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Susan1
04-14-2012, 06:40 PM
Hi to all my favorite know-it-alls (said with absolute LOVE):

Can't find a good answer to this anywhere -

My cousin has worked as a legal secretary for the same firm for over 30 years. She started as a co-op student, worked full time after she graduated, went back to part time when her son was born, has been working 30 hours/wk. for the past few years. Only one attorney is the same as the day she started. Many have come and gone and branched off to other firms, etc. I couldn't even tell you how many other secretaries have been through there - retiring, switching to other law firms, coming back, full time, part time, etc. And, guess what, the first partner retired, the other attorneys went elsewhere and she is out of a job for the first time in her life.

What in the world is she supposed to do for a resume? Loyalty is one good thing, but with all the other legal secretaries out there getting better paying positions, or more interesting work, how can she explain that she stayed there all these years. And actually it is because she was afraid to go anywhere else because they might expect her to learn something more than what she was used to.

She has to apply for jobs to get unemployment. So far she is just calling places asking if they have any openings. But she is going to have to send resumes now. That would be the shortest resume in history, unless she listed each name change (i.e) -
Smith, Jones and Hill
Smith, Hill, Baker and Johnson
Hill, Baker, Johnson
Baker, Johnson, Miller and Smith
ha ha ha

Any ideas?

pixie cut
04-14-2012, 06:47 PM
Any ideas?

First of all, resumes don't just list the names of employers. They list the job duties performed. Surely, she can fill a page with details of what her job entailed.

Contact a resume writing service. Monster.com has a variety of services. If that's too pricey, search around.

Lastly, if she wants to work she better get her rear in gear and be open to change.

PYHILL
04-14-2012, 09:16 PM
I have been in human resources for almost 20 years. For someone like your cousin, I would only expect a one page resume - the length of time at her last job explains it all. Just like Pixie Cut said, the resume should focus on her skills and accomplishments - it should be no problem to fill a page.

In regards to calling places and sending resumes - most companies will tell her to apply online and will through out any resumes received via mail. Due to employment laws, these resumes are considered unsolicited and unless an employer wanyd to document every unsolicited resume, they will throw out to ensure they are only tracking what they need to for applicants.

I wish her luck!

Susan1
04-14-2012, 10:29 PM
First of all, resumes don't just list the names of employers. They list the job duties performed. Surely, she can fill a page with details of what her job entailed.

Contact a resume writing service. Monster.com has a variety of services. If that's too pricey, search around.

Lastly, if she wants to work she better get her rear in gear and be open to change.

Well, not to speak ill of someone I have loved like a sister all my life, but all she has ever done is machine transcription using Word Perfect (and the good ol' IBM Selectric before that, of course!!!). She also orders office supplies. She has never used any other kind of software. Learning email was a giant step, and she can search for things on the internet. There have been other secretaries in the office who did the payroll and stuff. The one time they wanted her to learn Quicken to do the bills while one was going to be out for 2 weeks, she ended up in tears because they called her a dumb blonde!!!

She's not dumb or lazy. I don't know what it is. She doesn't want to learn anything new or have a new work experiences. She was settled in for 32 years. They only ever moved to different office buildings twice in all that time. She liked this last attorney because he told her exactly what to do and she did it. And did it well, of course.

Back in the days of typewriters (anybody here remember them?) she typed so fast during the dreaded typing tests, she would have to turn her paper over and start typing on the back. With no errors. She always got straight A's in school because she studied really hard. And she even told me back when we were in school that if she was asked to write a one page report, she would write a two page report and get an A for her extra effort.

She really has no other skills or accomplishments or duties besides transcribing. Which is why she is dreading having to come up with a resume, huh! Uh, one page? More like one sentence!

mikey
04-14-2012, 10:33 PM
It sounds like there isn't much she can do. Her lack of ambition has made her unemployable, since the field around her moved on without her.

Prancer
04-14-2012, 10:37 PM
Well, not to speak ill of someone I have loved like a sister all my life, but all she has ever done is machine transcription using Word Perfect (and the good ol' IBM Selectric before that, of course!!!).

If she's been a legal secretary all this time, she should have some knowledge and skills of basic legal work. She should list the types of legal work she is familiar with--probate, real estate, employee benefits, etc.--and what she knows how to do in those areas. A good legal secretary can do a lot of basic legal work; those are valuable skills.

I have another suggestion, but I'll PM that one to you :).

Susan1
04-14-2012, 10:40 PM
I have been in human resources for almost 20 years. For someone like your cousin, I would only expect a one page resume - the length of time at her last job explains it all. Just like Pixie Cut said, the resume should focus on her skills and accomplishments - it should be no problem to fill a page.

In regards to calling places and sending resumes - most companies will tell her to apply online and will through out any resumes received via mail. Due to employment laws, these resumes are considered unsolicited and unless an employer wanyd to document every unsolicited resume, they will throw out to ensure they are only tracking what they need to for applicants.

I wish her luck!

Above is what I have told her, but for some reason, legal secretaries seem to do it differently. They call legal secretaries they used to work with in other firms and let them know if they or someone else is leaving or if they are looking to switch jobs themselves. I've never heard of so much job hopping as my cousin's legal secretary friends. Even my ex's daughter would work at one law firm for 6 months to a year and then apply for a job somewhere else. If she didn't like the new job, she'd just go somewhere else. (This was 10 years ago. I know that can't be the case now with so many people out of work. However, law firms do seem to only hire someone with legal secretarial experience, so I guess the only place they would get them is from another law firm, and that person leaving would have to be replaced, etc. etc.)

I've never known of any law firms that offer benefits, or much in the way of vacation/sick, etc. It must have to do with the turnover. But then, this is Dayton, Ohio, not Chicago, LA or New York here.

I know - she's up a creek!

Prancer
04-14-2012, 10:47 PM
I've never known of any law firms that offer benefits, or much in the way of vacation/sick, etc. It must have to do with the turnover. But then, this is Dayton, Ohio, not Chicago, LA or New York here.

A lot of the smaller firms hire all staff as personal contractors, but the big firms offer benefits and vacation and all that. Your cousin, however, would not be qualified to work for one of them based on what you have said, because they require very high-level skills.

pixie cut
04-14-2012, 11:22 PM
It sounds like there isn't much she can do. Her lack of ambition has made her unemployable, since the field around her moved on without her.

That sounds sad but true. Like someone who refused to learn how to use a computer. Time has moved forward and the job market has evolved. Keep up or lose out.

Still, she must have some skills, so it's imperative she contact a resume writing service. They'll pull it out of her.

In the end, she may have to try and get work at transcription services. That's always a viable skill.

ArtisticFan
04-14-2012, 11:42 PM
I know that here in Georgia there are employment firms that specialize in legal secretaries, paralegals, and legal assistants. It might be worth looking into, as my friends who work in the field swear by this service.

As for her resume, she might want to look at some of the other styles than chronological. Focusing on the skills that she does possess would take the attention away from a lack of variety. I've also seen some resumes of people who have worked in the same company for 20-30 years and they arrange it by position with the the most recent first.

Legal Secretary
Name of the Company and Dates
Description of responsibilities.

Receptionist
Name of the Company and Dates
Description of responsibilities.

Intern
Name of the Company and Dates
Description of responsibilities.

Japanfan
04-15-2012, 10:45 AM
A fast typing speed and transcription abilities are valuable and transferable skill. She could apply to other law firms to do the same.

Or, she could do transcription on her own - there is always a need for someone to transcribe.

Once she gets working or gets a job, it might be a good idea to take a course to upgrade her skills and qualifications. That is if she wants - maybe all she wants to do is transcribe, and she can probably do that.

Susan1
04-15-2012, 04:40 PM
A fast typing speed and transcription abilities are valuable and transferable skill. She could apply to other law firms to do the same.

Or, she could do transcription on her own - there is always a need for someone to transcribe.

Once she gets working or gets a job, it might be a good idea to take a course to upgrade her skills and qualifications. That is if she wants - maybe all she wants to do is transcribe, and she can probably do that.

Hi, yeah, her idea is to get another job at another law firm where she knows a secretary she used to work with. I like the idea of doing transcription from home though. They let her take her computer and transcription equipment when they closed the office. But I don't think that would pay enough.

Someone else mentioned firms that place legal secretaries. We have the Dayton Bar Association that does that.

My original question was how to write a resume when you only have one job for 32 years. I guess it was a stupid question because there is no answer when all you have done for 32 years is type legal documents. She never wanted to learn anything else (like become a paralegal or to do the firm's books). She just wants to work the hours she wants to work, get paid what she was getting paid, and then go home.

She went to the joint vocational school back in high school for the legal secretary program and that was it. She got the job as a co-op student and has been there ever since. I'm sure she expected to work there till she died or was old enough to retire. What's the saying about being comfortable in your cage?

And now they've got a son who is a freshman in college and they need the money to keep coming in. But she doesn't want to have to start over at a new job. And she definitely would not go back to school at this late date when all she wants to do is keep doing what she did for 32 years.

This has turned into a soap opera/snark session (on my part). It's been fun discussing someone else's problem for awhile, where I don't have to be the "encouraging cousin". :-)

Matryeshka
04-15-2012, 05:41 PM
To me personally, there's a lot to recommend a person that's held down one job for 32 years. She's loyal. She's stable. She's a team player and takes direction well. She's a steady worker. She can roll with the punches. Law is not a sentimental business; to have survived that long in the same office, she's tougher than she gives herself credit for being. Even though she doesn't learn new technology well, I'll bet her adaptation skills are higher than she's been given credit for--you don't get through that many name changes/partner changes at a law firm without being able to compromise/get along/adapt.

While some of it could be they're tailoring the ad for a specific person, I've seen plenty of "help wanted" ads for legal secretaries that require 10, 15, 20 years experience in a given field of law. They type of law practice should be noted. Especially if it was insurance or real estate, that experience could translate into a wide variety of job opportunities.

pixie cut
04-15-2012, 06:13 PM
My original question was how to write a resume when you only have one job for 32 years. I guess it was a stupid question because there is no answer when all you have done for 32 years is type legal documents.

I think you're projecting your opinion onto it a bit.

I'll repeat, go to a decent resume writing service. Those services are familiar with all sorts of situations.

Doing transcription work can be lucrative if she's good at it. Doctors are always paying people to type up their notes.

Step 1. Apply for unemployment.
Step 2. Get the resume done.
Step 3. Call around to her fellow legal secretaries for job openings.
Step 4. See if the unemployment office offers any counseling. Depending on the size of the community she lives in, that office might actually offer some decent support in terms of advice and placement.
Step 5. Investigate transcription services.

agalisgv
04-15-2012, 06:13 PM
To me personally, there's a lot to recommend a person that's held down one job for 32 years. She's loyal. She's stable. She's a team player and takes direction well. She's a steady worker. She can roll with the punches. I think the problem is in the current labor market, things like being a steady worker is more of an expectation than a qualification. Many others are steady workers too, but they have far more skill sets to offer an employer beyond that. Being a steady worker may be ok for a college student doing an internship where not a lot of skill sets are presupposed, but for someone with 30+ years experience? The expectations are going to be higher.

And that's generally why employers ask for someone with 10+ years of experience--they want someone with multiple skill sets rather than entry level qualifications. But it doesn't sound like this woman has that.

It's harsh to say, but during the past recession, it was these kinds of workers who got cut first. They were competent, but that's it. In a regular economy, it was hard to find a reason to fire them because they had been at the company so long, but they weren't all that productive. The recession gave companies the excuse to cut these workers, and they have had a very hard time finding work in the present economy because they were basically punching in the card before and not much more. Employers aren't looking for that.

Anyhow, I figure this is like anything else--if she really wants a job and needs the money, she'll do the work to get it. She knows she has limited skill sets, and she knows where to go to learn more to expand her qualifications. She'll either do that or not. Considering she has not pursued past work that would have paid more in order to stay comfortable, and considering she was only working part-time as it is, I don't know that her income is all that essential. Her son has left for school, so conceivably it would be an option for the son to take out loans rather than have his parents pay whatever. My guess would be she'll go through the motions of looking for another job, but if something doesn't land in her lap, she'll just retire early after her unemployment runs out (based on what's been described).
Doing transcription work can be lucrative if she's good at it. Doctors are always paying people to type up their notes. Generally one has specialized training to do medical transcription.