Monday, February 2, 2015

Career Planning for the New Year

The New Year signifies a time to turn a new leaf, to make changes for the better in the months ahead. It’s a time to make those New Year’s resolutions.

Most resolutions focus on personal improvement: eat less, lose weight, start an exercise program, sleep more, etc.

While personal improvement is a great goal, the New Year is a perfect time to look at your career and set some career goals for the next 12 months. This time of self-reflection and evaluation should result in stepped up efforts to move your career forward.

When you set your career goals for this year, first pay attention to hiring trends. For this article, I am including information from the 2015 Salary Guide for the Legal Field published by Robert Half Legal (

According to this survey, hiring in the legal field continues to accelerate, with law offices competing for specialized training in lucrative practice areas, including corporate and general business, compliance, litigation, intellectual property, and real estate law.

It’s not just law firms that will be hiring. This survey projected that corporate legal departments will be expanding internal teams to handle more legal matters in-house and also to control spending on outside counsel.

What skills and expertise are in demand for paralegals/legal assistants? The survey says:
Law firms want paralegals who can perform multiple job functions and deliver quality results at cost-effective billing rates for clients. 
Companies would like paralegals with experience in compliance, contract and lease administration, and eDiscovery to support corporate transactions and litigation matters. 
Insurance and financial services companies, real estate firms, and healthcare organizations are among the many businesses looking to capitalize on the varied skills of legal assistants.
The survey also reports that employers’ requirements are seeking applicants who possess:
A four-year degree and a certificate of completion from an American Bar Association-approved paralegal education program.
Advanced technical skills with experience with Microsoft Office, and also litigation support, billing and case management software — such as Summation, Relativity, TrialDirector and Time Matters – plus the ability to learn other legal software platforms.
The terms “hybrid” or “blended” paralegal/legal secretary roles are growing in popularity as entities continue to overhaul legal support structures and consolidate positions.
The survey states that in-demand practice areas and positions include:
Litigation. An increase in litigation is fueling demand for skilled litigation experts from document reviewers to nurse paralegals and trial lawyers — at many law firms. Legal specialists with backgrounds in insurance defense, medical malpractice, commercial litigation and employment law are in greatest demand. 
 General Business and Corporate Law. Legal professionals are needed to support commercial transactions related to renewed business activity. 
 Compliance. This area is also is a high-demand specialty due to federal mandates, such as the Dodd-Frank Act, and various state regulations.  
Healthcare. A tremendous amount of legal work is stemming from compliance activities connected to the Affordable Care Act. Medical providers, insurance companies and government agencies are among the many organizations seeking paralegals with knowledge of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.\ 
Intellectual Property. Protecting intellectual property is a priority for all companies, and the need is especially pronounced in the biotechnology and high-tech sectors.  
Real Estate. As the economy continues to improve, the commercial and residential real estate markets are rebounding in many areas of the country. Companies and law firms are seeking legal support professionals who can provide legal services related to commercial development, residential sales, property management and leasing.
As you consider your career goals for 2015, the information in this survey will be helpful. There are exciting times ahead for paralegals but you may need to sharpen your skills with additional education and training to move ahead. This isn’t unusual for any profession.

Your career goals will require planning. Setting your big goal (i.e. “I want to work in contract administration.”) is just the beginning.

That big goal should then be reduced to the steps you need to take to make it happen and plan when you will complete the steps.  Any goal is doable – you just have to plan what you have to do to reach the goal and then actually do the hard work it takes to build any career.

To help you reach your goals, I have prepared a new resource for you: 2015 Strategic Career Planning: The Paralegal Mentor’s Guide to Setting Goals for Career Success. This guide is available at no cost. Just follow this link to download your copy:

Best wishes for much success in the year ahead!

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