I began my career as a paralegal in 2007, working at a large foreclosure and bankruptcy firm in Cincinnati, Ohio, shortly after earning my paralegal certificate. Entering the legal field at the age of 24, earning a good salary with benefits, and with the prospect of becoming an attorney was certainly rewarding at that time. It felt rewarding becoming a National Association of Legal Assistant certified paralegal two years later. The bonuses, raises, and peer and management recognition, and all the additional perks and benefits that have been consistent throughout my near 13-year paralegal career have all been great. However, I learned that the greatest reward of all is the difference you make for the client.
There has never been a more gratifying experience than a client’s satisfaction; their genuine thank yous and words of appreciation. Just recently, a client ended our conversation with, “I am so happy you are here and the one working on my case.” Those words, honestly, meant more to me than any bonus or raise I have received. Sure, we are generally working for economic reasons and supporting a comfortable lifestyle, but it is a bonus and more simply doing what you love. It is a good feeling when you wake up and look forward to heading into the office and an even better feeling when you come home knowing you worked hard, made a difference in someone’s life, and actually earned your pay.
I could not imagine getting paid, reaping the benefits of being employed yet not having some type of fulfillment or pleasure with providing the services I was hired to provide. It would almost be like stealing, to get paid a salary and not give my all in whatever it is I am retained to do in return. Don’t get me wrong — we all can get burned out and weary from time to time. I am no exception. But it is important to renew our passion by reminding ourselves why we are in the legal profession and how our roles impact people’s lives. Whether you are the paralegal supporting the attorney with a bankruptcy filing for a client struggling financially, or the paralegal drafting a living trust for a wealthy client, or the one supporting the attorney who is defending a patient in a medical malpractice lawsuit, our skills and dedication matters. It is the clients and their contentment with our services that leads to referrals, that leads to the bonuses and raises, that ultimately keeps us employed and able to maintain our lifestyles and well-being.
When you really think about it, the greatest reward truly is our client’s appreciation for doing what we do best and loving what we do.
Christopher Pendergrass became a certified paralegal in 2009 and currently works as a real estate paralegal and title officer for a title company, while freelancing as an independent paralegal. He is also on NCAPA’s Board of Directors and chairs the Pro Bono Committee.
This article was originally published in the Winter/Spring 2020 issue of the National Capital Area Paralegal Association’s (NCAPA) quarterly publication, OnPoint. It is reprinted here and on other NCAPA social media outlets with permission from NCAPA (www.ncapa.com). To distribute further, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org