wojo96 wrote: Blind speculation: there is no need to get defensive about your job.
Not blind speculation. There is a thread about what kind of work experience NU likes, and someone mentioned that they specifically don't like paralegals. This was raised as potentially false, and some NU kids came and said that while someone in the administration did say that once, that it was by no means accurate and that about 75% of the people with work experience came from the legal industry. The thread is around.
wojo96 wrote: the competitive nature of the application process establishes that you’ve been professionally vetted
Are you insinuating that getting a paralegal position at Wachtell, S&C, Cravath etc. is not competitive? It's certainly not like going through a consulting job application process (in that there aren't case studies and day long interviews), but these firms often have absurd qualification standards (such as only Ivy league grads with 3.5+ gpa's can apply. this is not made up). I'm not saying that makes them as good, I personally think some of the required qualifications are complete jokes, and a full day case study interview is probably a lot more accurate as a vetting procedure, but no one is going to look at a V5-20 paralegal and say they weren't a competitive job applicant.
You are correct that the popularity of these jobs for OLs makes it harder to distinguish yourself, but keep in mind that the vast majority of applicants don't have WE at all. Also, which would you prefer, a job that helps you get into a good law school, or a job that helps you get a good SA position? They're often not the same thing. Adcomms will think you're 'different' and 'competitive' cause you were in the finance department at Pfizer, but the judge you're trying to clerk for or the associates in the litigation dept at any V100 won't find it relevant, and will likely ask tough questions about it.
I'm just saying, really, not to discount one or the other based on assumptions. You have to weigh your options and consider your goals.