad right now is to just go ahead and do that. Here’s one thing that I was asking about too. What do you think, are you seeing — I know you’re interviewing and like I said, I know we talked about if it’s new but have you seen any specific skills or experience or gear things that you’re kind of looking for that maybe you wouldn’t have focused on because of the changes that we have kind of come into.
Tony Sipp: That is a very good question. I’ve had to change my way of doing things because, I mean, you get stuck. You know what the firm wants and what the firm needs and that’s what you try to get, but when things start, I mean the pandemic hit and then 2021 is challenging, you can actually — start looking — your attitude really makes a big difference. I’m telling you, just be positive, have that can-do attitude. And if you’re looking at the job description and you fit some of them, just some of that apply, it’s worth it. It’s absolutely worth it because I am looking at resumes from law school graduates that, I mean, they can’t get jobs. I don’t know why but it’s challenging but I’m going to hire them because I mean they got law school degrees and they can help.
Jill Francisco: They’re qualified.
Tony Sipp: They’re more than qualified. But at the same time, I said the law school graduate, a new person with a lot of enthusiasm is going to get my attention and I’m going to pay attention to them and see if there’s an opportunity for them to grow, because with the right attitude, the right kind of skills, I can teach you a lot to be a good paralegal, but if you’re organized, if you have the basic skill sets of just what a paralegal otherwise possesses, apply.
Jill Francisco: Come see you.
Tony Sipp: Come see me, I’m looking for you. I want it.
Jill Francisco: And I’ll tell you what, I’m glad you mentioned the positive attitude because that’s a big thing with me. I think it goes a long way and your professional, your personal, I mean all the time, but then not only that, I think it also, when you have that attitude, then you know that your you’re willing to learn. And like you said, you’re teachable, you’re trainable because even, I mean, let’s be honest, if I switched firms right now that I’ve been basically here for 25 years, it would be different and I’m a seasoned paralegal, educated paralegal, I would have to learn some stuff.
Everybody does different thing, I mean, even attorneys within the same firm do different stuff. Like you said, don’t let that be a discouragement because it’s like if you have that potential and you’re open and you’re positive and you’re willing to just give it and you have a — I mean, you’re going to have the basics, and if you have the education, you’re going to have the basics.
While I do you want to get into some specific little things that I want to talk about, but we need to take one other little break before we get into the meat of our conversation too. Everybody, just stay tuned and we’ll be right back.
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Jill Francisco: Welcome back to the paralegal voice. I’m Jill Francisco. And today, my guest is Tony Sipp and we were just getting ready to talk about some very specific skills because we kind of honed in right before our break. And Tony, I didn’t say it last time, but you really were touching on those soft skills, like a lot of times we discuss soft skills that kind of like discount them, but it’s like, bedside manner, which is funny and I hate to say it, I think they’re teachable, but to some extent, I think it’s awesome when, like you said, some people just possess them and then you can polish them, you can bring them to the forefront, you can do stuff. I think maybe like now, what you’re saying is when you interview people and you’re going to be able to already see. If they have some of those basic skills and then that’s going to probably lead you into maybe giving them a chance to see if like you said, you can teach them other skills specifically, but then also, what’s important is this. I want to talk about technology and the e-filing and e-discovery and now we’re using Zoom and I had to ask JD, my six-year-old son, how to use Microsoft Teams because I had no clue when our court was using them.
What are you feeling there? Are you asking or looking for just technology no matter where the experience is, just technology and honestly, that’s going to be a younger crowd? I mean, let’s be honest. Maybe that’s another point for newer paralegals.
Tony Sipp: Great observations, and a lot of the paralegals that go to school aren’t always the young ones. Some people are going at it as a second career. Those people, I always tell, come as you are because a lot of them feel, “Oh, I haven’t been a paralegal as long as Jill or Tony.” You don’t have to be, but you have a skill set in a different area. I had friends that had a very unique skill set and economics and they wanted to be paralegals and they couldn’t find a job, until an economics company came along and said, “You’re the perfect fit.”
Jill Francisco: Perfect.
Tony Sipp: That’s exactly what we need. You got to find the opportunities that work for you. Speaking of finding opportunities, let’s say you are interviewing, knowing technology, knowing how to use Zoom is going to make a difference in your life. Invest in a good camera, invest in lighting. Get a ring light or whatever, some kind of light that you need for that source, because that’s how we’re interviewing everyone this year. Nobody’s few people are doing in-person interviews. That first impression you make is a lasting impression that you make.
If your shirt is wrinkly, I’m going to notice that and I’m paying attention to that, but if you have a good attitude too.
Jill Francisco: You can wait that out.
Tony Sipp: We will wait out, but I mean, everything you do from the moment you get on there, turn your camera on, and if you start struggling with some of the basic technology that everybody’s been using since 2020, then brush up on your skills. There’s a lot of YouTubes or LinkedIn that can show you how to do the things that you need to do, the lighting, the angle, how to set, where to set, keeping the mic six to eight inches away from your face. Those things are important and they make a big difference.
Those are some of the soft skills that we were talking about and I say that because I know you can learn, like Jill was saying, you can teach people some of the hard skills. We got a degree or certificate, you can learn, you can learn how the how the firm does things. But beyond that, it doesn’t have to be a firm. It could be any kind of legal department, but it’s important to know that technology and if you’re not — even me, I know where I’m at right now and I know that I need to get my e-discovery skills up. I’m taking the CEDS. I’m studying for the CEDS, so I can pass the CEDS exam, the CP exam. You want to start studying for those times now, so that you’re ready when that time comes and it becomes really important and they’re choosing between somebody who has a CP or who doesn’t, well —
Jill Francisco: Just like you said, it’s just another little notch. And I like your point about thinking about, as I was thinking about technology as to maybe after you get hired, but I love how you brought up, get your technology organized and personally, before, because even sharing your screen. Now, it’s like, that’s how we do the exhibits and the depositions. No one’s emailing them or faxing them. The attorney is literally sharing the screen or the paralegals on there to know the order and know the cues, when the attorney says, hey, I’m going to introduce Exhibit number three or whatever, then the paralegal is ready to do it.
And another time I’ve used that and just to talk about not only like I said with depos is mediation and arbitration. I mean, that’s another big thing and I just find it hard to believe, and again, this is just my two cents, but I find it hard to believe that where our clients are going to be able to go back and spend the thousands of dollars for traveling and for all that kind of stuff to do the mediations, to do the depos, have five attorneys sitting there, when now, you could do it — I mean, it’s less than half. I mean, who knows if it’s hardly any cost. I mean, honestly, you probably have the witness cost, possibly your court reporter, but I mean, the cost is not even anyway, so I love that you’re saying that do it for yourself even when you’re trying to get the job.
I mean, don’t turn yourself into a cat when you’re trying, I’m out, that’s been around the world a couple times by now. Don’t be a cat when you’re trying to interview for a paralegal position. But I mean, it sounds funny, but like you said, it’s so simple to do those kind of things.
Tony Sipp: No, it’s very true. You got to be assertive. Paralegals, the law’s always evolving. And if you’re not evolving with the law, you’re doing yourself and your firm a disservice. That’s why we have business and professional coach out here in California. We have to abide by basically, the same standards that attorneys do but the State Bar just doesn’t monitor ours. Continuing your education is important.
Nala has a conference every year, everybody can get their CLEs right there. To me, it’s a lifetime of learning is what we’re doing. Position yourself at a firm before you even get to the firm and having the skill sets that I’m looking for. I mean, the truth is a lot of our projects are moving to e-discovery. And if you know e-discovery, that’s one of the first things on your resume I’m going to be looking for, whether it’s relativity through coordinates, whoever. Do you have it on your resume?
Jill Francisco: Viewpoint?
Tony Sipp: Yeah, exactly.
Jill Francisco: I’m saying that because unfortunately, or I guess now it’s fortunately, I’m the only paralegal in our litigation that are familiar with Viewpoint. I guess, if they want to fire me or get ready for other reasons, now, I’m staying because of that. Because everybody’s like, Jill Francisco knows how to do that. I learned it when — it was relativity when you’re talking about it. and I learned it and then I just had to do it a couple times and then you didn’t really see anything. And now like you said, blowing up.
Tony Sipp: Yes.
Jill Francisco: I mean, just blowing up and get ready to do a big production. Today, I was having the documents pulled and getting the privilege log created and I mean, it’s amazing. And I think I like how you said too, I think that we’re in a time that we’re not a nine to five, maybe paralegals now have that luxury. They’re not exactly nine to five, but they’re getting their work done.
In a lot of instances, I was saying getting more work done and I like how you said, I think it’s the perfect time to take the time because you can maneuver your time now to brush up on some skills or get some additional. Like you said, you’re doing the e-discovery because it’s something that you think you’re lacking and you want to brush up on it and you want to do it. And it’s a good time because you’re not hitting the exact nine to five and maybe it’s offered at a certain time. And now, you have the flexibility to do it, and still get everything done that’s on your plate. I love that advice to season paralegals to keep themselves fresh, to keep themselves, like you said, constantly educated. You know me on my soapbox with education.
Tony Sipp: You’re always.
Jill Francisco: I’m always about education. Don’t ever turn it down because as soon as you turn it down, you’re going to be asked to do that tomorrow. I guarantee it. And so, I love that advice that you said, now’s the time. If you’re new, it’s the time to break in, I think, definitely don’t be discouraged. But then if you’re also out there and been in the game, it’s the time to even excel and elevate yourself and elevate your career, and elevate your skills. And also, hey, if you thought you were in a position, like for instance, I’ve been here 25 years. We did change firm names as you know, but basically the same.
Now, you thought people are never leaving after those years, experience and same. But now, oh, I think that’s totally different. Now, it’s like, oh, like you said, naming your price, naming your benefits, naming everything. That’s a luxury. And I hate to say this, but I don’t think paralegals were experiencing. Not that we were in demand but I don’t think we were that.
Tony Sipp: No, you’re absolutely right. I mean, I saw the shift happen. 2020 I didn’t see it. This year I saw it.
Jill Francisco: For sure.
Tony Sipp: It was dramatic. It was very dramatic. I mean, normally, I could post an ad and within days, I’ll have somebody but that wasn’t happening. When I realized it, the people’s quality of life, I mean I even got a chocolate lab. I wouldn’t have done that before but I just got one. I like to spend time with him and go to the park and go for a walk. I’m happy, very happy camper, and I get to take my CEDS classes and continue to work but it’s not — the new normal is that. The new normal is that.
Jill Francisco: You hit it right on the head, happier. Like at the beginning of the pandemic, I had a guest on because a lot of us were thrown into remote and I had a guest on that had already done it. She was already doing it. She negotiated because of her commute and she’d been doing it for five years. And we talked for 45 minutes, whatever, half hour, all the points, gave people tips, how you know the remote working tips. We’ve heard them a bunch of times by now, but honestly, my biggest takeaway from that is she said, “I’m happier.”
And I’m like, “What?” And that’s different for everybody. What you’re saying is different from what I’m doing over here, but I think in the grand scheme of things, like you said, it’s wellness, it’s overall quality of life, it’s time, it’s awesome. I think it’s a great, great opportunity time for paralegals, get out there and try for four positions that maybe you would have said I’m not qualified for, give it a chance and then I think if you’re seasoned and you’re like, “Hey, I’m a good paralegal. I’m a good worker. I’m dedicated. I’m responsible. I have a good skill set. I deserve more.” Now is the chance to see what’s out there. I mean, like I said, not telling everybody to quit their job, and I love my job. I love my job. I know you love your job, but I just think I like to encourage paralegals to never discount themselves either.
Tony Sipp: No, not at all. I mean, I get recruited probably three times a week and it’s just like, it’s really, it’s go for it. Go for it. And don’t devalue yourself, know your worth. And if you don’t know your worth, put your resume out there, they’ll tell you what your worth is. It’s going to help because people get complacent. Don’t get complacent just because you’ve been out of place for 10, 20, 25 years. There are other opportunities out there and I’m saying this kind of bias-ly, because I know from my work for it, you can do hybrid, you can do in-office, or you can just stay home and work remotely, but it helps with, again, your quality of life. Just try to continue to market yourself and find out how great you really are, because sometimes you don’t realize, you really have a lot of skill sets that people want and desire.
Jill Francisco: And like I said, and not only like you said in the traditional sense, but I know even claims departments now is a big, I feel like as a new area for paralegals that we didn’t really feel like.
Even not only looking at the traditional law firms and the government jobs and things like that, but really comb through and figure out, okay, my skill set is X, Y, Z and so, these fit into this hole. I could apply for those jobs. All right, we need to take a quick commercial break. We’ll be right back.
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I think both of us are just trying to say and encouraged our listeners, definitely, get out there, don’t be discouraged and I just think you and I wanted to talk about how today, we wanted to let listeners know that we both feel like it’s a great time. Timing is great and like you said, you saw it change. We’re still on the wave. I feel like we’re on a wave.
Tony Sipp: We are on a wave. Strike where the iron’s hot.
Jill Francisco: It is definitely the employee’s market. I mean, when my 16-year-old son can make $13.00 an hour at American Eagle, I know, right? I mean, I just feel like —
Tony Sipp: Unheard of.
Jill Francisco: And he’s like, “I guess I’ll do it.” Because he just wanted to get a little gas money. I mean, it is the employees, I feel like the workers market right now.
Tony Sipp: It is.
Jill Francisco: Anyway, like I said, Tony, we got to wrap it up here and I really love having you on today and I know that our listeners got some good advice and encouragement and I know they got some motivation from you and they may have some questions or they may want to get some further information, so what is the best way that one of our listeners could run out and contact you if they wanted to get in touch with you?
Tony Sipp: Sure. I’m on LinkedIn under Tony Sipp.
Jill Francisco: Perfect.
Tony Sipp: Like this little profile picture of me or a play on my name, [email protected].
Jill Francisco: I wanted you to say that because I love that and I think not only is it a play but it’s so easy to remember that.
Tony Sipp: It really is.
Jill Francisco: I feel like when I’m emailing you, I’m cheers-ing you.
Tony Sipp: There you go!
Jill Francisco: Anyway, like I said, I hope if our listeners, like I said, I know that you’re very receptive to questions and helping your paralegal, your co-workers, other paralegals out there and so, obviously, feel free to contact you. I know that you’d be very helpful.
One thing before we’ll sign off, I should have probably said that before I got your email, but is there anything that you really think that ’22 is going to bring? Do you think it’s going to get job market or what are you thinking in ’22? Is there anything like we have like a crystal ball kind of so to speak? What are we thinking for ’22? Is it going to be kind of like we’re riding the wave into and I think we’re still going to have those opportunities there? I mean, that’s kind of what I’m feeling like.
Tony Sipp: That’s exactly what I think too.
Jill Francisco: It’s not ending.
Tony Sipp: No, I mean, we’re definitely on the wave right now. Like I said, I’m optimistic about January, but I think we’re still on that wave. And I think if new or experienced, this is your time. This is your time to go for it. Just see what’s out there. I mean, if you want to stay, stay. If you want to go, go.
Jill Francisco: Try it.
Tony Sipp: If you want to work remotely and your firm doesn’t offer that, those opportunities are out there now, so you need to take advantage of that, get settled and get ready for 2022 and moving forward.
Jill Francisco: And I think I was reading, it was probably a couple months ago, but the Bureau for Labor Statistics, I think, projected the paralegal profession like 10%, is it? I mean, it’s crazy.
Tony Sipp: No, it went up. Look, paralegal managers nationwide are — annual bonus was $16,000. This is from the ALM in IPMA, they did a survey for the salaries and they’re good. They’re good. If anybody hasn’t seen the report, it’s out there. You can go see it. I think I posted it on my page as well. Go see what you have an opportunity to attract financially and stability. Law is one of those pillars of our society that is going to be around. Welcome to the profession, you chose a good one.
Jill Francisco: I agree with you and I’ve always said, what do we have? We have medical, we have education, and we have law. I mean, I feel like whatever happens, you can’t get rid of us.
Tony Sipp: Exactly. You’re going to be around. There’s going to be a need. There it is.
Jill Francisco: Thank you again, Tony. I appreciate you so much for giving some time today and I hope our listeners will take advantage and contact you if they have any questions or some advice or whatever. If they’re thinking about applying, I’m sure that you would give them some motivation and get them out there to take that plunge and give it a try. Anyway, thank you so much, Tony. I really appreciate it.
Tony Sipp: Of course, happy to help.
Jill Francisco: Thank you. And so, thank you too to our listeners who tuned in today. If you have any questions or comments for me, please contact me at [email protected]. I hope you will join me for our next month’s episode. I’m Jill Francisco for The Paralegal Voice signing off.
Outro: The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, or subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
Podcast transcription by Tech-Synergy.com