Paralegals are master researchers; they’re the brains behind every winning attorney and every happy real estate closing. Whether or not your name goes on the brilliant document you drafted after hours of painstaking research, you know your work makes a real difference to your clients.
However, just like the profession of real estate paralegal comes with the excitement of knowing you contributed to a major real estate deal, or the challenge of managing communications between multiple parties with looming deadlines, it also comes with some struggles every paralegal knows. Whether you’re moderating an angry attorney and pushy lender, working long hours on tedious research and data entry, or wondering how to advance in your paralegal career, these are four struggles all real estate paralegals share — and some solutions to help you manage them!
1. Paralegals are moderators and referees
Real estate paralegals are expert moderators and jugglers. With multiple deadlines, rapid turnaround times, and high financial stakes, it’s no exaggeration to say that your client’s very future is on the line. At the end of the day, it’s your job to ensure it all closes on time so people can get the keys to their new house.
Paralegals manage every party involved in closing a house, from the lender to the realtor to the attorney to the buyer. As the primary contact, paralegals may often find themselves managing angry lenders, urgent realtors rushing paperwork, and stressed out attorneys blaming you for missed deadlines that were totally outside your control. If the lender and realtor argue, you’re in the middle of it, communicating messages between the two and trying to keep everything on track for closing.
Solution: Organizational Software like Google Docs and Updating Technology
Sometimes it may feel like herding cats, trying to satisfy the realtor, lender, attorney, and buyer. One paralegal suggests creating a central hub, accessible by all involved parties, where all the completed documents are stored. That way, sending documents or checking deadlines is as simple as a button tap — for everyone!
Unfortunately, many law offices still utilize antiquated processes and technology–traditions from an older era of classic attorneys. However, old tech like fax machines, copiers, and file systems can really slow down communication. A lot of modern companies have gone digital. Updating processes to include new software may seem daunting, but it increase efficiency, decrease the amount of tedious and repetitive data entry, and even help everyone communicate more clearly.
Several kinds of real estate software for paralegals on the market can help manage documents, communication, and tasks to make your life a little simpler. But honestly, Google Docs is a really great, free solution to keep all your documents organized. Everyone on the team can access and edit them as-needed, and you can send them as a simple link through email, rather than having to send a bunch of attachments.
Another great tool is Tryon Express, a web portal created by Tryon Express, where you can key the title information once and never have to type it again. These kinds of organizational shortcuts help keep everyone connected so you don’t have to communicate the same message three or four different times.
2. Paralegals need a thick skin
When asked what advice he’d give a new paralegal, one real estate paralegal responded, “I’d tell them you need a thick skin.”
Everyone around you is stressed. Attorneys have stressful jobs. Lenders are under more pressure than ever with the TRID implementation crunching their deadlines. Realtors are anxious to make the sale. All this stress trickles down to the paralegals.
Then, under all that pressure, you still need to crank out 25 closings in a day, meticulously researching and inputting data without any mistakes. On top of that, you’re tired from working over 40 hours this week.
Oh, and because of Unauthorized Practice of Law, you can’t put your name on any of your brilliant work or get any credit for your effort.
Solution: Process and Roles Document
When you start your job in a new firm, set up processes, procedures, and roles.
If the realtor forgets to attach a document, and asks you to fill it out for them real quick — don’t. Don’t do their job for them. Don’t do anybody else’s job. You already have a job, and it’s a hectic one!
The easiest way to accomplish this without stepping on anybody’s toes is to agree on processes and roles beforehand. A real estate law office is already a chaotic place, but it’s way more chaotic when nobody knows exactly what their role is. Create a process and roles document so everyone knows their tasks and refer to it whenever there’s a question.
3. Paralegals cope with burnout from long hours
In many industries, 40-hour weeks are standard; however, paralegals often go above and beyond the typical work week. Here’s a scenario every real estate paralegal is painfully familiar with — it’s after 5pm, and the attorney has gone home, but you’re waiting in the office for a fax from the title company so you can forward it along. How long will it take? You wish you knew, but you can’t leave the office until you get this critical paperwork sent. Take another sip of cold coffee and wait by the fax machine, while the rest of the world drives home for dinner.
Solution: Find Partner Companies with Rapid Turnaround and Late Hours
One former real estate paralegal from North Carolina suggested taking a “break” with one of the lower-stress paralegal positions. “I went to work for a gentleman who bought foreclosure, so I was able to just do title searches from home. That was a lot more relaxing because I didn’t have to referee the entire team of real estate workers.”
When taking a vacation or trading for a more easy-going job isn’t an option, it’s worth noting there are resources to assist stressed out real estate paralegals. There are some title insurance companies with extended hours, so at least you know the underwriters are working as late as you are! If you find the right company, you can be assured they’ll turn that title paperwork around in as little as 15 minutes, even after 7pm. Plus, some title insurance companies have software to minimize all the extra tedious data entry, sparing you even more time and frustration.
4. Paralegals have little upward mobility
While a real estate paralegal’s salary is usually quite decent and livable, the unfortunate truth is that paralegals often find themselves with little room for salary raises, promotions, and general upward mobility.
Attorneys aren’t always very generous with their money; depending on the kind of attorney you work for, you may be stuck with the same pay for years. Some paralegals aspire to become lawyers, but the job scope is actually very different. Paralegals are primarily research professionals, not necessarily courtroom savvy or charismatic enough to be a lawyer.
Solution: Paralegal Licensure Standards and a National Organization for Paralegals
According to The Paralegal Society, the lack of licensing standards for paralegal education is a major reason paralegals often struggle to prove their value and transform that value into financial gain and raises. Likewise, many paralegals say they feel a lack of respect in their firm; having a license program would help standardize and legitimize the profession, including pay.
The first step, they say, is to form a National Organization for paralegals. From there, these licensing standards could be set. A similar format was used to the great benefit of the nursing profession, which has grown tremendously from having a national standard for licensure.
Until then, some paralegals suggest working at larger firms, where there is greater room for advancement into management. Also, some real estate paralegals transition into lateral roles, such as working for real estate companies or title insurance companies, in order to escape the paralegal glass ceiling.
Tryon Title: Our NC Title Insurance Agents Want to Help Paralegals
The underwriters and experts at Tryon Title have worked in real estate for years — some even come from backgrounds as real estate paralegals! That’s part of why we’re so passionate about providing resources to help make life easier for North Carolina real estate paralegals. We provide a list of downloadable NC Title Forms for your convenience. And since we know you’re working late, we work until 8pm and provide rapid turnaround times to make sure you get home as soon as possible. Give us a call at 919-277-0123 to see how we can improve your efficiency, decrease your stress, and provide an online portal to organize all your title documents.