A Paralegal’s Struggle: Is the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side of the Fence?

Shetland pony is reaching outside the fence for greener grassThis is a true story about a paralegal who believed working at The Other Firm would solve all her problems. Read on…

Everything would be different — if only I worked at the law firm down the street. I call it The Other Firm…the charming one in the historic building with the fancy letterhead, latest equipment and software, firm-provided BlackBerry and annual paralegal retreats.

I’m sure my life would be totally better there: I’d have lots more fun with my co-workers, bill more hours with that fancy billing software, communicate with everyone by email, and get my toes done at the spa during the paralegal retreat. Because I’d make more money, I’d have a whole new wardrobe, buy a new car and plan a vacation in Jamaica or Belize.

It’s totally understandable why my current job causes my lust for a job at The Other Firm — or so I’ve convinced myself. My current job is too stifling, the pay is a joke, vacation time is nonexistent, and the equipment and software are ancient!

I visited The Other Firm to deliver copies of deposition transcripts. I stared in awe at the huge list of attorneys on their sign. When I stepped inside the office, the furniture was beautiful and the carpet was plush.

Yes, I’m guilty of envy.  I study The Other Firm’s website. I watch for job openings there; I take a virtual tour of their practice areas. Their attorneys have blogs and speak all over the country. They’re always in the news for winning big cases. I dream about the job I could have if I went to work at The (picture-perfect) Other Firm.

Things would be different there. Better. Much better! Right?

From the moment I started my current job, I’ve had plans to move on. I’ve always believed this job is just a place to put in my time until something better comes along. Maybe that’s why I’m always looking over my shoulder at The Other firm!

Even though I know I’m fortunate to have a good job, especially in this economy, I continue to lust after a job at The Other Firm. It just seems so much more exciting with its famous clients and beautiful offices in locations around the country. My situation is chronic; the attraction to The Other Firm never stops!

A few months ago, I hatched a plan to move to The Other Firm. One evening, while I was walking my dog, I ran into a paralegal from The Other Firm. I told her I always wanted to work at The Other Firm and then she said there was an opening in their Estates and Trusts Department. I immediately imagined that new Volvo I’d buy and how I’d look in the new boots I’d seen at Nordstrom’s on my lunch hour.

And then I thought about what moving would really mean.

The truth is, I don’t ever want to work in Estates and Trust Administration. I know nothing about that practice area. What I do know is litigation and I’m one of the best at trial preparation. I’d really miss going to trial.

And I honestly don’t want to have to spend a fortune on a wardrobe. The business casual at my current office really suits me — and my budget. The furniture I’m using right now is just fine and I doubt a slick new desk would have anything to do with doing better work. Most of all, I really don’t like to lie in the sun, so Jamaica would be totally wasted on me.

While I am waxing poetic about snazzy new software and firm-provided BlackBerry, I am ignoring all of the things I love about the job I have: It’s just the right niche for me. There are wonderful colleagues who include me in their lives and challenging work that I truly enjoy, as well as a boss who thinks I’m the best paralegal to come down the pike.

In short, I’m accepted, valued and challenged. 

In my lust for The Other Firm, I’d forgotten this: what’s important about a job is that it’s more than just a job… it’s my home away from home, a place where I feel comfortable, a place where I’m really happy 99% of the time.

It’s the place where I negotiated my first raise. It’s the place where I celebrated passing that difficult certification exam. It’s the place where I’ve fostered friendships. It’s a place where I truly feel safe and secure.

This job is not perfect and I know I may never be cured of “job envy.” I’ll probably continue to watch for openings at The Other Firm but the next time I’m tempted to send my resume, imagining that my life would be better if I worked there, I’m going to remember that while it might look ideal, it may not be all it’s cracked up to be. After all, as some unknown philosopher said,

“If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, you can bet the water bill is higher.”

I’ve learned that when I covet another job, it’s not the job the job I yearn for. It’s a different version of my professional self, my professional life, I want. It’s easy to be tricked into believing my current job is holding me back. To be honest, this job is not stopping me from being anything I want to be. That is totally up to me. I am in control of my future.

For now, I’ve decided to enjoy the job I have and do the best work I can for the people who truly appreciate and value me. Striving for excellence…right where I am…is the noblest goal I can have.


©2016 Vicki Voisin ACP. As The Paralegal Mentor, Vicki delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. She spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals reach their full potential. She is the co-author of The Professional Paralegal: A Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success. Vicki publishes Paralegal Strategies, an e-newsletter for paralegals, and hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network.

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