I want to get a job as a legal documentation specialist (word processor). I have no prior work experience in law firms. What's the work like, and how do I get hired?
I recently learned that there are people called “documentation specialists” who work in law firms and spend their entire work days using software to make documents look pretty, organized and professional. I know I would enjoy this kind of work, I think I would be very good at it, and I want to do it for a living. I’m introverted, methodical, organized, resourceful and detail-oriented, and I’m happiest and most effective when working in back office administrative support roles rather than in management or dealing with the public. As a former web coder (HTML/CSS) geek, I’m also fairly computer-savvy. In addition, I enjoy documentation-related administrative tasks that others often find tedious, such as scanning, formatting, indexing, printing, filing, data entry, records storage and management, etc. And I type 60+ WPM, or at least I did the last time I was tested (which, admittedly, was many years ago).
However, although I have lots of education, office experience, writing/editing/proofreading skill, and intermediate-level skill with word processing software, I have no law firm experience. I have a bit of familiarity with legal terminology, which I imagine will be helpful; most of it was gained through experience with my divorce, and through classes I took in business law and estate taxation when I was an accounting student. I have no interest whatsoever in other litigation support jobs, however - I don’t want to do paralegal or legal assistant work, for example. Just give me your documents and I’ll gladly make them look pretty and professional, thanks.
As far as I can discern, the best way to get a documentation specialist job with no prior experience in the field (and no friends working in the field who could recommend me) would be to apply to a staffing agency and have them try to get me an assignment in a law firm. In preparation for that, a friend loaned me some Word training books and DVDs, and I am using those to refresh and extend my skills. I am currently unemployed, so I can devote myself to this full-time. I have located a couple of agencies that specialize in legal job placements where I live (Portland, OR), and am planning to apply as soon as I feel ready to take placement tests.
1) Is this a good plan? Do I have a better chance of getting hired via a staffing agency, or should I apply directly to law firms where I’d like to work?
2) If you do this kind of work – especially if you are an introvert like me, and had no previous law firm experience - give me a reality check. What’s the work like day-to-day? How’d you get the job? Does your firm use Word 2003, 2007 or 2010 (or, perhaps, WordPerfect
)? What do you wish you’d known before you started?
3) What's the pay range for documentation specialist jobs? Online salary surveys have been unhelpful here, perhaps because "documentation specialist" is a vague job title.
4) Should I mention in job interviews that I want to stick to administrative support work indefinitely, and have no desire for an ambitious career in law, or would this be looked upon unfavorably?
5) How advanced do I need to be in Word to do well on placement tests? Aside from improving my Word skills, what else can I do to improve my chances of getting hired as a documentation specialist? Are there specific resources you can recommend?
Thanks in advance for all advice!