Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.
Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.
Overview: A paralegal is a qualified person retained by a lawyer to perform a variety of research and preparation tasks for legal cases. Duties might include investigating areas of the law that pertain to the case, working directly with the client to understand and catalogue the case’s facts, booking and organizing meetings, researching and helping to interview witnesses, preparing legal document drafts (but not signing them) for the lawyer, organizing witnesses and evidence, taking notes, preparing and filing documents in a timely manner, acting as a liaison with court officials and other parties tied to the case, managing deadlines, and assisting the lawyer in whatever way is needed. Paralegals are prohibited from any tasks that constitute “practicing law” (such as accepting cases, offering legal advice, representing a client, or determining fees).
Necessary Training: Paralegals can take a two-year certificate course, but they may also have a degree. Because of the wide range of duties they perform, most paralegals will have strong computer, writing (and grammar), organization, and communication skills, and have some training in client interactions so they can present a professional face on behalf of the agency. They are incredibly detail-oriented and organized, since even the smallest mistake can be disastrous for a case.
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, blending in, charm, enhanced hearing, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, multitasking, photographic memory, reading people, strategic thinking, writing
POSITIVE: Adaptable, alert, analytical, confident, cooperative, decisive, diplomatic, disciplined, discreet, efficient, empathetic, focused, honest, honorable, humble, independent, industrious, intelligent, loyal, meticulous, obedient, organized, persistent, persuasive, proactive, professional, protective, resourceful, responsible
NEGATIVE: obsessive, perfectionist, stubborn, workaholic
Sources of Friction: Having too large of a workload because the firm refuses to hire more help, being underappreciated for one’s work, being mistreated by big personalities and fragile egos when things don’t go well, working with a disorganized lawyer (creating a rush for the paralegal to research, collect any data and experts, and file documents on time), long hours, working weekends, problems at home with one’s family who resent the time the character gives to work, having to work around red tape, being frustrated by the strategy because one has so much knowledge of the case but not being in a position to influence it, moral conflict when working for a lawyer who has flexible ethics, misfiling and errors that happen on the court’s side, resulting on delays and lost time as one must resubmit
People They Might Interact With: lawyers, other paralegals, legal assistants and secretaries, bailiffs, judges, filing clerks, court reporters, criminals, expert witnesses (detectives, psychologists, accountants) as well as anyone else with intimate knowledge of the case, delivery personnel, librarians at the law library, other staff members at the law firm, family members of one’s client
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Self-Actualization: A paralegal is limited in what she may do despite the growing knowledge, experience, and skills he or she gains. This lack of a career path may squash the character’s feeling of self-actualization, even if they love what they do because they are part of the judicial system and are making a difference in people’s lives
- Esteem and Recognition: It is not uncommon for paralegals to not be recognized properly for the tremendous (and important) work they do, which can lead to feelings of lower self-worth
- Love and Belonging: Relationships may suffer because a paralegal is very much at the beck and call of the lawyers she or he works for, meaning that things get done on the lawyer’s schedule, not the paralegal’s. Not being around for important life events (anniversaries, a weekend soccer game, etc.) or having little energy when one is around can cause relationship strain
Common Work-Related Settings: airport, big city street, boardroom, elevator, juvenile detention center, library, office cubicle, taxi, therapist’s office
Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.