Realistic Character Occupations: My Experience as a Legal Assistant
To win readers over we need to write characters so authentic they feel like real people. How do we do this? By brainstorming a character’s backstory, personality, needs, desires, and their day-to-day world. Lucky for us, one aspect of their daily life is a goldmine of characterization: the type of work they do.
Think about it: a job can reveal personality, skills, beliefs, fears, desires, and more, which is why Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi created The Occupation Thesaurus, a writing guide that profiles 124 possible careers and the story-worthy information that goes with each. To help with this project, I’m sharing my experience as a Legal Assistant below, in case this career is a perfect fit for your character!
You can find the full list of Contributed Occupation Profiles and check out The Occupation Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Jobs, Vocations, and Careersat Writers Helping Writers.
OCCUPATION: Legal Assistant
As a Legal Assistant, I have been responsible for drafting various legal documents for filing with the Court system, researching case law that may apply to a file, creating, organizing, and keeping client files and information. Depending on what area of law you are a Legal Assistant in, there are other specific tasks you will be responsible for. An example – I am and Personal Injury and Wrongful death Legal Assistant, so in addition to the above, I request and review client medical records, prepare and review discovery documents and work on lien and bill resolution.
No formal training was needed for my occupation. I learned everything needed to perform my duties with on the job training. There are options to hold Legal Assistant, Legal Secretary or Paralegal certificates, however, in my experience, each firm has a preference. Some firms prefer to train you themselves to their way of operating while others prefer you have training and prior experience.
CHARM, DETAIL-ORIENTED, EMPATHY, EXCEPTIONAL MEMORY, GAINING THE TRUST OF OTHERS, GOOD LISTENING SKILLS, GOOD WITH NUMBERS, LEADERSHIP, MAKING PEOPLE LAUGH, MULTITASKING, NETWORKING, ORGANIZATION, RESEARCH, STRATEGIC THINKING, WRITING
SOURCES OF FRICTION
Learning that a client has lied
Clashing personalities with co-workers or supervisors
Being harassed by clients
Family and friends expecting legal advice
Electronic system becomes hacked or crashes
Clients with unreasonable expectations of their case
Making a mistake in a filed pleading
Eye strain and wrist pain from working on computer extensively
An unexpected loss within the firm that others must make up for
Working with difficult opposing counsel
WRITERS SHOULD KNOW…
There is an ethical rule to keep all matters and clients private from anyone outside of the firm. This becomes difficult when the job becomes stressful or emotional and you are not able to discuss it with family or friends. Depending on the area of law you are in, the job can take a psychological toll and can make you more sympathetic or it can make you jaded. Some bigger law firms can see a bigger turn over in employees while other smaller firms can see lifelong employment. While being a Legal Assistant will be challenging, it is also rewarding to help people in a time of need.
Have any questions about this job? I’d be happy to answer. Just leave a comment below!