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You can become a paralegal manager a couple of different ways, including internal promotion, external application, and sometimes government appointment. Paralegal managers are a part of the mid-level management team in most circumstances. As such, the job is not usually entry level. In order to be selected as a paralegal manager, you must generally have extensive paralegal experience yourself, or have a deep familiarity with how the field operates from a human resources perspective.
A lot of work and planning is required to become a paralegal manager. The manager’s main role is to oversee a department or staff of paralegals. This typically involves discipline, work allocation, team building, and task management. To be effective, a paralegal manager must have a keen understanding of how paralegals work, what the job requires, and the general culture at play within the organization.
The skills needed to become a paralegal manager for a particular organization can typically be learned on the job by a person with the right skills. Because so much of what makes a good paralegal manager depends on the specific organization, however, many companies look first to their own paralegal pools when making a hiring decision. A paralegal who excels at all of the required tasks, knows the staff well, and understands the needs and inner workings of the department is often viewed as an ideal candidate to become a paralegal manager.
Internal competition can be stiff, however. If you are currently a paralegal and you know that you want to become a paralegal manager at some point, it may be a good idea to talk to someone more senior in your organization about what the job entails. There may be certain skills or training you could receive now that would strengthen your application to become a paralegal manager later on. Learning about the different kinds of work you could do if you become a paralegal manager may also be valuable. Once you have some experience, you can apply to become a paralegal manager at another company or in another discipline entirely after working for a while where you are.
The paralegal career field is diverse, and paralegals work in many different settings. Most are housed in law firms, but many also find jobs in corporate legal departments, or within legal divisions of most countries’ governments. What it takes to become a paralegal manager in each of these settings can be a bit different. The only way to find out what sort of paralegal manager you want to become is to do a bit of research, including asking people who actively work as paralegal managers what they do on a day-to-day basis.
Regardless of the setting, most paralegal managers have one thing in common: experience. The vast majority of paralegal management staff have spent a number of years — usually at least five — working as paralegals themselves. Others were human resources professionals working in legal settings who were hired as paralegal managers based on their knowledge of the field. Paralegal managers do not typically perform paralegal work themselves, but rather act as the bosses of paralegals.
Experience doing paralegal work is desirable, then, but not strictly necessary. Usually, employers look to experience as well as drive, motivation, and long-term management potential when selecting their paralegal managers. The best way to succeed at becoming a paralegal manager — and to thrive in the role once there — is to prepare for the job well before applying, and to understand what it is you will actually be doing.
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