My first post-college job was a Paralegal Assistant at BigName Law Firm 1.0. Our role was to do all the little things that had to be done but couldn't honestly be billed back to the clients
One of the problems with this gig was you didn't learn anything unless someone showed you. The only way you got to do anything remotely KSA advancing was when the shit hit the fan AND then it was "okay we're gonna ask you do something you've never done before and it has to be done right but no pressure."
Yeah we could have had you do it last week but we didn't trust you, didn't want to teach you, didn't want bother.
To be fair, this wasn't, though should have been, baked into their job routines. In all fairness, the culture was different then. There was no mentoring, no shadowing and no desire to implement better work flow processes. Also, I was definitely not the best JRP because I felt like if I have this education I should be using it better than just putting labels on paper. Back then, work flow processes and job responsibility, along with employee maturity, were in its infancy.
We were supposed to be there to do all the little things that had to be done but couldn't honestly bill the clients for or roll into other billable activities. But if you don't take the time to show your PA how to do something than you cannot hand it off to them.
In practice this lead to two other common practices:
- The paralegals would complain that that they had too much to do but when you offered to help, they said they couldn't give it to you because you don't know how to do it (and couldn't take the time to teach you or couldn't let your name appear on the billing form or dinosaurs.)
- They would show you how to do something so bizarre and one-off that it not only took longer to show you than do it themselves but it would be over a year before you would even have the opportunity to do it again such that you obviously retained no memory of how it was done.
Most of the tasks we were given were mind-numbing mundane things that were obviously given to as busy work to get us to go away whenever we asked if they had anything for us to do. Because the paralegals had asked for assistants to help with the work they couldn't ethically bill a client for but had to perform (what would be called Administrative Overhead today), the paralegals were responsible for our workload. I don't think they understood the concept of headcount justification. They wanted these things called PAs to be available when they needed us but then wanted us to go away when the work was done. There was no team building or skill training or even friendly bonding.
Now your pool of candidates for JRP were recent college grads because this was an entry-level (barely) position that paid $17K a year. Secretaries with a high school education were starting at $23,000. This is a very good recipe for resentment. Anywho, when you are getting paid the same whether you are doing something easy (control labeling) versus something hard (running to court for a last minute filing) the smart JRP will find ways to avoid court and milk the labeling.
Alas, I was definitely not the best paralegal assistant because I felt I should be using my education for better purposes than just counting sheets of copy paper. It's one thing to have to pay your dues. But these paralegals were content with us paying our dues until the Second Coming. The only way you got to do anything substantive was when the shit hit the fan AND then it was "okay we're gonna ask you do something you've never done before and it has to be done right but no pressure." Yeah we could have had you do it last week but we didn't trust you, didn't want to teach you, didn't want bother.