Saturday, April 23, 2011

Becoming a Lawyer is Career Suicide, Yes. But What About Becoming a Para?

We received this letter and I was hoping someone who knows more about the paralegal industry and getting a paralegal degree could comment and guide this lost lemming:


Hi Angel and Hardknocks,
I came across your 'disenchanted lawyer' blog because I've been looking into starting a Paralegal Certification program this Fall -- career change from being a teacher to a paralegal.  So while I don't have any tips for you about the legal profession, I was hoping I could trouble you with some questions?
For one thing, I'm terrified about putting in the time and money to earn a Paralegal Certificate only to be left unemployed, as this seems to be a huge problem for lots of paralegals and others working in the legal profession.  Why are there so many unemployed paralegals, and why is it so difficult to find a job, and yet at the same time, there are TONS of articles floating around praising the paralegal profession as America's "Top Growing Profession," discussing the supposedly high demand for paralegals?  Are those articles all just bullshit?  Or is it a case where it depends on your location, like some places have a high demand for paralegals while others don't?
Another thing I wondered -- do you think that WHERE you obtain paralegal certification plays a role in obtaining a job?  I'm trying to decide between two ABA approved programs in my area -- one is COD, a community college that just got ABA approved 1 year ago.  It's the cheapest option by far, but I worry that the quality of the classes will be lacking.  
The other option is Loyola University, a private school in Chicago that has been ABA approved for a long time but costs approximately 4 times more than the other program...  My main concern is finding a job afterwards -- if the expensive university will better prepare me for the work, and will guarantee better job opportunities, then the extra tuition is worth it.  But if law firms don't care where you obtain certification, then I should go for the cheaper option.  What do you think?
Thanks so much for any help you can offer, and good luck with your work!
Dearest Para-to-Be,
My guess is that paras are suffering just as much as lawyers because new and unemployed and unemployable lawyers are infiltrating their ranks as well.  That's just a guess.  As for what type of certification?  I don't even know that it's necessary.  I, for one, would rather a college grad who is smart and sharp and will work for pennies.   Don't kill me because I'm honest.  I've actually never had a paralegal work under me that was "trained" as a paralegal--except for one. I hated that bitch.  She knew the CPLR far better than I and held her knowledge hostage like a prison warden.

What do you guys think?  Paralegal v. Teacher v. Lawyer?  What about marrying rich?  Is that option on the table?

42 comments:

  1. I think teachers are respected more, which can remind you that the job is meaningful and fulfilling in spite of the stress of being around butthole children, but both jobs are hard (imagine the stress of being around bitter, disenchanted lawyers!), and positions for either job are not as easy to get as everyone thinks (at least in my state. I don't know about the Chicago area). Smart paralegals will get that question from people a lot: "why didn't you become a lawyer?" Blech. While there is that saying "those who can't do, teach," people generally don't have that attitude toward teachers, who value it as an end in itself. But the respect you get will all be related to where you work, how awful the kids and intervening parents are, etc.

    I'd like to know why this person wants to change career plans from teaching in the first place, and if they already have all their credentials to get to work as one.

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  2. Ask the Poor Paralegal - its a whole blog about this very issue.

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  3. Anything in legal is a festering sewer pipe right now with the exception of 1) those with connections for whom pedigree/where-you-went-to-school doesn't matter, and 2) the elites attending T8 law schools. Everything else is a festering toilet bowl and huge gamble of time, energy and money.

    Gotta go back to school? Get you computer networking/security certifications and do something arguably in demand. Perhaps Nursing? Physician's Assistant?

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  4. A good paralegal is far more in demand than an attorney. Career paras have much better careers than JDs. A para cert will help get your foot in the door, at a fraction of the cost of a JD.

    I say go for it! As a teacher and para cert holder you may also break into sales for a legal tech company. There are many more options for you than most gutter JDs.

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  5. "She was a BITCH...
    She was a PUNK...
    I was RICH...
    I was SKUNK...

    She grabbed my KNOB...
    Corn-on-the COB...
    I drove it HOME...
    Al-CAPONE...."

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  6. Always follow your dreams, and don't let anyone stand in your way.

    But here come Painterguys qualifications:

    If you have to borrow money, AKA: Student Loans, when following the dream of becoming a paralegal, or anything for that matter, be very, very,very,very,very,very,very,very careful.

    I would suggest that you borrow only as much as you can reasonably pay back if disaster strikes and there is Zero employment when you get out for the short or longer term.(You might have to take a menial job to tide you over)

    Otherwise, if you borrow excessively, you are taking a big risk. A HUGE Risk of being tied to the loans for a long, long time.

    If not paid, the Loans are carried for Life with no way out, and they have a strong inclination to grow, and grow, and grow and.....................

    grow.

    Talk to your parents. (Especially your parents.)
    Show them what I am writing here.

    Talk to older people. Lots of them. And lots more people after that. And, most importantly, talk to people from all walks of life, because EVERYBODY has a family member, or a friend, or a client, or someone they know of thru work, the gym, the tennis club, the knitting club, etc etc, that is or was a paralegal, a lawyer, a Dr. or a Teacher. You name it.

    Just start talking about it, and you will be surprised at what you hear.

    Get the word on the streets, and don't take the word of the schools at face value.

    Re Teaching: it was once a poor way to make a living, but during the 90's and later, it seems like Public School Teachers on Long Island did better and better, and now can make over 100K, AND be tenured. A sweet deal, and with about 2 months out of the year off, and a pension to boot! All you gotta do is put in your time, and you get bumped up a pay scale every 6 months or year or couple of years. It is automatic, and your pay goes up, in other words. If you take a few pretty easy exams,or take extra College courses here and there, you get more automatic money from the state again.

    The School system will pay overtime (Time and a half) AND throw you a lot of extra work or hours for more money. (i.e. in the Summer maybe)

    A gym coach in a middle of High School (or both) can teach Phys Ed and Health or sex ed or whatever, and coach a team or two, and he or she will pull in over 100K a year. A Sweet Deal.

    But all that could change for the worse too.

    Once upon a time it was a great idea to go to law School, or Chiropractic school too.

    Times change and the world changes.

    PS--I don't know if any of that helped, and someone else might tell you the exact opposite of what I say.

    Just keep on talking to more people.

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  7. I hope Poor Paralegal drops by this thread. The fact is we are producing far too many people trained for "white collar" jobs.

    The US was rolling ahead after World War II. (This was due largely to the fact that Europe and Japan were bombed to hell.) We had the floor to ourselves. However, this nation started shedding manufacturing jobs in the late 1960s and throughout 1970s.

    This situation has gone futher downhill since 1980. Workers have seen slight increases - or slight decreases - in pay since that time. However consumer spending, i.e. credit card, has gone off the charts. I place much of this blame on selfish pig Boomers, who have inundated the rest of us with abject, rampant materialism.

    Everyone wants to be a doctor, lawyer, investigative journalist, book publisher, etc. Plus, everyone wants a McMansion. I have seen plenty of morons - who have a total annual household income of $35K-$45K - owning $300K homes. These cretins, dolts, dunces, and borderline retards also tend to owe $100K in student debt.

    These waterheads then think, "I better go back to school for my MBA." Yeah, because taking on more toxic debt for a worthless credential, i.e. MBA, JD, MPA, MPP, MS, MA, MFA, MSCW, MSW, Ph.D., is going to bring TONS of decent-paying jobs, right?!?!

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  8. There aren't enough jobs that pay enough to cover any kind of debt load, let alone living expenses anywhere in the country.

    Just look at the BLS figures - salary, workforce, available jobs, it's all online now on the government's sites. And you can basically pick a city at random and see quickly, "The debt will never pay off." I'm so pissed off that they didn't have this a few years ago.

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    Replies
    1. I agree that the loans one needs to take out in order to become a icbc lawyer are really high. But I feel that there are a ton of job opening in most major cities for an excited lawyer. -Surrey

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  9. As someone soon to sit on the interviewing panel for a new paralegal posting and have interviewed prior paralegals, I can honestly say, I never cared about where the paralegal certificate came from. I did look at where the persons undergraduate education was at and how quick they were to learn new things. Another differentiator was where that paralegal previously worked--the bigger the company and espcially those close to my companies business model, the more likley the office legal counsel is convinced such paralegal was more than qualified to do the job. Big law experience for the paralegal was also another extra couple of points given out during the interviewing score.

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  10. [Scene from the movie "Full Metal Jacket"]

    [Enter ARVN officer on a motor scooter carrying a Vietnamese girl on the back]

    ARVN officer to US soldiers: "You want number one fuckie?!"

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  11. @ nando

    TO some extent I agree with you, materialism (not "pig boomers") is the cause of this. And that materialism comes from advertisers, the ones that benefited from having the floor all to themselves. Learning to live with less is not so much hard as it is frustrating.

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  12. I have worked as a paralegal for 12 years and my sister is an elementary school teacher, so here is my take:

    Paralegal: I think the profession has come a long way since I first started out in the late 90's. While you do have some attorneys that have no regard for this profession, I am finding more companies and in-house hiring experienced paralegals over recent law grads. It really all depends on the employer's needs. My biggest complaint in being a paralegal is the pay. I have been doing this for over ten years now and prior to the economic crash, I earned $70K being a manager. I had to take a 30% pay cut with my new job (nope, I am not doing less work either). No matter how hard I work, I will never earn a six figure salary, nor expect to be promoted. I also do not have the option to work for myself either as I am very limited in what I can do independently.

    As far as JDPG's remarks regarding being a teacher, there some half truths to his observations which need to be corrected. For one, those teachers who earn $100K have worked for the same district for at least 15 years. Those six figure salaries quoted are not the norm provided for most school districts, and in most states for that matter. The average annual income teachers earn in NY is $65K. Not bad, but not great either considering you have to have a masters degree to work in public school and that student loan has to be paid off. Unlike law, elementary education and most school districts gladly accept applicants who are graduates from CUNY and State schools (unlike law which is prestige driven). As long as the applicant graduated from a reputable school, has a great GPA, and experience from student teaching, the application process is not as painful as in law. However, job security as a teacher has been greatly challenged during the last decade. Teachers jobs are *always* subject to budget cuts. This year in NY, there is a budget crisis and some school districts have to shed up to 50 to 200 jobs.

    Contrary to JDPG's claims that teachers in LI have it made, I know plenty of teachers in their 40's and 50's that were forced to retire due to their salary. You are also paid for the school year: contrary to popular belief, teachers do not earn a summer salary. Most school districts offer teachers to set aside a portion of their salary for the summer. Summer pay is a non-existent teacher's comp. School districts also do not pay for overtime (I don't know where that came from). Most after school programs and tutoring are done by volunteer (although teaching summer school a teacher is compensated with pay). Tenure also does not guarantee a job for life either. Tenure does help buffer threat of lay-off, only to an extent, but it greatly depends on the number of lay-offs demanded by the municipality or state. Some unions have to renegotiate COLA raises and pensions as well. Teachers also often get thrown under the bus when budget cuts are in order for city workers.

    One other thing: depending on the school district, teachers deal with violence and abusive behavior from kids (and some parents). Teaching is not a fluff job depending greatly where the gig is.

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  13. Let's see.

    Dear Disenchanted Lawyer:

    Here are a few paragraphs describing my situation and my quest for paralegalhood.

    Not knowing who I am or what exactly I want out of my paralegealness, please give me some random advice that may or may not help me.

    This blog needs some original creative work to give it some vitatlity.

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  14. I am a JD turned paralegal. I had to hide my JD to get my job. We are hiring, and a paralegal cert is not required for this job. You just need to be willing to work whenever and take overtime.

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  15. JP, I hear you loud and clear. I haven't been updating as frequently because I've been swamped with my solo shit practice... but it doesn't translate into money. Just survival. Thank Goodness. Hope things slow down soon.

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  16. I have mixed feelings about people not earning a Paralegal Certificate. Although not required, studying law and its procedures certainly cannot hurt and most certificate programs offered cost less than $20K to do. It took me one year to complete my certificate program at NYU when I returned to school part time several years ago. It cost me $15K between books and courses (in 1998 mind you), however $15K is a far cry from six figure debt incurred after three-four years of law school at NYU.

    Aside from lack of opportunities in being promoted and becoming maxed out in salary, I find that attorneys either love or loath paralegals. One scam blogger is even gone as far as stating that paralegals pose a threat to the legal field recently (which I find that comment ridiculous as paralegals cannot work independently). Although I like what I do, I do feel that I am stuck sometimes. If law firms and companies are not hiring, I cannot work and I am greatly limited in what I can do.

    On another note as if this has not been said enough, this field is broken. Only way to repair this field is for the ABA step up and take action in stop accrediting new law schools and strip accreditation from 4T law schools. That would certainly be a step in the right direction.

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  17. My friend Nancy is an investigative journalist with an Ivy league degree who started doing temp para gigs to make some extra cash. She had a great few years - but now [since 2008] despite her Ivy/writing degree and four years at white-shoe behemoth firms there is no work even for someone like her - who once got hired only by the best. work comes in drips and drabs - spend money on a para degree only if you don't have to take out loans and your undergrad college really sucked. Otherwise it's a waste of time. You learn most stuff on the job anyway..

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  18. Angel and Hardknocks,

    I am so glad you posted this because I was actually going to send you an email kinda asking similar question. I've been following your blog for just over a year now. I ended up not going to law school last fall and really glad I made that decision not to go 200,000 or more in debt. I ended up landing a job as a paralegal for a big law firm where I live. I was surprised I even got the job because I had no paralegal experience what so ever. They wanted someone that they could train. Anyways 6 mos later, I got laid off. Luckily I got another job at another law firm, but I'm a file clerk/legal secretary now (mostly just filing) and making significantly less. And its kinda of like a temp to hire position so I don't if I will be hired on fully or not. But I've started to realize that maybe law isn't truly where I want to be or suppose to be. (good thing I didnt go to law school right)

    Before I got the paralegal position, I was thinking of switching careers and going into teaching. Both my parents were teachers. I even got accepted into the Master of Teaching program here. In my state for those who don't have a teaching backgound, you have to go through a teacher preparation program. Its the same with the states that border mine. I'm really considering going back to school. I hate to have to take out student loans again even though compared to a lot of my friends I don't have a lot but still it sucks to have to take on anymore debt esp in this economy. There are a lot of grants/scholarships to help with the cost of education though. Thankfully, my school isn't really expensive (it has gone up since I got my MA almost 4 years ago though) I'm still debating but teaching has been the one thing I keep coming back to and it just feels right to go that direction. I'm currently looking into substituting in my county too.

    As for the para certificate, at one law firm I was at the one paralegal said she thought her certificate was a waste because she learned more working for the firm than she ever did in the program. I dont know if that is typical or not.

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  19. I'm currently a compliance professional at a large corporation and I work in a legal department that is constantly hiring paralegals. From what I can tell, most of them do the same type of work as the attorneys do. Though like one of the other commenters suggested, there really isn't a lot of upward mobility nor salary increases. You start out as a paralegal and perhaps eventually become a "senior" paralegal or become a manager. However, if you really like the work, it is a cheaper option that becoming an attorney. When I was an undergrad, I got my paralegal certficate in conjunction with my bachelors and it certainly hasn't hurt me. Having passed on law school (thank you scam blogs for showing me the light) I can say that there are other ways of advancing in your career other than education. Check out my blog...I'm writing an article about education v. experience as we speak!
    http://allthoughtsconsidered-jseljan.blogspot.com/

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  20. I don't know. The school teachers that I know of on Long Island are doing really well.

    Especially married couples that are both schoolteachers. With new cars and landscapers. I'm dead serious. All summer they are off. All summer, and the question is: Do you want all the money now before summer starts?

    And they go to Spain for 3 or 4 weeks.

    Maybe not all of them, like TMF says, but the ones I know of.

    BTW: What's with the mail order bride thing?

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  21. Folks,

    My mother is a retired teacher, and much of what TMF said is true. Many of the senior teachers who earned good salaries were forced out. If they weren't forced out, they were encouraged to retire early. What they did in my mom's case was change the retiree medical benefits. My mom was going to retire later than she did, but when it became clear that the medical benefits were going to be worse if she waited, she bailed out; she got while the gettin' was good.

    As for the legal business, I'm glad I got a STEM degree; I'm glad I got a practical skill. Between LPOs, Legal Zoom, and the glut of legal professionals, the legal field is NO PLACE to be right now. The gut wrenching upheavals have only just begun...

    MarkyMark

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  22. Marry Rich!! No, but really...I work as a Legal Analyst at a Fortune 150 company which I think can be comparable to a Para and I have little legal experience, but sold myself on my ability to be able to research, utilize my resources within the company to get what's needed, and my extensive knowledge of the products we sell. So I'd agree..not sure if a certificate is needed. Working with our out-side counsel and their para's as well, it seems we are on the same level and I feel confident that if I were ever to move on to possibly work at a firm, my experience here should give me a fair shot.

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  23. In all seriousness, short answer?

    My sense as a practicing lawyer is that it's not career suicide. Just make sure it makes sense financially.

    You just have to want to work and enjoy working as a paralegal, like any other paraprofessional job.

    (On a side note, I just wanted to let Angel know that her site is trying to sell me Sexy Russians.)

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  24. I think that unless you are a public employee employed by the State of California, that all of the above referenced prospects are shit. That being said, my credentials are fairly competitive, up to & including a year's law school. As for which paralegal school to attend? LMAO. That's a no-brainer. You aren't going to find a job as a paralegal when you graduate because (1) all the out of work lawyers are now paralegals, and (2) all the out of work senior paralegals like myself are in line ahead of you. Do yourself a favor and go learn to cut hair, build a brick wall or plumb a toilet. These occupations cannot be outsourced to a 3rd world shit hole and you can be your own boss.

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  25. IndependentLibertarianMay 8, 2011 at 8:45 PM

    Every career field is oversaturated. Every single one. If you are willing to move to Timbukto, you possibly may be able to find a job....but just remember, there is probably a good reason why noone else has jumped on that job. I would not recommend additional education, unless you are sufficiently wealthy enough that you can pay up front. Certainly, don't get additional education thinking it will broaded your job prospects. If you really, really, really hate teaching, or if there is some reason why you would never be hired as a teacher again...that's about the only legitimate reason I can think of to switch careers (although if there is some legal/criminal reason why you can't teach, bear in mind that will certain affect your hiriability as a paralegal.

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  26. First, thank-you for asking people about a para career. Most people just blindly accept the schools employment data, - if they even ask. It is good to see a person asking a person in their prospective field. Most school's data is bias, because they need to fill seats.

    Second, the legal field is saturated. I don't advise anyone take a job in it. Most of my firms tax prep and para work is outsourced. If we have a large case we use temps. We are considering going virtual office. I am considering "of counsel" for other reasons.

    Third, I don't know much about the teaching field. I know in my state you can take four courses and become a substitute teacher. A colleague of mine does this for extra income. His name is on a few districts list. Yes, they do call once in a while. It is $150 a pop 8:00 to 15:00. Not a bad part-time job!

    theyuppieattorney.blogspot.com

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  27. I have been a legal secretary, a paralegal, and am now a lawyer, so I have a bit of advice to give.

    Don't bother with a paralegal certificate. I got one, and became national certified. It was basically useless. In many states, paralegals are considered para-professionals, which allows firms to get away with not paying you overtime. You have billable hours requirements and a salary, just like a lawyer, without the pay or the glory. Truly not worth it, plus, every paralegal I know is laid off.

    What every firm needs, much more than paralegals, is a good secretary. Secretaries are better paid, because they get overtime. There are no billable hours requirements, and you don't have to waste money on a useless degree (other than a bachelor's, and why that's now a requirement is beyond me). Your hours are reasonable, and again, there is always a market for good legal secretaries.

    Hell, I'm working as one now. Yes, I paid six figures for a fancy law degree, passed the bar, because I had a big ego and knew I could do the work of an attorney. And I can. Unfortunately, the market is so oversaturated with attorneys right now, the only jobs I can find are those that offer about $25,000 LESS than I am now making as a secretary, had no benefits, and required me to own a car (I'm in San Francisco, so the jobs I was being offered were the only reason I would need a car and a car payment).

    Is it dull? Yes. Is it depressing? Yes, very much so. But it pays my rent. Bottom line: don't waste money on any type of dgree related to the law. If you want to go work in a law firm, be a legal secretary. After factoring in student loans, it's a much better financial decision than paralegal or lawyer.

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    Replies
    1. Well said. I am an excellent, experienced, independent, and working legal secretary, holding a pretty useless paralegal degree, received because I could see the trend of lawyers replacing secretaries with paralegals. I wondered who would do the work of the traditional legal secretary if we all became paralegals. Now I see they were just trying to cut costs by getting rid of the older, higher-paid skilled legal secretary and replacing with the younger, inexperienced assistant who would willingly work for many attorneys. I think the legal industry is beginning to pay the price for that paradigm shift.

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  28. Trying opting for inexpensive law schools that guarantees or assists graduates in employment placement program.

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  29. If the field is saturated for lawyers, and most believe it is, the natural course of events is that lawyers diverge onto paths of criminality using their immunity shields, or they find other types of work that do not fall within the practice of law. Hence, the multipractioner and the vulnerabilities presented where whether one practices law, or operates as broker is important since immunity for brokerage doesn't exist even for lawyers. Agency is a one-client game, and loyalty matters.

    Because lawyers are hoarders just as many other business pros, unemployed lawyers must "invent" new industries within the practice of law. The first new industry most likely is as consultants to law firms to perform judicial prism analysis because in a democracy objectivity and impartiality is key to justice. Well within the "oversight" functions already sanctioned by Codes of Professional Responsibility, peer review is essential to justice, and helps to cleanse the sytem of the code of omerta that tends to corrupt law. Winning by fraud or corruption is considered dishonest and dishonorable so there is much to be gained by a scrupulous industry of lawyers, all as officers of the court, in theory, to keep courts honest and prevent judicial corruption by lawyers or judges through political favoritism, bribe, or cultural bias.
    The alternative to creating such an industry to monitor lawyer conduct and practice is to become a criminal to win, or to use unsavory tactics which tarnish the law to be subsidized by Big Business as Inside/Insider Counsel, or admit law school was a sham.

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  30. As a lawyer, I would answer that I no longer use paralegals because my computer does the job for me. I say go to law school and skip the middle ground.

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  31. I think you guys should check out www.formvote.com , it's pretty cool.

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  32. So there are a few ways that would shorten your term in law school requirements.
    Attorney Macon

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  33. Thanks! This post contains very significant ideas and facts that every reader should be followed. Great idea indeed
    Macon Lawyers

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  34. According to U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, there's an 18% of occupational growth in Paralegal and Legal Assistant field, and I believe statistics don't lie. Getting the certification matters but as to where is not that much. Just make sure that the paralegal training school has the faculty and staff that are committed in helping you find a job. The institution should also be able to tell you the percentage of their graduates who took the certification exam and their job placement rates.

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  35. From my opinion, this is maybe about the supply and demand of paralegals and lawyers. Yes, there are articles in the web but none of them can be universally true for all of the time, that is why, there are unemployed paralegals or lawyers. I suggest, balance well, and select schools that are inexpensive but offers high quality paralegal programs.

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  36. Three of the most important determinants that influence a paralegal’s salary are work experience, type of employer and geographic location. Employers assess the pay of their paralegals through the expertise that one has in his or her chosen discipline. If one needs less supervision to complete his or her task, then his or her value to the company will relatively increase. Paralegal Wage

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  37. @ Peyton

    Although I think maybe you're being a bit negative and absolute in your statement, I agree with what you have said. The same has happened to journalists and newspapers. Anyone looking to be a journalist in today's world has to compete against a thousand other journalists that have been laid off with more experience and who are having to take a pay cut in order to keep their jobs. The young journalist fresh out of school had better be ready to be cut-throat and willing to do whatever it takes to stick out of the crowd.

    Best of luck to you though and I would recommend that if you are going to try and start your own practice, take some business classes.

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  38. Hi! Not an enthusiast in the paralegal industry but becoming a lawyer offers somewhat the same opportunities with a paralegal. Go for the option that suits the budget and career goals.

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  39. What about freelance paralegal? The medical industry, hospitals in particular normally freelance many of the services, even the doctors, and the doctors love it.

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    1. I have a B.A. in a social science and a Para Certificate from Penn State I worked about 18 years in the field. I broke into the Medical Malpractice area after many years at IBM. At law firms, I worked for big, well respected firms and made a pretty decent living and generally loved my work. Until - I got really sick and had to stop working. Before having to give it up entirely, I tried freelancing. It doesn't work for most people because of the nature of the work itself and the way the lawyers work. Lawyers cannot BEAR to let you take files out of the office for longer than overnight or a weekend. You can't freelance without the files. Also, the lawyers I served, especially the head honcho managing partners, needed me there with them to locate information and find stuff for them when they needed it. My boss could ask "where did you see that?" or "find this obscure item of information in that haystack," and I could do so quickly. That required being there in the office with them, where I also took conference calls with them and our clients or attended proceedings with them to assist. Now - here's my two cents about the profession: I loved it insofar as the work itself. I love research and analyzing data. The negatives: lawyers are often crazy people. The other negative is that this is a dead end profession if you stay in law firms. When I had to quit because of my health, I was just two classes short of earning the professional certification for Claims adjusting, as I was going to move over into the insurance field so I could make more money. Money can be made as a Para, but it's not at the firms. I really miss the work. One So, there is much satisfaction in the job, but it can be very, very hard due to office politics, half-assed salaries, no ability to move up and insane, insecure lawyers, although I did absolutely adore some of the lawyers and staffers I worked with at firms. As for education - at least in my area of a Mid-Atlantic state, you couldn't even get an interview without a B.A. in Paralegal Studies or in something else WITH a Paralegal Certificate. I saw them try every once in a while to place legal secretaries, who had no higher education other than secretarial school, into a Para job (to save money), but at least in Medical Malpractice, they failed miserably. It's not a specialty for the ill-prepared or people unaccustomed to high level research and analysis of difficult material. I had to be able to speak to some of the best doctors in the country and speak their language. The advice I see here about how one doesn't need a Paralegal Certificate or degree is ridiculous. You need a Bachelor's degree AND Paralegal training, unless you want to work in East Podunk for $20,000 a year. If you can't the necessary education for this, then do what the other poster suggested and go for Legal Secretary instead. Firms always need good and smart ones.

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