May 23, 2015

The Great Unprofessional Career Fair:
Kiersten the Paralegal

The coolest thing about blogging isn't the free stuff you get, or having an amount of Twitter followers that no normal person should have; it's meeting the interesting, intelligent, creative people who you might never have met otherwise.

(But I mean, free stuff is awesome too, if you were thinking of giving me some.)

If it wasn't for blogging, I probably would have never met Kiersten, blogger behind the blog She is Fierce. And that would be a real shame because Kiersten is exactly the interesting, intelligent, creative type of person we're all looking for. She's a feminist, an introvert, and isn't afraid to get real on her blog.

But before you go over there and spend half your day going through her archives, take a few minutes and read about what she does when she's not dropping the f-bomb.

(I meant feminism, guys.)

I work in Social Security Disability, so a lot of what I do is communicating with clients, social security offices, and judge’s offices. In a typical day, I’ll meet with two to three new clients so I can get to know them and their situation. I’ll file applications and appeals, communicate with social security offices regarding changes in a client’s circumstances or information that needs to be filed, schedule hearings with judge’s offices, prepare cases for upcoming hearings, and talk to existing clients on the phone who have questions about their cases.

I’ve always loved debate and from a young age, I had family members and teachers telling me I should be a lawyer when I grew up. For a while, that’s exactly what I wanted to do but by the time I made it to college, I was intent on doing something with writing; so I majored in communications and got my minor in journalism. About a month before graduating though, I realized that I still wanted to work in law somehow and started looking into what my options were aside from law school.

I decided I wanted to become a paralegal about a month before graduating with my degree in communications, so telling everyone I knew that I wanted to continue my schooling online in order to get my paralegal certificate was a bit of a process. Luckily, my parents were both incredibly supportive (and you could say my mom was thrilled, given that she worked as a legal secretary for years and absolutely loved it). Going to school while also working full-time and commuting over an hour both ways to and from work each day was difficult though, especially since I was used to in-person classroom settings where I could meet and talk to my professors. It was a complete 180 to be in a virtual classroom where, although I had the ability to type a question during class, the chances of the professor seeing it were pretty slim. 

I love being able to help people. I know that sounds cliché, and I definitely didn’t think I’d love this branch of law as much as I do; but I love that my clients are people who really need the help, and I’m getting to be a part of that. I get to know each of them and their unique situations when I meet with them and talk to them throughout the course of their case, and seeing a client who you know really needs it get awarded is a great feeling.

 It can be absolutely heartbreaking, especially when you hear people talk the way they do about social security (and food stamps, cash assistance, etc. which are programs I’m not involved in, but that a lot of my clients depend on to survive). I have clients who become homeless throughout the process of waiting for a hearing (from the time you file an initial application to the time a hearing gets scheduled is roughly two years, during which time most of my clients have absolutely no income, limited health insurance, and rarely any family to help them), who become sicker because they can’t afford the health insurance to get the treatment they need, or who have children at home they can hardly afford to feed. It’s heartbreaking talking to these people and learning about the situations they’re in, and knowing I can’t do much to change that.

Make sure you pick a branch of law you enjoy. A huge part of the reason I love my job is because of the people I’m helping, and I know I wouldn’t enjoy this as much working in a different branch of law. It can be an incredibly stressful job, and you need to know why you’re doing it.


If you have any questions for Kiersten, leave her a comment. Or even better, go ask her herself at her blog!

And of course, if you want to be featured in the The Great Unprofessional Career Fair, read what it's all about here and let me know!