Memoirs of a Paralegel – How I Survived my First (Almost) Year in a Law Firm

Heels, coffee, pencil skits, more coffee.

I use to think I handled stress well, then I worked in a law office.  Where I am constantly fixing others problems, and constantly being needed.

A blonde paralegal running around in my red heels and pencil skirts from copier to computer to, wait I think I need more coffee, to “Lori can you fix this?”  Yes.  “Lori can you make sure this gets done today?”  Yes. “Lori the printer is broken.” I’m on it.  “Lori do you know how to fix my computer?”  Yes, move over.  “Lori this client is upset can you talk to them?”  Yes, just let me get more coffee.  “Lori here is a 1,000 pages of medical records for you to read through.”  Umm yes okay I am going to need a lot more coffee.

I have been working in a law office for just over 9 months now.  Some times I forget just how under qualified I am for my job as a Paralegal until people ask me, “Oh so do did you go to school for that.”  No I did not.  Apparently though you can.

About a month ago. I was in the elevator with a guy who works in a different law office in the same building.  He was nice enough, and I had seen him around often.  He introduced himself and started talking to me, “You know I interviewed for you job too.”  Well this is awkward.  “So where did you work before this?”

Actually awkward did not even begin to describe what I was feeling. Telling him that I worked in a coffee shop didn’t seem like a good answer.  Telling the guy who had wanted my job that I was in no way qualified for it also didn’t seem like a good response.  Why is this elevator moving so slowly?  Someone please help, get me out.

I finally just responded by telling him that I recently graduated college.  Thankfully that is when the elevator door finally opened on my floor.  I fled.

I showed up on my first day more nervous than I have been in a long time.  I tugged at my suit jacket feeling like a little girl playing dress up, wearing clothes I stole from my mother’s closet that very obviously didn’t fit me.

I sat in my office, my own very office.  The phone rang, I panicked.  Why on earth does it have so many buttons?  What good is graduating at the top of your class if you can’t even figure out a freaking phone? 

My boss would ask me every day, “Miss Rensink how did day 1 go?”  “Miss Rensink how did day 2 go?”   Every day I would answer with a thin smile, “A little bit better than yesterday.”  He would see my deer-in-the-headlight look and just nod and smile, “Every day will get easier.”

And you know what, it did.  Oh it would also get really hard.  There were many moments were I simply didn’t think I could do it as I forced back the frustrated tears.  There were moments when crawling under my desk to hide sounded like a good idea, whether it was from exhaustion, because my brain felt fried, or because I simply did not want to have to talk to any more people.  I haven’t yet, but some days I look down there and just think it looks nice.  Safe.

But I didn’t.  I just goggled all of the legal jargon so I would know what my boss meant when he told me to draft a Summons and Complaint.   Some days I would just tell my very patient boss that I had no idea what he was talking about.  And I learned.  I was learning so much that I never thought I could keep up, but I did.

Then one day the pencil skirts and heels felt like they belonged to me.  I stopped feeling like I was playing dress up.  One day I realized that I actually might know what I was doing.  More than that, I might actually be good at it.

One day I stopped feeling like I was drowning.  Oh I would still have my moments of feeling overwhelmed when I was surrounded by towers of papers, but I stopped believing that I couldn’t do this.

Maybe it is just part of my nature.  I have never backed down from a challenge in my life, and I don’t intend to start anytime soon.  The only way to find out what I am capable of is to run hard and run fast to the edge of the cliff.

I haven’t fallen off yet.  Don’t get me wrong, there have definitely been times when I would find myself dangling off the edge for a minute.  But I would quick pull myself back up.

It makes me think about the things we believe ourselves to capable of.  The mind games we play with ourselves to believe that we are not enough to do a certain thing or to be a certain type of person.  Yes, maybe right now you aren’t enough, but that doesn’t mean that you could never be enough.  If you are unqualified, then jump in the water and become qualified.  You may find yourself in 9 months wondering why you ever doubted your abilities in the first place. 

paralegal

Photo Credit: Lori Rensink

**** I was recently talking to a good friend who I asked to give me feedback on my blog.  He told me, “Its good but I am left feeling like I want to know more about you.”  Huh I guess I didn’t realize people would care about that stuff.  So I decided to write a series of memoirs about my life experiences, because I some how find myself doing things like catching chickens in Africa or running to stop a fight among inmates.  Speaking of which . . . 

Up next is Memoirs of a Prison Intern where I flash back to my days working in a penitentiary. 

Thank you for reading,  and please feel free to comment below.  If there are any stories you have that you would like to share, or any stories from my life you would like to read about please let me know.