Being a paralegal in the pandemic era has made us all adapt on a day to day basis, yet one thing remains very consistent. I came across a recent article which stated that just under 23% of the paralegal profession are male. While I am keenly aware that this is a widely female-dominated arena, it was still a bit shocking to see that extensive of a gap. A paralegal is usually perceived to be a position for a female, on par with the old school stereotype of a glorified secretary, though it is far from it in reality. A good paralegal has an astute knowledge of the law specialized within their firm and, dare I say, a practical expert in procedure. That said, I consider myself uniquely blessed to be a male paralegal in this thing called the “practice of law.”
While the male nurse is very normal by today’s standards, the male paralegal has some catching up to do. In my almost fifteen years of being a paralegal, I’ve encountered male counterparts possibly a handful of times (with a couple of fingers to spare). When new connections, usually outside of the legal field, ask me what I do for a living, I am often met with, “why didn’t you become a lawyer?” or “have you thought of going to law school?” as if I have sold myself short in settling into this profession. Sure, thoughts of going to law school were considered, yet as years have moved forward, I am content that being a paralegal is the best of a happy medium. It allows me to be a valued mind as to, among other things, legal procedure, case history, client needs, and often case strategy. I know the value I bring to each matter and am filled with anxiety when a major hearing and/or trial is upcoming. Although I enjoy the excitement and hard work that comes with the territory, I have to say that I rarely put in the number of hours an attorney will, which gives me more flexibility and allows me to enjoy my family life to the fullest. With that said, I find a greater sense of satisfaction in being a background player who assists in the successes of my attorneys, then being on the forefront.
I’m fortunate to work at a truly “teamwork” oriented firm, and often when a partner or associate meets with a new client, they will make it a point to bring along one or more members to the initial meeting. The idea is that the client will get to meet the people with whom they will be working and establish an early on rapport. Occasionally I’ll come in with a female attorney and have had to awkwardly advise that she is the attorney. While I’m aware this bias is not unheard of, I’m happy to say that it has become less frequent. To say that this is a con to my position would, in my opinion, downplay the way a woman attorney may feel when it is assumed she is the paralegal. Outside of the initial awkwardness, it doesn’t affect me one way or another,.
Being a male paralegal and being part of a great team is my personal blessing. At the end of the day, that is all that matters in this personality-driven career. My gender is not an issue, nor should it be. When you find a place that allows you to professionally flourish along with a good group of people, you have won the paralegal lottery. It would just be a pleasant surprise to see more of us in the future.