Help me transition from civil litigation to corporate
November 20, 2018 10:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm a paralegal at a large law firm in Chicago. I've been with the same firm for over ten years and I would like to find paralegal work that doesn't require me to keep track of billable hours.

I've been looking at job postings for corporate paralegals and I know I can do the work but I don't have the necessary experience. How would I go about getting it? Do I just apply for corporate jobs and hope the employer is willing to train? Are there courses I can take? I do have a paralegal certificate and I know I took a course in corporate law but that was over a decade ago and I haven't really retained any of that information. Would doing temp paralegal work be a good way to get the experience? If I decided to go into real estate law, would taking a real estate course be helpful?
posted by Constance Mirabella to Work & Money (7 answers total)
I have a paralegal degree and work in a real estate department. A real estated course of some sort would've been incredibly useful; you would not believe the specialized jargon involved.

I mean. All of law has specialized jargon. But I swear they hauled out some extra thesauri for real estate, took four dozen words related to either legal practices or property rights, and then started to assign definitions at random. For starters, the word "fee" has nothing at all to do with money.

I'm not exactly doing paralegal work; I'm doing doc management and archives/records tech support. (Which is what I wanted to do, and other than the "real estate" part, exactly what I got the degree for, so I'm happy about most of my job.) I had lots of e-discovery experience and a bit of business law experience, and none of it was directly useful for real estate; the processes are just too different. However, if you can do and enjoy document management, it's a growing field; everyone who switched to digital 15 years ago is now drowning in PDFs and using a 12-year-old database to keep track of them.

You may not want to look directly for real estate jobs; instead, look for jobs with companies that own real estate. Any large company with diverse locations - transportation, municipalities, utilities, some universities all can own substantial amount of real estate. Sometimes they don't put "real estate" in the job description, if it's an ancillary role.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:48 PM on November 20, 2018

IANAP, but have done work for both private and corporate attorneys in the Chicago area, several years ago. My favorite of these jobs was at Motorola Corporate, in their patent office. Not sure if they hire paralegals, but an Indeed search for intellectual property paralegals turns up some interesting postings. The work was totally different than family or criminal law, and much more interesting, no billable hours, as it was in-house.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:09 AM on November 21, 2018

When you say you're looking for corporate work, do you mean as an in-house paralegal? Or as a law firm paralegal in corporate law? Things may be different in Chicago, but here in NYC paralegals at most law firms bill their hours whether it's in litigation, labor, bankruptcy, corporate, real estate, tax, t&e or whatever.
posted by slkinsey at 5:02 AM on November 21, 2018

Just as an aside, I am in-house counsel at a huge company, and until recently we still had billable hours. So don’t make the assumption that working for a corporation automatically means that you don’t have to track your time or that you won’t have billable hours requirements - make sure you ask.
posted by amro at 6:57 AM on November 21, 2018

If you work in the legal department at a public agency, you won't have to track billable hours. The transit agency I work for has a full legal department including a number of paralegals--the hours are 9-5 as well and benefits are great--most of the attorneys who work for us came because of the better quality of life while still receiving market-rate pay.
posted by agatha_magatha at 7:47 AM on November 21, 2018

Confirming comments from others that some corporate and governmental require their in-house counsel folks to keep billable hours. It isn't nearly as detailed as their outside counsel requirements, but I've definitely heard client-side folks sighing about this.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:24 AM on November 21, 2018

You don't have to track billable hours in immigration law (at least, I didn't at the immigration firm I worked at as a paralegal) - on the other hand, when I left immigration for civil litigation, my salary literally doubled, and I think that's the general trend. Seconding that public agencies might be a nice balance in terms of being paid well but not tracking time - my friend works at a state agency and always leaves at 5, doesn't work weekends, gets state holidays off, and doesn't have to track time.

(I like my current job but my least favorite part of it is the timekeeping)
posted by Aubergine at 11:14 AM on November 21, 2018

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