Dedicated to the progress and advancement of all paralegals.

10 Red Hot Flags Not to Take that Job By Chere B. Estrin

26 Sep 2023 11:11 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

I once took a job in an AmLaw (top firms in the country) firm. Boy, was I excited! A big bump in salary; great title; opportunity to grow; the works. And then – I knew within 3 days that I had made a huge mistake. Huge. There was no question - this was going to be a “crying in the shower every morning” adventure.

I had been recruited away from my previous firm, a well-known entertainment law firm. A top partner and the Director of Administration took me to lunch and told me of their hopes, wants, dreams and desires. I was so excited about the prospect that, when I look back on it, I never looked at the red flags. You know that old cliché – “once burned”…….

As a candidate, you can ask all the questions possible. However, red flags are often in the nuances or the answers that you don’t get. If you have taken a position that was right for you every single time, you must be doing something right. Either that, or hitting fantastic, transparent firms.

Here are 10 of the hottest red flags you don’t want to miss during the interview:

1. Billable hours are not specified.

Somehow, you failed to get information about a minimum number of billable hours or the firm skirted around the issue. Furthermore, the firm was not clear as to whether the minimum is a minimum or a mandatory goal or if you are penalized if you don’t go well beyond that number.

2. Overtime is implied but vague.

Answers such as “overtime from time-to-time” are not answers. You need to know if you are going to be working every New Years Eve and whether the amount of overtime is within your realm of reality. In these firms, quite frequently, once you get in, you find out your co-workers shame you if you leave after 8 hours every day.

3. Work weekends for free.

Some firms expect you to be available 24/7. They expect that you will answer emails or take calls on weekends or your days off without pay. Bear in mind that only managers and attorneys are exempt from overtime. If you are a paralegal, legal assistant or legal professional without a manager title, you must be paid overtime, even if it’s only for 15 minutes.

4. Overpromising.

Perks are a way for firms to make an offer more attractive on top of the base pay. And, yet, when a firm is overly eager to agree to any of your requests, that might be a red flag. If it seems like they are overpromising you, most likely they are. In this tight candidate market, firms appear very willing to relax some of their prior hiring criteria. If they overpromise to you, they will overpromise to clients, and then you get overworked. Not a pretty picture.

5. The firm concentrates on your advancement opportunities.

While almost everyone wants to advance, an interview concentrating on where you can go as opposed to the job at hand, causes a full-fledged red alert. This is generally a sign that the job you are applying for is a) beneath your capabilities b) not so exciting c) you are not a fit.

6. You don’t really find out why the position is open and how many people preceded you or in what time span.

No firm likes to highlight continuous turnover in a role or even in the firm. There’s always some excuse. If you don’t get the answer in the interview, get on Glassdoor, and check out the reviews from current and past employees. That’s usually a good indicator of what’s really going on. The firm will claim “disgruntled employees” but really, how many “disgruntled employees” can you have?

7. You will be wearing several hats or working for many attorneys/supervisors or carry a very heavy caseload.

New hires want to show they can handle new challenges and responsibilities. However, a definite red flag is the phrase: “You’ll be wearing many hats.” Over time, it’s likely you will be given the work of many but paid for one. Additionally, the firm is all over the place with their expectations. This is like taking a bow and arrow trying to aim for the target but each time you pull the bow back, the target moves.

8. You are applying for the interviewer’s job.

While interviewers certainly leave, you need to find out the real reason this person is leaving and most times, that’s practically impossible. “Moving on for greater challenges” may mean the job won’t be challenging for you. “Got recruited away” may mean they were open to new positions and the question is, “why?” Make sure that you interview with a team as the real reason might pop up. This can affect your decision making to move forward. Google the firm and be sure to check Glassdoor.

9. No written job descriptions.

When you hear things such as “just need a good trial lawyer or paralegal” or “typical legal assistant responsibilities”, a red flag should go up immediately. You have no idea what that

firm’s idea of “typical responsibilities” are nor the nuances of the job. If you can’t get a job description, check LinkedIn for present or former employees that had the position and see what the expectations are.

10. Your gut tells you no, but your head says, “Take the job, another one might not come my way”.

Your gut is often underestimated. Gut reactions are not mysteries or come out of nowhere. There are studies that show the gut and brain are connected. Gut reactions are based upon past experiences, even if you can’t bring up the exact experience. If you are not hearing what you need to hear, go back and ask more questions and satisfy yourself that your gut reaction is correct. There’s really no way of knowing for sure. However, you don’t want to cry in the shower every morning because you neglected to get all the information you possibly could. This is a candidate tight market and there are approximately 4-5 jobs for every candidate. The trick is to pick the right one for the right reasons.

Choosing the right job can be stimulating, rewarding and motivating. You aren’t always going to get all the answers all the time. However, you are in the legal field! Investigation, fact finding, and deep diving are all part of any legal professionals’ skills. Put those excellent talents to work and get the job of your hopes, wants, dreams and desires.

Chere Estrin is CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing along with her pivotal roles within the medical records and deposition summarizing divisions - MediSums and DepoSums.

She is President and co-founding member of the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP), a legal technology training organization. Chere has held executive positions within AmLaw firms, litigation support companies, and as Senior Vice President of the legal staffing division within a $5 billion publicly held corporation. She is acknowledged as One of the Top 50 Women Leaders in Los Angeles and recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Chamber of Commerce “Women of Achievement” award.

Chere’s expertise has been sought after by The Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, CBS News, ALM, Law360, LA Times, Newsweek and numerous other media. Along with being a national speaker, she has penned 10 influential books centered around legal careers along with her award-winning blog, The Estrin Report. To connect with Chere, reach out at

ContactJoinPrivacy PolicyTerms of Use • © New York City Paralegal Association Inc.
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software