As an Executive Recruiter, Job Coach, College Coach, Resume Writer and LinkedIn Profile Writer, I have had the opportunity to work with people from all walks of life and learn about professions many people have never heard of. People tend to find me when they have decided that they don’t like their current position and want to transition – either to a position with additional responsibilities, to another field entirely, back to the job market or out of the job market – or if they are entering the job market for the first time. What I often find is that there is a gap between the ideal (what people believe they will be doing) and the reality (what the position actually entails). It is for this reason I am starting this series of articles that will take you into a day in the life of a professional. At times I will write the articles based on my experiences with my clients (both employees and employers) and other times I will invite guests with experience in their profession to share their experiences. This first piece will take you through a day in the life of a New York Corporate Legal Assistant.
The day typically starts at 6:00am. With a starting salary of $40,000 – $50,000, living in the city itself is not an option, rather you will be coming in from any of the other 4 boroughs, Long Island, Rockland County or Northern New Jersey. Whether you have to take the Red and Tan Bus Line, Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit or New York City Transit System, to get to work by 9am (before the attorney’s arrive), you have to leave by 7:00am to make it through rush hour. Before you walk upstairs to your shared office, you are probably going to grab a quick coffee and bagel from the food vendor on the corner. Contrary to how it is portrayed on television, the bigger the office, the less exciting your job is.
You know what you are going to be doing most days – if your firm is involved in a case, then you are in charge of discovery, cataloging literally millions of papers, e-mails, etc. If your firm is involved in a closing then you are in charge of the papers, making the exact number of copies requested by your attorney, making sure the copy company used the correct numbers at the bottom of each paper, and making sure the room where the closing will be taking place can handle the size of the closing. You have to make sure to remember the number assigned to each client throughout the day. If you are working for one attorney and one client, it’s easy – if you are working with a group of attorneys and multiple clients, you have to keep track of your time and client number. If you call the copy company to make sure you are on schedule for the delivery for client A, the five minutes you spend on the phone must be documented properly. When you go to the copy machine, you must input the client number before you make the copy so that the client is billed properly.
Lunch just depends….on the attorney you’re working for (or with, culture varies widely in firms amongst attorneys)… on any last minute requests by clients…on any last minute requests by the attorney. If you do work through lunch on behalf of a client, at the larger firms the lunch is paid for with a generous lunch allowance. Shrimp Scampi on a bed of Linguini, a large salad and strawberry cheesecake for desert are just one of the many options available – the surrounding catering businesses know how much the allowance is and are usually set up with a corporate account. By 5 o’clock, fatigue starts to set in but the day is not over. Leaving at 7 o’clock is often considered leaving early. The attorneys are there until 8 or 9 o’clock and if they are there, so are you. And of course since you are working late…you guessed it, the client springs for dinner with an allowance that is even more generous than lunch. At 9 o’clock, you pack up the dinner you didn’t eat to bring home to your roommate or family and call the car service (paid for by the client) to bring you home. Since it’s late, there’s no traffic, it might take just 30 minutes to get there.
► Lunch/Dinner Allowance (Depending on the case/client)
► Car Service Drop off (and pick up if you are working on the weekend)
► Overtime Pay that will bring your salary closer to $60,000
► Bonuses in some firms
► Travel Allowance in some firms
► Excellent Benefits including Health Benefits, 401(K) and even emergency daycare for children
► Fridays are not necessarily late nights unless there is a big case or closing
► Weekends are typically off unless there is a big case or closing
► Long Days – you must be available to work around the clock if an emergency arises, no excuses
► Job Satisfaction is directly tied to the team and attorney you are working for – attorney’s will “share” legal assistants so that sometimes you have to temporarily endure a rough situation
► Upward mobility – the role is essentially capped at being a Head Legal Assistant, a position which allows for more responsibility but similar time commitments
This, of course is not meant to represent every experience but to represent one day in the life of a Corporate Legal Assistant.
If you are interested in authoring “A Day In the Life” or need assistance in making a career transition, visit me at www.evantheheadhunter.com.