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Date Created: 12/21/15
CAREER CORNER 1.800.973.1177 Working as a Paralegal In House [by Ursula Furi-Perry] Corporations have long used in-house counsel to take care of their legal needs. And now other legal staff have been added to the corporate mix. “More and more corporations employ A corporation’s paralegals may have little conducts extensive legal research on existing in-house paralegals,” said Marge Dover, supervision; however, they may report to laws, and answers questions from various Executive Director of the National Associa- more than one supervisor, such as the departments to ensure that new projects are tion of Legal Assistants (NALA). Insurance corporation’s in-house counsel, as well as a in compliance with laws and regulations. companies, financial institutions, medical department head. “I work fairly independent- corporations, and research firms are just ly, with regular reports to my supervisors,” The job differs from that of paralegals at a few areas that increasingly prefer to hire said Ms. Kunz. In-house paralegals may law firms. “It’s a different setting, where the in-house legal staff instead of outsourcing perform the bulk of the corporation’s legal corporation is really your client,” Ms. Dover legal tasks. “Companies are becoming very work or specialize in one particular field. explained. “In-house paralegals represent creative about using the skills paralegals In fact, in-house legal staff work in numer- the company as a whole,” Ms. Hawkes said. have,” Ms. Dover said. ous areas of the law, their profession still “They are actually sitting in the [offices] of expanding. “Contract compliance, litigation, their clients.” Corporate paralegals may also Some of those skills include multi-tasking and intellectual property law are just a few experience less attorney involvement in their and being able to handle complex projects, of the areas that hire in-house paralegals,” work. “My work is generally not assigned by explained Vicki Kunz, past President of said Ms. Dover. “They may work specifically an attorney. Instead, my caseload is dictated NALA, now an in-house paralegal in the Risk for the corporation’s legal department or for by litigation that comes into the company and Management Department of MDU Resources, other branches like human resources.” falls under our insurance policies,” Ms. Kunz a publicly traded corporation with more detailed. “Also, most corporate employees, than 60 companies nationwide and in Brazil. Sample daily tasks may include writing no matter what department, do a lot more of “Every day is different,” Ms. Kunz said. “A reports to corporate clients, correspond- their own daily work without administrative regular day is whatever walks through the ing with other corporations, attorneys, and assistance.” As such, in-house paralegals door,” agreed Stephanie Hawkes, Senior clients, docketing and file maintenance, and are often apt at both the professional and Paralegal in Legal Compliance at Nissan in-house training of employees. “I spend a lot clerical tasks of their trade. North America, Inc., and President of the Me- of time on the phone speaking to our com- troplex Association of Corporate Paralegals, panies on problem claims or serious injuries Those interested in in-house work should be an organization dedicated to the professional or accidents, to attorneys for updates or for quick on their feet, Ms. Kunz recommended. betterment of corporate paralegals. information on lawsuits, and to adjusters for “Accept the fact that it is okay to do it all and more detailed information on large claims always be a company team player.” “Corpo- In-house work is certainly diverse and and loss information for trend activity,” Ms. rate paralegals must be able to multi-task; rewarding. “I love being able to see new Kunz said. Among Ms. Kunz’ other duties are they have to see the big picture,” Ms. Hawkes business concepts and ideas from their providing monthly litigation and loss reports stated. “They must have an appreciation of conception all the way through implementa- to all management throughout the company, the company and its products [and services].” tion,” Ms. Hawkes said. One of the benefits of providing claims-management training to Paralegal training, education, and experience working in house is the dynamic and exciting employees, and reviewing all deductible are also important in landing an in-house nature of the work, Ms. Kunz and Ms. Hawkes billing invoices for payment and alloca- job, Ms. Dover said. both stated. Paralegals in corporate settings tion. “I track legislation in all 50 states and often perform numerous different tasks and present new laws to attorneys and corporate Legal headhunters are great places to start communicate with different people every day. departments,” Ms. Hawkes explained. In ad- when looking for in-house jobs, as many cor- dition, Ms. Hawkes takes calls from clients, porations are now turning to legal staffers PAGE 1 continued on back CAREER CORNER 1.800.973.1177 for hiring help. Naturally, in-house paralegal positions are more common in cities where many corporations are headquartered. Networking is key, Ms. Hawkes believes. “The best way to get into a corporate position is through personal recommendation,” she said. The corporate paralegal profession can expect substantial growth in the future. “In the seven years I’ve been at Nissan, my roles and responsibilities more than doubled,” Ms. Hawkes said. “In these post-Enron days, cor - porations are expected to govern themselves [through their own legal departments].” “The outlook is good,” Ms. Dover said. “Companies realize that paralegals can perform many tasks.” PAGE 2
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