Developing Your Personal Brand – Q4 2023 Facts & Findings
Why should personal branding matter to you? In the digital world that we now inhabit, your online presence and how you come across to potential consumers of your personal brand, including future employers and collaborators, present opportunities that you may not have previously envisioned for yourself.
For many paralegals just starting on their career journey, sometimes the daily grind can swallow us, averting our attention from the long view of our careers. As a result, our reactive, decision-making career moves may promulgate more of a “job” mindset rather than viewing our careers (and contributions) in the legal arena as a profession. Furthermore, the role of the paralegal can sometimes be overlooked due to its supporting nature, not unlike that of frontline workers, as we witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic when industries (think restaurants, customer service, and healthcare) experienced near shutdowns due to worker attrition.
In a time when the world experienced a collective timeout, giving time for pause and reflection, how and where we spent our time to earn a living became of utmost importance. Our profession shifted along with the rest of the workforce. Cue the talent wars: burgeoning salaries, remote or hybrid opportunities, and other previously unavailable perks generally not heard of for paralegals. Alas, we learned that patience is truly a necessary virtue, despite the ultrafast-paced world we occupy. Dear paralegals, though innovation may not come to mind as you reflect upon your career of choice, our need will be the real creator (Plato in the Republic). In other words, as the old adage goes, necessity is the mother of invention.
We have seen innovation impact our roles in our offices and organizations. As several credible sources have indicated that the paralegal profession will continue to grow, many of our roles have expanded to include other areas of responsibility, oftentimes what is referred to in the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) Core 12, that drive operational excellence. Indeed, innovation in the delivery of legal services has also caught hold of the national narrative around who can provide legal services typically reserved for only licensed attorneys. At present, Arizona, Utah, Minnesota, and Oregon (Washington has since sunset its Limited License Legal Technician program) have some form of limited license legal practitioner program, and there are over 20 states in the United States with similar pending proposals.
Another developing area where seasoned paralegals are primed for transition from traditional roles into more expansive opportunities is legal operations. CLOC defines legal operations, or legal ops, on its website as follows:
A set of business processes, activities, and the professionals who enable legal departments to serve their clients more effectively by applying business and technical practices to the delivery of legal services. Legal ops provides the strategic planning, financial management, project management, and technology expertise that enables legal professionals to focus on providing legal advice.
As we forge ahead into the new digital world, imagine how embracing the role of brand ambassador for your firm or company intersects with the success of the business. Increasingly, clients are demanding more from their legal service providers, such as cost-effective strategies, more technological solutions that will streamline their cases, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Consider the following as you strategize and develop your own personal brand:
- Take the time to know and understand your strengths (aka superpowers);
- Update your professional profile to include your milestone accomplishments;
- Build connections and cultivate relationships;
- Adopt an attitude of gratitude;
- Be the project manager of your career; and
- Dream big and remember to set and refine your goals every year.
A recent Collider.com article on the hit Marvel series, She-Hulk, titled What ‘She-Hulk’ Gets Right About Paralegals, reminds us of our power and the importance of our contributions to the legal
It’s not unheard of for a paralegal to leave a firm with their long-term attorney, and despite how other attorneys may react, a good attorney will appreciate their paralegal. It’s a commonly understood fact that a good paralegal is worth their weight in gold for the support they provide to a legal team. What She-Hulk does so well is demonstrate the value of a paralegal, which is often a profession that receives little visibility, but it is crucial to the success of many law firms, and many paralegals are a friend to the attorney they work with. The relationship may not be as close as Nikki Ramos and Jennifer Walters are, but when done correctly, it’s a pretty special one between two individuals in the legal trenches who lean on one another for success and support.
Remember, the only person who can stop you is you. Own your power or, in this case, your superpower.
Kristine Custodio Suero, ACP, is an award-winning legal professional, a published author, and a highly sought-after speaker. A true servant leader, she has led the San Diego Paralegal Association and California Alliance of Paralegal Associations as President. Kristine teaches legal courses for a local San Diego paralegal program and lends her time to the program’s advisory board. Kristine is the Chair of the NALA Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee and a past member of the NALA Professional Development Committee and Continuing Education Council. She is also the former Ethics Chair. Kristine is a Senior Paralegal/Business Development Director for Butterfield Schechter LLP and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bobby T. Rimas, MLS, is an Associate Professor at Cal State LA and a Paralegal for a law firm specializing in complex litigation. Mr. Rimas served as President of the Los Angeles Paralegal Association, President/Chair of the UCLA Pilipino Alumni Association, and as a member of NALA’s Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Committee. He is the Chair of the DEI Committee for the Stonewall Democratic Club and a Board Member of the UCLA Lambda LGBTQ+ Alumni Association. He received his bachelor’s degree from UCLA, his paralegal certificate from UCLA Extension, and his MLS, cum laude, from the University of Arizona.