In today’s dynamic environment, paralegals and legal assistants have an exciting opportunity to take their careers to the next level. From utilizing AI and machine learning to streamline complex matters to taking on hybrid, leadership or alternative roles, there are many avenues for growth. Learn about opportunities in the current job market as well as the characteristics employers seek most when hiring paralegals and legal assistants. Get tips to broaden your skill set, improve your marketability, and stay ahead of the curve to advance your career.
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Intro: Welcome to the Legal Report from Robert Half where industry leading experts discuss current hiring and practice management issues impacting the legal profession. Robert Half is a premier provider of Talent Solutions for the legal field. The Legal Report from Robert Half is here on the Legal Talk Network.
Jamy Sullivan: Hello everyone and welcome. I’m Jamy Sullivan, executive director of the Legal Practice Group for Robert Half and the host of our program. Joining me today is Debra L. Overstreet ACP and current president of NALA the Paralegal Association. An experienced paralegal professional, Debbie has more than 40 years’ experience in the paralegal field. She has worked in both private and public service practice including the US Attorney’s Office in the Northern and Eastern Districts of Oklahoma with extensive trial work involving firearms investigations and bank robberies. She’s currently employed with the US Army Corps of Engineers as Chief Management and Disposal Branch Real Estate Division in Tulsa, Oklahoma managing areas of federal real estate under the jurisdiction of Tulsa District including utilities, marinas, port facilities and disposal of government property. Welcome Debbie.
Debbie Overstreet: Thank you for inviting me. It’s good to be here.
Jamy Sullivan: Well I am excited to have you and really to dive in with you Debbie and discuss opportunities in the current job market for paralegals and legal assistants including new avenues for career growth and what job seekers need to know to improve their skills and marketability. To start our conversation, it’s certainly a great time to be a paralegal and there are plenty of opportunities. The unemployment rate continues to be low and the rate for paralegals and legal assistance is well below that of the national average. And since the pandemic, we’ve seen a lot of change and growth in the paralegal and legal assistant roles. I’d like to discuss where legal support roles have expanded and how these changes have impacted legal practices overall. Debbie, could you share some examples of what you are currently seeing and observing in your role as the NALA president as well as a practicing paralegal?
Debbie Overstreet: I would be glad to. The impact as you said of the pandemic on the paralegal and legal assistants jobs has been actually a bun. We are still in high demand and our job market continues to grow. Technology tools continue to improve and allowing us to expand from just working in an office to working from home. I love the ability to use Zoom, WebEx and many other platforms. I also see that with the practicing groups that they can do virtual depositions, they’re conducted remotely, court proceedings don’t seem to be going back in person and they avoided as much as possible and that to me allows the work to flow more freely, you don’t get as many things backed up and I know they still had some backlogs but it seems to be all kind of evening out now since we’re in year three and that we’ve kind of gone past the pandemic. The backlog of cases from the pandemic combined with the reduction and support staff at firms also means is there are higher volume of work for paralegals. So it’s one of those job security deals that so many, we’re worried about during the pandemic, are they going to lose their jobs, are we going to see a downturn in the whole legal ecosystem? But instead we’ve seen where it’s been more efficient, the attorneys have realized, the paralegals can be such a huge part of their practice, whatever area they’re focusing in and not only in a law office system but also in any corporation where the paralegal skills are vital, you can work anywhere, you can be on the beach, you can be like I have been in a car and you’re working wherever you’re at. It’s helped deliver these legal services and relieves the overloaded lawyers and helping to boost their productivity while it keeps the client cost down.
Jamy Sullivan: For sure. And who would have thought, right? When you started in the profession and I started in the profession that we would actually be able to do our jobs remotely in the legal field. So it’s been quite the transition and an exciting one for sure. I continue to also observe there’s more hybrid duties, so you think about the traditional roles right combined with paralegal responsibilities but paralegals are really moving into these behind-the-scenes roles that are interacting with clients even more, they’re really helping to drive investigations, writing briefs of course, and then the staffing ratios have changed which all relates to much of the commentary that you just mentioned.
So really going from maybe one paralegal supporting two to three attorneys, but now upwards of four to six attorneys at once so continuing with that efficiency theme and being able to do much more and to your point that fear, that something was going to change drastically with their jobs, if anything, they’re even more today and demand than ever before. So with paralegals and legal assistant roles becoming more complex will say, and multifaceted especially because of technology affecting the practice of law. How have digital innovations and automations which includes AI and that machine learning, how is that really affected the paralegal and the legal assistant role and what do legal professionals need to do to increase efficiency and streamline their work. Can you kind of elaborate if you will Debbie on some opportunities and challenges there?
Debbie Overstreet: Absolutely. The technology has improved workflow and efficiencies exponentially. It has been as you said from years ago where we worked and when I started on typewriters to working virtually and working with just audio recordings, video conferencing, with Microsoft 365, plus all other legal industry software that are out there competing for the most recent technology. These research platforms that we have, case management, e-discovery and those programs such as relativity, they are fantastic to help with the efficiency in an office. We now can dock a time more efficiently with software programs, we can again have video conferencing where you can have the court reporter remotely videoing that conference, that deposition. They can also use the audio to enhance and help with the record that they have for any type of depositions or court proceedings. It is used in the court as well. And when we get to the AI and machine learning, I can remember when we had Dragon Naturally Speaking, and that was my first encounter many years ago, with the AI learning. You have to talk into it, it had to learn your voice, and then you could do your recordings which you now can do over your phone. You can do it anywhere. Walking, sitting in a bus, anything you can do now with the audio recordings that were a little more cumbersome in many years ago. This helps with the efficiency and once that recording is there, if it needs to be modified and put into text format, on Word, it’s easily done and can be edited to assure you have everything correct.
Now with ChatGPT, we do have to be careful with that to assure that we are providing actual case law. And with that recent court proceeding that we have all read about, that is very important to assure that you are still using your research platforms with LexisNexis, Westlaw and some of the other legal research platforms to assure that you’re using real case law, not something that’s been made up through the ChatGPT. It’s just like using Wikipedia some people would think that’s the end-all-be-all but we know that you really need to research in the sure that those facts are correct.
Jamy Sullivan: That’s a great point. I kind of forgot about Wikipedia out there because ChatGPT has been such the rage, but you’re spot-on, I mean, it’s interesting like, you know, with that recent story that had been out there were literally using ChatGPT to write an entire legal brief and then obviously, the technology, terminology is hallucinated or created cases that actually were fictitious, you know, judicial opinions but it’s like there is a place, I definitely think there’s a place to utilize it, working within your firm, what are those approvals, what is management see, how you could use it and brainstorm but definitely not for the end-all-be-all of your defense of your case.
Debbie Overstreet: Agree. And the American Bar Association reported the surge in the use of cloud based software in the legal field and according to his 2022 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report from 2021 to 2022, cloud usage increased significantly from 60% to 70% but then for the solos, they really led the way by increasing from 52% in 2021 to 84% in 2022. That’s amazing in just one year. So they’re realizing the benefits of using technology.
And that was followed by small and medium-sized firms who went up from 65% to 75%. And as paralegals, we are increasingly tasked with managing the documents in the cloud, which requires a high level of organizational skills, maintaining information security and confidentiality in the cloud and ensuring adequate safeguards are in place to protect our client and company data. We also have to stay relevant. You have to sharpen your technology skills to improve your success in the role as a paralegal. There are so many platforms out there and the nice thing about having a paralegal organization such as NALA, we have a private, basically a chat room called Commons. We also have our Facebook site and Linkedin where paralegals can talk back and forth about and ask questions, what is someone using, are they using Microsoft Office, Google workspace, what type of case management programs are they using, what are they using for research and litigation support software? It is wonderful to have people from all across the globe that you can converse with through the new technology that we have then it just keeps improving.
And so, if you’re going to do that, you definitely want to try to get a good idea of what’s working out there in the legal field and take some courses in it. There’s many of online courses on any of the software platforms or any of the case management programs, they’re happy to train you on their programs and ensure that you’re getting the maximum use out of that program. So that’s part of your educating yourself. Besides self-educating, we have paralegal conferences. NALA has affiliated associations as well that also offer continuing education and training for paralegals and you can again get so much of that either on demand or virtually through a live webinar or a person like NALA has annually the one in person besides our live webinars that we have throughout the year. These technology vendors are happy to come in to present to your paralegals, whether you’re in an office and you have a group of paralegals, they will come and set up and give you all the information you need, your community colleges offer a very economical courses. I can remember when you can still go and do Excel and Microsoft type of training and even the technical schools have that as well. So you need to leverage that automation and machine learning. Some examples are for your client intake, pipeline dashboards, again the document automation where you can have forms and you just click through and add the information you want, client communication tools. So many of them have gone farther than using just your cellphone to talk with them, we can talk through teams, we can talk through Zoom, WebEx. All of those are available for the paralegals to use and you can actually within your office use teams or one of the other programs to even house your documents, we love seeing that.
Jamy Sullivan: For sure. Yeah, I agree like the whole educate yourself, right? And don’t be afraid to ask because that is something that I have found, you know, over the last 20 years is a lot of times paralegals might be a little intimidated to ask the question or I need help or need further training and now is the time to use your network, use those resources that you mentioned to really make sure that you’re embracing technology, embracing automation and really seeing the value it can bring to the table. So I appreciate you sharing all those examples as well as the astounding information on how the cloud usage has increased over the last couple of years, so fantastic information there.
So let’s shift gears a bit. In the last five years, the hybrid roles have risen in popularity as we’ve talked about. Both with law firms and companies, they’ve increased the number of hybrid positions that they have. So what are some examples of these hybrid job duties and how do they benefit employers and what are those long-term career opportunities for those interested in these hybrid positions, Debbie?
Debbie Overstreet: It’s a good question. The hybrid roles are more popular as law firms as you said look for ways to cut costs and clients seek legal services at lower cost. They are watching the bottom line as well when you send them that bill, they want to know, is that really — how can we reduce this, so that it is a more of a benefit for them to continue to use that law firm or the service where if it’s a contract paralegal, how can we reduce those costs. Some of the examples of hybrid job duties are compiling case relevant materials, managing schedules, conducting research, drafting and organizing documents, legal database management, case management, litigation support and things like that.
So with those hybrid roles, there were times when you may not have a secretary, a legal secretary there to help with that position or a legal assistant if your state uses the paralegal role separate from the legal assistant. Now of course, they’re interchangeable for us sharing that they’re doing confident legal work as a paralegal and they are under supervision. You can have formal training available through the paralegal associations and colleges to help if you are not the one that has been doing these compilations of case relevant materials nor if that’s something that a paralegal would do is go in and research and ensure that you have all the documents that are perfect and sent to court and managing schedules many times that’s still the paralegal that’s going to be the one that’s going to share the attorneys on schedule has everything docketed on the right date and time. Conducting research, so many years, it’s been either an attorney or a law clerk, but we see more and more and we are trained to conduct research as paralegals and draft and organize documents and for the review by the attorney. As the firms grow, many of them combine, they realized the importance of having a paralegal that is multifaceted that can handle all of these duties. Again, it can cause some stress sometimes for the paralegal to feel like they’re running around, trying to do 15 things at one time but that’s the nice thing about the new software platforms, the case management programs that help you to be more efficient.
Jamy Sullivan: Well I would say that we’ve also seen particularly with hybrid in a particular practice area, we’ve seen it with litigation, commercial insurance defense and personal injury. We’ve also seen how legal departments are embracing the hybrid and being really versatile if you will with the paralegal role and much of what you just said, it may include some administrative duties but really more of that substitutive work that they’re able to do. And so I think that’s been an exciting time for the paralegal profession to continue to elevate the job responsibilities of what they’re doing. We know that our employers out there that are interviewing they are really looking for very specific requirements and skill sets and experience levels all of which when they’re evaluating these applicants that they are capable to work in a hybrid work environment.
So now Debbie, let’s try to discuss a trend that has gained some momentum in recent years and that’s On-The-Rise and I’m really interested in this. It’s the license legal paraprofessional programs. So they’ve been created to actually be a whole new tier if you will of legal services at a lower price point and while I know we cannot predict the future as much as we’d love to. Can you provide more insights and share with our listeners, what’s required for these specific jobs as it relates to a license legal paraprofessional?
Debbie Overstreet: Yes, this is one of the areas that I’m very familiar with the need, I live in a rural area and it’s kind of a close to my heart as to the people that have no access or very little access to justice whether it be for a civil case or a criminal case, but these programs offer way for course to fill gap for people with low and moderate level or middle-class incomes. Teachers, retail, food service, general labor, those are the people who are in need of legal services and can fall between the cracks. With the license legal professionals, non-lawyer licensed paraprofessionals are able to take on legal work for clients that pertain to family law, debt collection, landlord-tenant disputes as well. And in some states, they’re allowed to handle limited jurisdiction civil matters in criminal matters, juvenile court and state administrative law. We are aware that six states have approved or implemented programs, New Hampshire, Colorado, Oregon, plus Utah, Arizona and Minnesota and at least four others, South Carolina, North Carolina, New Mexico and Connecticut. Of the first six, the worst one that I kind of left out of there was California. California has been working on a program through the legislation for legal paraprofessional. But in 2022, the legislator voted to kill a proposed pilot program to allow paraprofessionals to provide representation to those unable to afford the retainer in hourly rates of an attorney.
Washington State on the other hand has also sunsetted its program. What we saw with that was that the base support aged, they needed some more momentum and it kind of fell by the wayside and those that are already licensed still continue to provide that access to justice. Other states have implemented or are considering similar programs to allow legal aid workers to provide legal services under the supervision of legal aid lawyers. Now, according to the ABA, California is the only state so far that currently regulates paralegals. It requires people using their titles of paralegal, legal assistant and a like to meet certain educational experiential qualifications. This includes three years of training under the supervision of an attorney or completion of an accredited certification program such as what NALA has or NALS or NEPA. Once practicing, the paralegals in California are required to meet continuing education requirements, four hours of mandatory continuing legal, education and legal ethics and four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in either general law or in an area of specialized law.
Now, must all the paralegals meet California’s requirements, no, but given the state’s reputation for breaking new ground, hiring managers might want to use them as a guideline. I have some examples of the Texas Board of Legal Specialization offers a voluntary specialty certification program in six areas of Texas law. The California Alliance of Paralegal Associations which makes up a large network of associations of paralegals in California, and KAPA(ph) is also an affiliate of NALA, they offer a voluntary paralegal certification program as well. Other states such as Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Ohio have state-specific voluntary certification programs. And we see more on the rise. We are seeing more movement. We have been collaborating with Isles Institute for the net advancement of the American legal system. They are tracking that information and we’ve been part of a conclave to see how paralegals can help bridge that gap.
Jamy Sullivan: Well, that is a wealth of information for our listeners who especially sit in any of those states that you mentioned. But also just to keep an eye on this fascinating evolution of the paralegal profession, I am really excited to see where that continues to go in future years so thank you for the detailed information there. So if there’s a need for a specialized expertise in the legal field, we know that drives hiring activity and we’re seeing that left and right today. That is unlikely to change especially in the areas of litigation, commercial law, healthcare and compliance. In addition to law firm experience, employers are seeking specific education, as you’ve mentioned certifications, there’s a wide variety out there plus very strong interpersonal skills and the current landscape that we’re in, advanced technology skills as we’ve mentioned. So those are all really important pieces to keep in mind to have an expertise. Would you agree with that Debbie, like I guess that’s really where I want to go, if you think that’s going to be some of the trends that we’re going to continue to see and when it comes to in demand ongoing paralegal expertise and skills?
Debbie Overstreet: Oh yes, I agree for the technical skills, you must be advanced and ready to jump right in with Microsoft Office, virtual cap collaboration under there with MS teams and with Zoom, with WebEx, some of the other legal software programs as well. Plus, advanced proficiency is key with the legal research platforms such as now we have Casemaker and Westlaw, and familiarity with legal and productivity applications for smartphones and tablets. It is amazing where you end up with so much of your information on a smartphone that can be used in court and it’s a huge part of cases now, where the evidence comes out from a smartphone. So you definitely need to know how to get that information and the technology you continue to use that within the court systems. Well, it’s an interpersonal and soft skills, whichever way you want to call them. It is in high demand. The employers, when they’re interviewing or placing a premium on, are you someone that can communicate with others? Do you have a personality that is just the research side or can you communicate with those clients, with the court systems, with the vendors? They need that skill, and then you also need the motivation.
Empathy is very important. Problem solving, leadership, teamwork, conflict resolution, all of those things. Those are very important. And I can tell you right now that NALA has developed a new leadership program. It’s called Lead, and we’re starting with our first session this year. We have revamped the program. We had a leadership program and then now revamped. And that program is going to encompass all of these interpersonal or soft skills and leadership skills all in one. One of those huge ones that’s important is that basic legal knowledge, research skills, contacting, interviewing witnesses, gathering evidence, organizing that case file. If it’s not organized, then that reflects on your attorney as well because he has to be able to present the documents in a perfect order for the court for trials. You have to be organized and you have to be able to find something in a flash.
We also have specific education and certification requirements being sought by some employers such as a bachelor’s degree. In addition to a certificate or completion from an ABA approved paralegal program, and certifications through National Paralegal Associations, such as NALA, NALS and NFPA. We all have the independent certifications that show that you have that knowledge, skills and ability to be a professional paralegal.
Jamy Sullivan: Well, I’m going education, certifications. All of those things I think are really important to stay on top of to improve your marketability as a legal professional. So, all great information. Are there any must have certifications or continuing legal education, professional development, that can boost paralegal careers and lead to a promotion opportunity?
Debbie Overstreet: I believe so. The legal industry is rapidly changing. We’ve seen that in the last three years how much we’ve changed. New laws, regulations, emerging technologies, like the ChatGTP, industry developments. All these post-pandemic environments that we are now in, that has made a big change. So the professional development is critical to the paralegal as they want to improve their skills, they want to Market their sales to move forward in their career and their promotional opportunities. Some of the professional development opportunities are, as we’ve mentioned, the continuing legal education that’s available virtually, in-person, through professional organizations like NALA workshops. The Affiliated Associations of NALA have workshops. We all have online classes and seminars and conferences to help you with your professional development. And we are really excited about Lead and many of our NALA webinars that we offer through NALA.
You had mentioned the paralegal certificate through the ABA approved program. We also have paralegal certificates from non-ABA approved programs that are out there, and sometimes there is an issue with people understanding that that certificate is totally different than a certification. The certificate says that you completed a course. You get a certificate for continuing legal education, the certificate for completing the paralegal program at a college. That’s a certificate. When you take a certification such as NALA’s certified paralegal exam, the advanced paralegal certification through NALA, and other paralegal programs, the PPT from NALS, the certified e-discovery specialist from CEDS and from ACEDS. They all have these different certifications and those show that you have the experience, that knowledge, those skills that are above and beyond just learning the basics from a paralegal program.
Those are independent NALA’s program for the certified paralegal is the only accredited national certification program out there that says that we have a psychometrician that assist and ensures that we stay separate and that certification is rigorous.
Jamy Sullivan: Well, Debbie, you have shared tremendous insights thus far, a wealth of information. But now it’s time for us to take a quick break.
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Jamy Sullivan: Welcome back to the Legal Report from Robert Half. Joining us today is NALA President Debbie Overstreet. We’ve had a great conversation thus far, and I’d like to shift gears a bit and talk about emerging areas and non-traditional or alternative careers for paralegals to consider. Legal operations in particular is a relatively new area that is increasing, really being embraced by legal departments, especially with large and mid-size departments. Debbie, what do paralegals and legal assistants need to know about legal operations and how they can get experience in order to transition into this area?
Debbie Overstreet: Well, before I dive a little bit, I just want to say that the main thing is put yourself out there and embrace change and ask to move forward. They’re not just going to come beating on your door. You have to be proactive, because these legal operation teams, including paralegal managers, supervisory paralegals and human resource professionals help to manage in-house legal departments. They focus on improving efficiencies, processes and performance that use the metrics and technology and all other initiatives so that the in-house attorneys can focus on the practice of law. And that’s the nice thing about a legal operations manager is with a paralegal including the paralegal manager, or a paralegal transitioning to the legal operations manager, is they have so many of the skills needed. They have those connections with vendors. They have the technology connections that are perfect. And the one thing that they’ll need to do is to increase their skills on the budgeting side on the human resource side.
Other skills are, as I said, the budget management training is another one. Records and system maintenance, the interpersonal skills, communication skills. As we said, those soft skills are so important. You must have that ability to communicate with your staff and with those that you are working with, whether it be your in-house counsel, the organization that you work for, or other organizations outside of that. You must be able to analyze the data that you are showing that’s in your records and systems. That analytic skill is highly important. You also need those leadership and management skills and the technical expertise to wrap that all into one big fantastic position. The legal management, operations management or specialist, having a paralegal attorney background as they show when they are looking for one is often preferred because they know that you have those connections. They are also looking for all those skills that I mentioned.
So, relatively new to the field so no established roadmap on how this is going to work. These skills are always transferable. We’ve talked about the client relationship, the vendor management. You have to have all those skills wrapped into one and be able to communicate to the CEO, to the managing attorney what is the best for your staff? What is the best and how you can be cost driven as well as productivity driven? And it all rolls into assuring that we are helping with that in-house clients or with whatever type of organization you’re with. It could be a health care program as well where you’re working. You have to demonstrate how you helped to make your law firm or that legal department more efficient. You have to be able to turn on a dime, be able to communicate openly, and you have that to be able to research these positions and identify the requirements for these in-demand skills and develop an action plan to enhance your skills and experience through continued education. That’s a key to always increasing your marketability is continuing education. Knowledge is power.
Jamy Sullivan: Agree. I love where you started too, Debbie. You said, “Embrace change. Put yourself out there.” And for these legal operation roles, you are spot on. It’s really not an established roadmap because it is so new. We see this day in and day out with clients asking us to help them define what is the scope of responsibilities. All of the skills that you mentioned and really coming in and being forward thinking and being able to package that has been really relevant in developing legal operations, job descriptions. It just proves to be another exciting expansion in the legal field to consider. So, appreciate you sharing that information.
So we also have planning a career move, right? We’ve seen a lot of that also these days, and that might be in part because someone’s career has stalled during the pandemic. They might have determined that they have little salary growth or they feel stuck because they aren’t able to move up the career ladder, or they just want to engage in more meaningful work. We’re seeing more paralegals that are interested in alternative roles or the non-traditional career paths, especially as it relates to compliance, contract management, working with litigation consulting firms or ALSPs, alternative legal service providers. Those are just a few examples as well as legal recruiting or marketing. So, Debbie, what are some of the trends that you have seen, as well as steps that are needed for a successful transition to some of these non-traditional roles?
Debbie Overstreet: Some of the steps I’ve seen as you mentioned are working for the legal service providers. We had several of our exhibitors at the NALA conference, and every year we do where they have transitioned from the paralegal role into marketing the paralegal provider services that are out there to help make the paralegals job more efficient. They understand the need. They communicate well with those paralegals that are standing in front of them, wanting to know how that software or their search program or their vendor services, whether they’re doing research through a document for real estate. How can that improve for them in their office and make them more efficient? So, when you see that making a career change, you ask yourself why do you want to make that move? Again, is it because you just feel like you’ve gone as far as you can in the role as a paralegal in an office? Always embrace that change as I said before.
You need to assess your transferable experience and skills. Look at the job ads that are out there. Look at LinkedIn. Look at some of the other platforms. What interests you most? Are you interested in being a marketing? Are you interested in doing more of the presentations of cases in court? Are you going into the AI part of the field? So many love that part. Some like the data analytics part. So, what has really piqued your interest while you’re working when you’re at can help transfer you into some more — if you need more fulfillment or even it might increase your salary too, especially when you get into technology parts of the job market. Need to ask your trusted contacts in your network. Again, you can use LinkedIn, you have so many professionals out there on LinkedIn, through NALA comments if you’re a NALA member. Those contacts or with associations. We have the International Practice Management Association. We have CEDS. We have all of these groups that are available to you and are willing to share their knowledge.
Don’t be afraid to ask because when you talk to your contacts in your network, they will tell you the strengths and weaknesses and how that could affect your ability to change your careers and see what really fits with your skills set. You need to conduct informational interviews with promising employers. As we’ve said, knowledge is power. Pursue learning. The skill development opportunities, take those anytime you can find a free course or even, there’s many out there that are covered by the computer software firms by any of the AI firms. There’s so many that will train you to use their program. Take those opportunities and see what area of law you want to focus on, or a different type of employment that is outside of that realm. I can tell you from my experience, I’ve gone from working in a law office to working with the criminal and civil court, cases through the US attorney’s office, to the real estate division at the Corps of Engineers and have moved up and now I’m in the management part. So, what piqued your interest? What fits with your personality? Always think what is best in your heart. Dive into that.
Jamy Sullivan: Well, you articulated that very nice.
You know, taking the holistic view. But you’re definitely your career. I think we have to save this for another episode to talk about some of those bank robberies that you saw or fault with those investigations back in the day for sure.
Debbie Overstreet: Yeah, I used to say that I work in guns, drugs and bank robberies. And they go, “Oh.”
Jamy Sullivan: Well, again, I want to save that for a future episode for sure. So, I think though it’s really important that you talked about longevity in your career and what you’ve done differently because that helps our listeners also think about their transition. Another resource out there is to even look at an employment agency and how can they provide you insights of what’s going on in the market and use that as a free resource to talk about positions, potential employers, and to add to all of that study that you’re doing, right, of where you want to move. Where is your heart taking you and your career, truly a recruiter can provide you some very productive general direction and help you as you look at your next job career opportunities.
All right, Debbie, so next, I’d like to talk about the future of what’s in store for paralegal and legal assistant careers. Are there specific areas or emerging trends to pay special attention to, based on your experience and observations? And any key takeaways from the recent NALA annual conference that you touched on these topics that you would like to share with our listeners.
Debbie Overstreet: Yes. It always excites me when I talk about the changes and the outlook for paralegals, because for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are long-term outlook for paralegals and the legal assistant plummet is projected to grow, and it continues to 14% from now to 2031, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. We really need to assure that we are mentoring the new paralegals along as this field continues to grow. Also, we might see more states that are exploring, implementing the license paralegal programs as the clients seeks that cost effective legal services for the less complex legal needs. We talked about that earlier and I think that is something that is needed in almost every — I’m sure just every state could use that type of assistance that access to justice for the public. Now just look for technology will continue to impact paralegal roles. It can enhance your job function with the AI and machine learning for example. Even more document productions will be paperless and kept in the cloud so many of us no longer even touch paper, it is all virtual. And so that is not only a boon for productivity, but it’s a boon for the planet, because you’re not killing trees anymore.
As we discussed, that is so important to assure that you have that continual learning. As we had the NALA annual conference, touched on so many of these topics. And we talked about ChatGTP at conference. It was a very interesting program by an attorney out of Tulsa, Pablique. He was wonderful and to see how scary it can be, really. And when you look at cases that come out and how will it affect trials, especially criminal trials, for anything that involves video. That can always be something that is in question now with AI. All of this is going to be raising many questions with the public. So we must be up-to-date on technology and be able to assure that we are providing accurate data to the courts in any type of case, or whether you’re working with any HR type of information that’s going to be in play in there as well. When you talk about continued learning, use your opportunities out there. We can make sure that you as through NALA, through NALS, NFPA, CEDS, so many of them provide that continuing education. Take that opportunity. You will be so sorry to fall behind. You must take that career leap.
Jamy Sullivan: Well, with the emerging trends out there, I couldn’t agree more. Continuing education, staying on top of technology trends. We know it’s going to continue to change how we provide legal service, how it’s assessed, how it’s delivered and their paralegal responsibilities. AI is more likely to enhance supplement, streamline, and create efficiencies for paralegals, not threaten these roles, is truly what I believe. And after everything we’ve talked about, it’s really an exciting time for the paralegal and the legal assistant profession.
So, Debbie, I have really enjoyed our discussion today, and I’m sorry to say we have reached the end of our program. A special thank you to Debbie Overstreet for joining me and sharing her insights. And before we close, Debbie, how can our audience contact you and where can they obtain more information?
Debbie Overstreet: You can email me at [email protected]. And you can also find more information about certification and services programs, continuing education, webinars available to paralegals, students and legal support professionals. Those are all available at www.nala.org. Or if you have any problems with that, call them at (918) 587-6828 is NALA’s main line, and we’ll be happy to help you.
Jamy Sullivan: Great. Well, I hope our listeners take advantage of that, Debbie. Thank you again. And to our listeners, you can reach me at [email protected]. Thanks to our audience for listening today. If you liked what you heard, please rate us in your favorite podcasting app and follow Robert Half and the Legal Talk Network on Twitter and Facebook. And please visit roberthalf.com for more information and resources, including our latest Salary Guide and Demand for Skilled Talent Research. Join us again for the next edition of the Legal Report and from Robert Half here on the Legal Talk Network as we discuss important trends impacting the legal field and legal careers. Until next time. Be well.
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