Paralegal Certificate while I put law school on hold?

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Think_lax86
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Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2010 4:28 pm

Paralegal Certificate while I put law school on hold?

Postby Think_lax86 » Wed Apr 21, 2010 11:36 am

So this year will be my second year out of undergrad and I still am having a hard time committing to actually going to law school. I feel like every article I read, every person I talk to, and every news story I watch sends me very opinionated and negative information about law school and the legal market. I had every intention of attending law school this coming fall, and actually took the LSAT and got accepted already, but I think deferring might be in my best interests. Due to the state of the economy and certain family issues, I don't think it would be fiscally responsible for me to drop $100,000+ on an education that I am still having trouble calculating the rate of return I will be getting on this investment. I plan on getting into environmental legal work which wont pay the big bills but I am researching different LRAPs and government LRAPs to see if it might work out in the end.

What I wanted to try and figure out is, there is a paralegal certificate being offered at a local community college near me that I could receive while working full time and going to class at night. One of the things about the certificate program is that you do an internship with a law firm/DA/etc. I even spoke with the head of the department and she had mentioned that students that have done it before felt the things they learned in the cert. program helped them when they were in law school. I'm trying to figure out if this will be worth it or if I should just devote my time to studying to take the LSAT again in hopes of getting a higher scholarship for an increased score.

Any advice on the topic would be much appreciated. Thank you.

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Bert
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Re: Paralegal Certificate while I put law school on hold?

Postby Bert » Wed Apr 21, 2010 12:04 pm

I am a paralegal in NYC heading to law school this fall. I do believe that being a paralegal has strengthened my decision to go to law school and has helped me ensure I have options when I get out. That being said, I feel that a paralegal certificate is a waste of time and money as it is not required in all states to become a paralegal. I kind of feel that people who have a paralegal certificate tend to be viewed more as more "career paralegals" and getting your paralegal certificate while taking another year off between undergrad and law school might not be the best option.

As for your conversation with the head of the department, she is going to tell you anything you want to hear so she can get your check for the program, so take anything she says with a grain of sale. FWIW, some people claim that pre-law school programs like lawpreview helped them while they were in law school, but others claim that it is a waste of time and money. I really don't see how a paralegal program would be much better.

JOThompson
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Re: Paralegal Certificate while I put law school on hold?

Postby JOThompson » Wed Apr 21, 2010 12:09 pm

From what a I hear, paralegal work doesn't give you an accurate sense of what it is like to be an attorney. It's not worth the opportunity cost IMO. You would be far better served by retaking the LSAT.

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Kiersten1985
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Re: Paralegal Certificate while I put law school on hold?

Postby Kiersten1985 » Wed Apr 21, 2010 12:15 pm

I'm a BigLaw paralegal in NYC and it absolutely gives you a sense of what it is to be an attorney. You work with them all day and many times share the same hours.

In response to your initial question re: a certificate. Don't do it. It's completely unnecessary if you have a college degree already. Just apply directly to the firms - you can usually find a section for Legal Assistants under the Employment section of the firm's website.

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Bert
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Re: Paralegal Certificate while I put law school on hold?

Postby Bert » Wed Apr 21, 2010 12:17 pm

JOThompson wrote:From what a I hear, paralegal work doesn't give you an accurate sense of what it is like to be an attorney.


I disagree. Being a paralegal can actually be quite rewarding and can actually give you a very good idea of what it would be like to be an attorney. That being said, if you only planned to be a paralegal for a gap year, you would be wasting your time and wouldn't really get anything out of the time spent as a paralegal.

JOThompson
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Joined: Sun Aug 02, 2009 3:16 am

Re: Paralegal Certificate while I put law school on hold?

Postby JOThompson » Wed Apr 21, 2010 12:19 pm

I'll defer to your personal experiences as paralegals. My info was based on a couple law admissions books, but I doubt the writers were paralegals :P

ughOSU
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Re: Paralegal Certificate while I put law school on hold?

Postby ughOSU » Wed Apr 21, 2010 1:21 pm

I second Bert and Kiersten, although the amount of responsibility you get as a paralegal varies greatly depending on the firm you go to and how competent you are. Some paralegal jobs are mainly administrative, but some basically have you doing legal work that attorneys sign off on. It all depends.

Yea paralegal certificates are unnecessary unless you're considering it as a career. The certificate and internship seems like an expensive way to get a foot in the door, and even then I feel like it would be a waste of time if you're going to law school right afterward. It also comes off to me as desperate. I would recommend working full time and studying for the LSAT full time.

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mikeytwoshoes
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Re: Paralegal Certificate while I put law school on hold?

Postby mikeytwoshoes » Wed Apr 21, 2010 7:10 pm

This could be the most gunner-ish 0L prep ever.

keg411
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Re: Paralegal Certificate while I put law school on hold?

Postby keg411 » Thu Apr 22, 2010 1:05 pm

I did a Paralegal Certificate program and I'd say it's only a good idea if you already have a job, are considering a career change, and aren't sure if you are interested in law or not (which was my reasoning; I didn't want to go out and quit my job for something I didn't know if I wanted to do or not; ended up loving the subject matter, did EXTREMELY well, and... here I am). If it's not incredibly expensive, it's not a horrid idea -- but as someone just getting out of undergrad, you are better off trying to get a job as a paralegal rather than going through a certificate program.

Most of the people in my program were currently paralegals or legal secretaries who had employers that mandated they go to the program (the employers also paid for it); though there were certainly career change people as well.

ETA: Have no idea if it will help in law school, but I have my doubts.




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