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Men at Work

Posted By Charlene Sabini, BA, PP, CLP, ALP, Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 24, 2017

NALS - Association for Legal Professionals - Men at WorkThe vocation we call “paralegal” made its debut about 45 years ago. And, back then, the legal industry employed women primarily as legal secretaries; the early paralegals were, in fact, highly and specially trained legal secretaries. It is understandable, then, that the term “paralegal” has been connected primarily with professional women rather than men. There are reasons for that association. Women have traditionally worked in support positions to attorneys; a paralegal is a support position to attorneys; there were very few female attorneys at the time this vocation was created. Interestingly, however, men have increasingly become paralegals in recent years and, certainly, we have seen more and more women in the position of attorney during this time as well. 

Paralegal Bob Davidson, in an article entitled, Why Are There More Female Paralegals, remarked: 'Clients would ask me if I planned to go to law school. The shareholder of my firm thought I should attend law school. I mean, I am a male; certainly, I do not plan to be a ‘paralegal’ all my life! Or else clients thought I was an apprentice learning my trade with ‘lawyer’ as the goal. They did not understand that, even for men, being a paralegal is its own career.'1

Then there is the mistaken ignorance regarding males working in a traditionally female role. Male paralegals are sometimes strangely viewed as failures or losers. The unenlightened may erroneously think male paralegals failed their law school admissions test or even failed in law school altogether. Some male (and female) paralegals have indeed earned a Juris Doctor (“J.D.”) degree, which may imply their goal was to become a lawyer. It is not uncommon to meet paralegals who actually hold J.D. degrees and J.D. degrees have been seen on paralegal résumés.2

Males, despite stereotypes and misperceptions, are making definite inroads into the traditional female paralegal occupation. The percentage of males employed as such is noticeably rising. A 2012 article noted that in 2005 the percentage of males in the paralegal/legal assistant workforce was 10.9 percent; in 2011 it was 15.7 percent—a 44 percent increase during those six years. In 2013, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, that percentage had dropped slightly to 13.9 percent, but that was still an improvement over 2005. But at 86.1 percent, women still dominate the ranks of paralegals and legal assistants.3

Men are also seeing the advantages of working as paralegals or legal assistants. Men can use their analytical or organizational skills, work in a challenging and exciting profession, and actively deal with clients. Again, the paralegal profession is not simply a “glorified secretary,” and men are finding the position’s challenges attractive. 

Daniel Hagel, a male legal assistant currently in Eugene, Oregon, happened upon the legal field somewhat by accident, answering a notice in a local newspaper. His practice area is mainly personal injury, and a past history as a U.S. Army medic has provided insight into understanding medical records and injuries. He also has a technical degree in computer science. His duties typify a legal assistant’s job and include answering phones, having client contact, communicating with insurance adjusters and other law firms or employees, doing research, ordering medical records, drafting demands, creating correspondence, and seeing to file management. When others ask him about occupying a nontraditional role, he reflects, “Similar to a male nurse. Men typically don't hold this type of position.”  He has been in the legal field now for ten years and plans to continue. “I will stay in the legal field. I have gained great satisfaction in what I do. I feel in the personal injury field that I am helping people who are going through an extremely difficult period in their life and I enjoy helping them.” Daniel currently works with one other legal assistant and one attorney in a small law firm setting.4

On the other hand, William Sewell, a longtime legal assistant in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, area, is a very assertive fellow with strong opinions about his profession.

“I am 6’2” and over 275 pounds and I shave my head. I am very loud sometimes and I simply require different working arrangements than are typically offered to paralegals as suitable work environments (compared to some females).” As a male paralegal, he finds the gossiping and office politics to be intolerable, “. . . and I have left positions for that very reason.”

When asked if he felt or noticed any kind of discrimination in the paralegal field by being a male, he responded, “I remember back in the early ’90s when I would temp as a legal assistant that attorneys would come out of their office just to see the ‘male legal secretary’ or the ‘male legal assistant’ or ‘Hey, that’s a guy!’ You got me there. I’m a guy.”

When asked why he did not become a lawyer—that common question asked of male paralegals—he replied, “There are too many lawyers as it is. Having more lawyers per capita than anywhere else in the world is having a tangible and negative effect on this country. The future of the legal industry compels an expanded use of paralegals.” Perhaps that can be interpreted as a left-handed statement of support for the legal assistant profession.

But Sewell had a way of explaining the relationship with his attorneys: “I equate the occupation of a paralegal as similar to nursing as far as the necessary education, testing, etc. When people ask me what a paralegal is, I say ‘A Doctor has a Nurse and an Attorney has a Paralegal,’ and they immediately get it.”

Here is Mr. Sewell’s advice on self-improvement: 

Utilize every opportunity to sharpen your skills. Take a class, even if it has to be at your own expense. Learn or get certified somehow on the newest version of the software that your firm utilizes.  Sometimes a refresher course can offer you a shortcut or trick which can prove to be invaluable. I try to add to my arsenal of skills, tips, and tricks as often as I can.5

In an interview on the LegalTalk Network, two male paralegals, Carl H. Morrison, II, PP-SC, AACP, a senior paralegal at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and a member of the NALS Board of Directors, and Zachary W. Brewer, CP, a litigation paralegal at Hall Estill, discussed working as paralegals in a traditionally female career.  In the interview, Morrison shared a positive view of working in the profession. Morrison said, “More men are starting to see that it is a rewarding profession.” On the advice he would give to men who are considering a career as a paralegal in a female dominated profession, Morrison said, “I would say go for it. I think that there are a lot of great opportunities out there. It is a rewarding profession. I absolutely love what I do.”6

The career path is becoming attractive “particularly in areas where industries have been hard hit and it makes sense for people to retrain and find new professions,” notes John Shupper, chair and director of the legal studies department at South University in Columbia, South Carolina. “I’m seeing more men in my classes recently. It’s an opportunity to get involved in an area where there’s a future. The skills you need to be a paralegal these days are skills that would translate well whether you’re working in a law office or a bank or an insurance company.”7
One positive conclusion is that additional male paralegal presence in the workplace is establishing more valuable diversity therein and changing even the social fabric of the office. Legal assisting also offers alternative employment for males looking to leapfrog into different careers due to changes in local economies. The obvious growth of the paralegal profession nationwide, too, has brought new attention to the paralegal/legal assistant profession, and many male paralegals are finding satisfaction, education, dignity, and advancement opportunities within this line of work. 


Charlene Sabini, BA, PP, CLP, ALP, is a legal assistant for attorney David Vill in juvenile law in Eugene, Oregon. She is Director of Education for her local chapter, NALS of Lane County in Eugene, is editor of her chapter’s newsletter, NALS in Motion, and has earned three NALS CLE Awards. She proofreads on the NALS Editorial Board and contributes articles/essays for the NALS docket and @Law and is an Affiliate Member of the Lane County Bar Association. She also successfully petitioned the Oregon State Bar Association to allow guest speaking attorneys at non-lawyer education meetings to receive CLE credit—formerly not allowed in Oregon. She was a finalist for the NALS of Oregon Award of Excellence in 2017 and was selected as Member of the Year, 2017. She is also a 14-year volunteer with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office in Eugene, has served as the sheriff’s newsletter editor, currently serves as the county jail librarian, and earned the Jail Volunteer of the Year award in 2009 from The Oregon State Sheriff’s Association/Jail Command Council.


1. Bob Davidson, “Why Are There More Female Paralegals?”, July 25, 2014, 
2. Id.
3. Id.
4. Email from Daniel Hagel, legal assistant, Dwyer, Potter, Williams et al, Eugene, Oregon, to Charlene Sabini, NALS of Lane County (December 8, 2016, 12:06 p.m., on file with author).
5. Male Paralegal Questionnaire, July 18, 2015, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/male-paralegal-questionnaire-william-sewell 
6. Brian Craig, More Men Finding the Benefits of Working in the Paralegal Profession, July 9, 2012, http://www.globeuniversity.edu/blogs/paralegal-programs/paralegal-more-men-are-making-it-a-career/
7. http://source.southuniversity.edu/paralegal-field-not-just-for-women-23807.aspx, June 2013 

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