Waiting for the Golden Ticket
Waiting for the Golden Ticket to the Chocolate Factory
Unrealistic expectations, misleading recruiters, and a belief in a single definition of success can lead para professionals to feel ‘trapped’ in transitional roles. How can they and the firms that employ them think about careers more flexibly?
Law firms are places in which the idea of a successful career is based on upward progression, as we can see from the persistence of the tournament and up-or-out promotion models. But in this article for Harvard Law School’s The Practice, Stefanie Gustafsson and I look at a group of people who aren’t going anywhere: paralegals who feel ‘trapped’ in what is supposed to be a transitional or liminal role.
We discover that their feelings about the role and expectations about law careers are fed by socialisation at university and in the law firms that employ them, to the extent that they reject alternative career paths. Even though firms have introduced new internal roles, many paralegals do not perceive these to be real career opportunities compared with established routes and titles that are understood across the profession.
‘... if law firms are serious about introducing greater flexibility and new career paths, they can gain useful insights into how deeply entrenched the expectation of upward progression is among paralegals, and the perceived stigma attached by paralegals and lawyers alike to “second-class roles”.’