Contract Attorneys, Job Searches, Paralegals

Lawyer Applies For Paralegal Position. What Happens Next Will Surprise You.

We all know the job market is tough. Despite the somewhat optimistic take David has on the the latest NALP employment numbers, the reality of trying to find employment as a full-time attorney remains challenging. Maybe you’ve heard about contract attorney positions, but are not quite ready to take the plunge into the exciting, fast-paced world of document review. Maybe the temporary nature of the work doesn’t fit your lifestyle or perhaps you’re just putting off the inevitable plunge into the life of mindlessly clicking on documents for as long as possible.

So, what do you do? One unfortunate soul packed their pride away and applied for a state government paralegal position. But the status of the application will probably give you pause.

First, a few pertinent details about this paralegal candidate. Potential Paralegal is a first-tier law school graduate (you know, one of the “lucky ones”), admitted to the state bar, and has recently completed a state court clerkship. So, what do you think will happen to this application?

If you guessed “unqualified for the position,” you get a cookie:

Thank you for your interest in employment with Allegheny County.  Your completed application for the position of PARALEGAL has been reviewed by the Department of Human Resources to determine your eligibility.  Based on the information presented in your application, it has been determined that you do not meet the minimum requirements for this position.

That’s right. A barred, law school grad with actual experience does not meet the MINIMUM requirements for the position of PARALEGAL. Enjoy the job market, class of 2014.

Listen, I understand that there are legitimate reasons not to hire an attorney to do the job of paralegal. Employees that feel their current job is below them don’t make for the most enthusiastic workers. Resentment and a bad attitude can poison an office, infecting employees, killing morale and creating a toxic workplace. There’s also a legitimate concern that overqualified employees will bolt for a better position (in this instance, anything with a title of “attorney” would be a step above) at the first opportunity. If you are trying to build a long-term team (as is frequently the case for jobs in the public sector), then it’s quite understandable to not want an attorney to be your paralegal.

But none of these legitimate reasons are why Potential Paralegal didn’t get the job — at least according the the rejection letter they sent. It was because they “do not meet the minimum requirements for this position.” That seems… inaccurate. Perhaps this is just an instance of a form letter gone awry, but in an oversaturated legal market, you’d think they’d come up with an acceptable euphemism for “overqualified.”

Hey, look at the bright side — the phrase “overqualified” doesn’t really apply to document review. As long as you’re willing to click through documents you’ll be able to find work (albeit temporary) as a contract attorney. And at least your job title includes the word “attorney.”

Earlier: How Did The Law School Class Of 2013 Do In The Job Market?
ABA Job Numbers Are Out — Market Still Sucks
Reader Mailbag: So You Say You Want To Be A Contract Attorney?
Go To A Top 50 Law School Or Don’t Go At All

Alex Rich is a T14 grad and Biglaw refugee who has worked as a contract attorney for the last 7 years… and counting.  If you have a story about the underbelly of the legal world known as contract work, email Alex at and be sure to follow Alex on Twitter @AlexRichEsq

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