What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

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bretby
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby bretby » Mon May 11, 2015 6:32 pm

albpert wrote:I would not get experience as a paralegal.

Imagine in two years you decide law's not for you. Good luck getting a upward mobile non-law career going without further graduate education after 2 years experience as a paralegal. The alternative is you like the law and you go to law school, which plenty of people determine without 2 years as a paralegal. Where is the upside?

Do you something you think you'll enjoy and if in two years you still want to go to law school, go.


Or, better yet, get the best of both worlds: do legal temping after you graduate while you look for a job in a field you're really excited about.
Though there are some positions that see paralegal work as relevant work experience (because it marks you as detail-oriented), I think it is absolutely necessary to try and make a go at your dream career, and not just plot strategically about how to get into law school. I realize this sentiment will likely get me laughed off these board, though.

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KMart
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby KMart » Mon May 11, 2015 6:39 pm

bretby wrote:Or, better yet, get the best of both worlds: do legal temping after you graduate while you look for a job in a field you're really excited about.
Though there are some positions that see paralegal work as relevant work experience (because it marks you as detail-oriented), I think it is absolutely necessary to try and make a go at your dream career, and not just plot strategically about how to get into law school. I realize this sentiment will likely get me laughed off these board, though.

It depends so much on the individual applicant. How sure is he or she on law as a career? What prior knowledge do they have in the field? Really, all of our answers could be correct given the right applicant in the right context.

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carlsenvshikaru
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby carlsenvshikaru » Mon May 11, 2015 9:16 pm

0L, but AMC Theaters and local seafood restaurant (bus boy).

everton125
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby everton125 » Mon May 11, 2015 10:59 pm

Traynor Brah wrote:
albpert wrote:I would not get experience as a paralegal.

Imagine in two years you decide law's not for you. Good luck getting a upward mobile non-law career going without further graduate education after 2 years experience as a paralegal. The alternative is you like the law and you go to law school, which plenty of people determine without 2 years as a paralegal. Where is the upside?

Do you something you think you'll enjoy and if in two years you still want to go to law school, go.

This is a credited response.


TL/DR (my post really is too long): I think to say it is the CR not to work as a paralegal is just really, really stupid. Of course not all paralegal positions are created equal and working as a paralegal may not be the best option for a lot of people, but it can the perfect choice for some, particularly those who are still trying to understand what being a lawyer is like and want some experience in the legal realm before law school.

Strongly disagree that this is the credited response, with the caveat that I am still working at a V10 law firm as part of their two year paralegal program, where most of the paralegals come from very good schools (e.g., Amherst, Williams, UPenn, Duke, Colgate, etc.) and have above average grades. As such, I can't speak to the benefits of being a paralegal during and after law school as much as I would like, and paralegals at my firm are generally already well situated to succeed post their two year stint.

First off, I think a lot of people who started with me as paralegals at my firm benefited extraordinarily from the experience simply because they realized they did not want to be lawyers before they wasted three years of their lives and $100,000s on getting a degree they do not need or want. I would say if working as a paralegal makes you realize you don't want to be a lawyer before attending law school, then it has already been a worthwhile experience. I am fairly certain 75% or more of the individuals in my program would have either gone straight to law school after undergrad or gone to law school after one or two years working in another field if they had not worked as a paralegal first. In the end, however, only around 40% of my starting class even applied to law school, as the rest decided to pursue different job opportunities in a wide variety of non-law related fields (many of which, contrary to the above posters opinion, are jobs that provide a whole lot of upward mobility).

Second, if an applicant is working at a well enough regarded firm with national name recognition, I think there is at least some benefit provided to their application. The name stands out to AdComms, as made evident by the fact that admissions folks commented on the firm I work at on a number of occasions. Further, I think it helps having letters of recommendations from attorneys who are generally very well written, have gone to top law schools themselves, and can speak to your abilities in a legal setting. And lastly, if you are desperately looking for something to write, working as a paralegal can provide you with some good stories for a personal statement. Anecdotally, the paralegals who applied to law school this year from my class did very well, and I think, at least somewhat, outperformed their numbers (the six of us who applied are attending Yale, Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Penn, and Fordham respectively). In the end, working as a paralegal is probably not going to allow you to far outperform your numbers, but I think it might push you ahead of some of your closer competitors for admissions and scholarship money (e.g., K-JDs), particularly if the firm you are working at has some name recognition.

Third, the connections you have the opportunity to make are pretty awesome. A couple of examples of from my own experience as a paralegal:

1) The day I needed to decide where to deposit for law school, I spoke with five separate attorneys, each of whom attended the schools I was considering (I was admittedly having way too tough of time making the decision on my own), and even more would have been willing to talk had I asked. The advice one of the attorneys provided ended up really helping me make the final call.

2) I had some questions about law firm hiring practices in another city, so I reached out to both a junior partner and senior associate I had worked with in the past from my firms satellite office in the city at question. The senior associate took the time to call me while she was on her first vacation in over six months (I did not know she was on vacation when I initially emailed), while the partner talked to a number of other partners in her office, as well as her husband who worked at another firm in the city, before giving me a final answer. That was just a cool experience, as I was really impressed by the lengths they went on my behalf.

3) One of the associates I spent a lot of time with on a trial, and who is about to clerk for SCOTUS, told me to very explicitly to call him if I ever have any questions regarding applying for clerkships once I start law school (not that I am all that likely to get the grades needed for a clerkship, but cool nonetheless).

I have no way of knowing for sure if these connections will help at all when I am applying for jobs, but my guess is that they very well may if I maintain them and use them correctly.

Fourth, working as a paralegal provides some grounding and background info that can make law school more interesting, if not exactly easier. For example, when I was sitting in on an evidence class during an ASW, the class discussed a number of the hearsay exceptions that had been at issue during a trial I worked on, as well as Daubert motions, which I had read twenty or more of over the past few months. It was actually really awesome from my perspective to learn about the theoretical background for some of rules that had so dictated my day to day life for the past year and a half, and I even felt like I had a fairly good grasp on hearsay exceptions before the class began and was able to follow along fairly easily.

Fifth, my bet is that working as a paralegal can help individuals find 1L summer positions and find success during OCI. At the very least, having experience in a high pressure legal environment for two years can't really hurt, and having worked in a professional environment for some time has to be a plus. Further, I have to think that my five week trial experience and fairly substantive work on a pro bono matter will at least give me something interesting to talk about come OCI, even if my 1L summer is a completely dud.

Sixth, I think working as a paralegal can help once you start working in BigLaw. Personally, I know what to expect from BigLaw -- I have worked back-to-back-to-back 120 hour weeks, I have seen the nasty emails from partners, and I have felt the pressure created by midnight and 7 am deadlines alike. I can't see how this won't ease my transition to BigLaw if I decided to that route. Sometimes I think people on TLS seem to forget that it is not all about getting into a good law school and finding a good job, but also about performing once you get the job. From my own experiences, and talking to attorneys who were paralegals themselves, it does seem to be the case that working as a paralegal makes being a first year associates a little bit more bearable.

Lastly, you can make decent money as a paralegal due to the overtime as compared to a lot of other fresh out of college jobs. I made north of $80,000 last year, and, as a result of my going to trial, I am going to make around $65,000 in the first six months of this year. Overall, during my two year commitment, I think I will have made around $175,000. (Note, however, I averaged about 60 hours a week last year and 90 hours a week during the first for months of this year, so my job became quite a time suck).

That is it for my manifesto on why it is worth working as a paralegal. It is way too long and I doubt anyone will read it, and I admittedly failed to mention some of the other downsides (i.e., mind numbing work, a lot of pressure, truly absurd requests, etc.).

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TasmanianToucan
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby TasmanianToucan » Tue May 12, 2015 9:29 am

albpert wrote:I would not get experience as a paralegal.

Imagine in two years you decide law's not for you. Good luck getting a upward mobile non-law career going without further graduate education after 2 years experience as a paralegal. The alternative is you like the law and you go to law school, which plenty of people determine without 2 years as a paralegal. Where is the upside?

Do you something you think you'll enjoy and if in two years you still want to go to law school, go.

It would be easier to find decent non-law employment after two years as a paralegal than after two years as a JD. The upside is saving yourself the trouble of paying around $210,000 for a career you would hate and have trouble leaving, or if you liked working as a paralegal, going in with some degree of confidence that this whole law thing would actually work out for you.

I'm not saying that doing something else wouldn't be valuable for different reasons, but having not gone that route I cannot speak from experience.

What I CAN say for certain is if I had gone to law school right after undergrad based on my internship without working as a paralegal, I would have been in for quite a surprise. At an internship there is a definite end date, and they are trying to sell you on the experience. Just ask a first or second year associate in biglaw if they're having as much fun as they did as a SA.

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Lwoods
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby Lwoods » Tue May 12, 2015 1:09 pm

albpert wrote:I would not get experience as a paralegal.

Imagine in two years you decide law's not for you. Good luck getting a upward mobile non-law career going without further graduate education after 2 years experience as a paralegal. The alternative is you like the law and you go to law school, which plenty of people determine without 2 years as a paralegal. Where is the upside?

Do you something you think you'll enjoy and if in two years you still want to go to law school, go.


Eh, I went from being a legal secretary to a position in a major company. It was big on internal development, so I could have climbed the corporate ladder. Many of my friends have. You're not stuck in a career based on your first job.

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ChemEng1642
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby ChemEng1642 » Tue May 12, 2015 3:30 pm

Like someone else said, this depends so much on your background. Are you asking in general or what people would suggest for you?

I worked as an engineer in something specific enough that I feel like it would out me if I went into more detail than that. Pretty sure my job was the only reason I got into the schools I did and I'm really really glad I have the experience of something really different that helped me choose between that and law school.

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smile0751
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby smile0751 » Sat May 16, 2015 9:45 am

I work in compliance. It combines regulatory work with business experiences. It's a hot and growing area of work that you can make a solid career out of. I'd suggest it.

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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby MohawkMonk87 » Sat May 16, 2015 6:24 pm

Disclaimer: if your **only** motivation for employment at the time of reading this is law school prep, do not do what I am about to talk about. With that said...

If you are more looking for a total-person concept that fits nicely with future hopes of law school, military service has for me at least been transformative and has honed my discipline; personal, academic, and physical in ways that I honestly don't think would have been possible in other contexts. You get an inside look at the govt (both good and at other times nightmarishly bureaucratic and inefficient) and each branch has its own paralegal-type specialty on the enlisted side (if for whatever reason the officer route isn't for you). If you find you enjoy the military experience, programs exist to transition from line officer to JAG.

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ExBiglawAssociate
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Sat May 16, 2015 6:26 pm

scottidsntknow wrote:Go get a job as a paralegal for two years hth


This. Do something where you will be able to actually see what it's like being a lawyer.

glitchfire
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby glitchfire » Tue Jun 02, 2015 7:42 pm

unc0mm0n1 wrote:Military. Good experience, decent paycheck plus they paid for law school and gave me a stipend my whole three years.


Is this through JAG? Could you tell more about it?

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usn26
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby usn26 » Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:57 pm

glitchfire wrote:
unc0mm0n1 wrote:Military. Good experience, decent paycheck plus they paid for law school and gave me a stipend my whole three years.


Is this through JAG? Could you tell more about it?


GI Bill.

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iamgeorgebush
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby iamgeorgebush » Wed Jun 03, 2015 3:06 am

i would counsel against working as a paralegal. first, paralegals are a dime a dozen at law firms, so if you decide to go to law school, being a paralegal will not be some great boon to you when applying to firm jobs. source: biglaw partner in my family. sure, having a brand-name firm on your resume can help, but if you can get a job as a paralegal at some firm like cravath, then you'll have other options. second, paralegal work is the worst. at least in biglaw, all the right-after-college paralegals do is shit like make binders. essentially, you get the work that first-year associates don't want to do. third, if you ultimately decide the law is not for you, you will not have acquired as many transferable skills as you would have if you were doing almost anything else.

granted, you can develop good connections while a paralegal that will help you in your legal career. but that can be true if you work at an organization that frequently employs lawyers (e.g., an investment bank) or if you work in a non legal role (e.g., marketing) at a law firm as well, and those things would have the advantage of (a) not sucking; and (b) giving you better options if you choose not to go to law school.

things that could be good, depending on your personality:

(1) science
(2) banking
(3) creative things
(4) consulting
(5) engineering
(6) starting your own business
(7) tech
(8) accounting
(9) literally anything where you work with other people, develop skills, are challenged, and (ideally) has a brand-name to put on your resume

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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby mgschiet » Wed Jun 03, 2015 7:07 am

haus wrote:
unc0mm0n1 wrote:Military. Good experience, decent paycheck plus they paid for law school and gave me a stipend my whole three years.

I also did a stint in the military (although my time was in the 90s, and the pay and education benefits were quite a bit less back then), it was a good life experience, although I do not think the Marine Corps is for everyone.

After joining the ranks of civilians once again, I went into IT (eventually InfoSec), which has been useful, and becoming more relevant to any number of fields. Generally, this has been good work, but it requires a willingness to put up with odd schedules, and the need to learn on fly.

I have a music degree, so I spent some time working in amusement parks and on cruise ships before I enlisted in the military as a musician. I'll echo these other two: decent pay/benefits and the life experience is absolutely invaluable (though, as haus said, the Marine Corps certainly isn't for everyone).

I think it goes without saying that the GI Bill/Yellow Ribbon program is insanely awesome as well.

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haus
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby haus » Wed Jun 03, 2015 7:37 am

mgschiet wrote:
haus wrote:
unc0mm0n1 wrote:Military. Good experience, decent paycheck plus they paid for law school and gave me a stipend my whole three years.

I also did a stint in the military (although my time was in the 90s, and the pay and education benefits were quite a bit less back then), it was a good life experience, although I do not think the Marine Corps is for everyone.

After joining the ranks of civilians once again, I went into IT (eventually InfoSec), which has been useful, and becoming more relevant to any number of fields. Generally, this has been good work, but it requires a willingness to put up with odd schedules, and the need to learn on fly.

I have a music degree, so I spent some time working in amusement parks and on cruise ships before I enlisted in the military as a musician. I'll echo these other two: decent pay/benefits and the life experience is absolutely invaluable (though, as haus said, the Marine Corps certainly isn't for everyone).

I think it goes without saying that the GI Bill/Yellow Ribbon program is insanely awesome as well.

Did you spend time at NAB Little Creek?

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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby SeattleStudent » Wed Jun 03, 2015 9:23 am

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Last edited by SeattleStudent on Thu Jul 23, 2015 5:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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TasmanianToucan
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby TasmanianToucan » Wed Jun 03, 2015 9:52 am

iamgeorgebush wrote:i would counsel against working as a paralegal. first, paralegals are a dime a dozen at law firms, so if you decide to go to law school, being a paralegal will not be some great boon to you when applying to firm jobs. source: biglaw partner in my family. sure, having a brand-name firm on your resume can help, but if you can get a job as a paralegal at some firm like cravath, then you'll have other options. second, paralegal work is the worst. at least in biglaw, all the right-after-college paralegals do is shit like make binders. essentially, you get the work that first-year associates don't want to do. third, if you ultimately decide the law is not for you, you will not have acquired as many transferable skills as you would have if you were doing almost anything else.

granted, you can develop good connections while a paralegal that will help you in your legal career. but that can be true if you work at an organization that frequently employs lawyers (e.g., an investment bank) or if you work in a non legal role (e.g., marketing) at a law firm as well, and those things would have the advantage of (a) not sucking; and (b) giving you better options if you choose not to go to law school.

things that could be good, depending on your personality:

(1) science
(2) banking
(3) creative things
(4) consulting
(5) engineering
(6) starting your own business
(7) tech
(8) accounting
(9) literally anything where you work with other people, develop skills, are challenged, and (ideally) has a brand-name to put on your resume

I completely disagree with the above for two reasons. First, being a paralegal will give you a better idea of what practicing law will be like, partly by doing the work and partly by working with those who do. Does it suck? Yeah, sometimes. But it's better to find out whether that particular vintage of sucking is for you before you drop a ton of money on a JD. Second, unless you're working in the White House I don't think any particular type of employment will give you an admissions bump. The more important factor is that you worked, rather than where you worked. By the way, I'm not saying that the lines of work listed above are not valuable for other reasons, but to say that being a paralegal is not worthwhile is ridiculous.

TCR is get a job. What it is isn't as important as having one, period.

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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Jun 03, 2015 10:17 am

Paralegal positions & experiences vary. Working as a paralegal in a large law firm with an organized & somewhat structured two year commitment can be a very different experience than working as a paralegal in a small law firm. (Paralegal positions also are common in large corporations & do offer advancement opportunities. Manhattan DA's office also hires a lot of paralegals both for trial & appellate divisions.)

In a large law firm, paralegals can make some serious money as noted by Everton125 above. You get to experience life in a law firm setting amongst very bright motivated people.

Advice against working as a paralegal for one considering law school & a career as an attorney is, in my opinion, very poor advice.

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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby stoopkid13 » Wed Jun 03, 2015 10:46 am

TasmanianToucan wrote:
iamgeorgebush wrote:i would counsel against working as a paralegal. first, paralegals are a dime a dozen at law firms, so if you decide to go to law school, being a paralegal will not be some great boon to you when applying to firm jobs. source: biglaw partner in my family. sure, having a brand-name firm on your resume can help, but if you can get a job as a paralegal at some firm like cravath, then you'll have other options. second, paralegal work is the worst. at least in biglaw, all the right-after-college paralegals do is shit like make binders. essentially, you get the work that first-year associates don't want to do. third, if you ultimately decide the law is not for you, you will not have acquired as many transferable skills as you would have if you were doing almost anything else.

granted, you can develop good connections while a paralegal that will help you in your legal career. but that can be true if you work at an organization that frequently employs lawyers (e.g., an investment bank) or if you work in a non legal role (e.g., marketing) at a law firm as well, and those things would have the advantage of (a) not sucking; and (b) giving you better options if you choose not to go to law school.

things that could be good, depending on your personality:

(1) science
(2) banking
(3) creative things
(4) consulting
(5) engineering
(6) starting your own business
(7) tech
(8) accounting
(9) literally anything where you work with other people, develop skills, are challenged, and (ideally) has a brand-name to put on your resume

I completely disagree with the above for two reasons. First, being a paralegal will give you a better idea of what practicing law will be like, partly by doing the work and partly by working with those who do. Does it suck? Yeah, sometimes. But it's better to find out whether that particular vintage of sucking is for you before you drop a ton of money on a JD. Second, unless you're working in the White House I don't think any particular type of employment will give you an admissions bump. The more important factor is that you worked, rather than where you worked. By the way, I'm not saying that the lines of work listed above are not valuable for other reasons, but to say that being a paralegal is not worthwhile is ridiculous.

TCR is get a job. What it is isn't as important as having one, period.


I don't think anyone is saying to be unemployed. The question is what job would you recommend, not if you recommend having a job at all. Is it better to be a paralegal than unemployed--yes. But I am not sure if being a paralegal is a better work experience/admissions bump than the (unstated) alternatives. In that sense, becoming a paralegal would be a mistake.

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unc0mm0n1
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby unc0mm0n1 » Wed Jun 03, 2015 8:05 pm

glitchfire wrote:
unc0mm0n1 wrote:Military. Good experience, decent paycheck plus they paid for law school and gave me a stipend my whole three years.


Is this through JAG? Could you tell more about it?


I was in JAG and there is something in the Army called the Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP) that will pay for law school for prospective JAG officers. The FLEP authorizes the selection of 25 active duty Army officers (Lieutenants or Captains) each year to obtain a legal education at government expense. Though, to enter the program you have to agree to extend your time in the Army. I didn't use this program. I used the GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon program which allowed me to go to law school for free plus a monthly stipend. Depending on the school and how your scholarship is coded you can actually make quite a bit of money. I could have received almost a 20K refund/yr from certain schools on top of my monthly stipend. The best part is there is no additional service commitment.

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iamgeorgebush
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby iamgeorgebush » Wed Jun 03, 2015 10:17 pm

TasmanianToucan wrote:
iamgeorgebush wrote:i would counsel against working as a paralegal. first, paralegals are a dime a dozen at law firms, so if you decide to go to law school, being a paralegal will not be some great boon to you when applying to firm jobs. source: biglaw partner in my family. sure, having a brand-name firm on your resume can help, but if you can get a job as a paralegal at some firm like cravath, then you'll have other options. second, paralegal work is the worst. at least in biglaw, all the right-after-college paralegals do is shit like make binders. essentially, you get the work that first-year associates don't want to do. third, if you ultimately decide the law is not for you, you will not have acquired as many transferable skills as you would have if you were doing almost anything else.

granted, you can develop good connections while a paralegal that will help you in your legal career. but that can be true if you work at an organization that frequently employs lawyers (e.g., an investment bank) or if you work in a non legal role (e.g., marketing) at a law firm as well, and those things would have the advantage of (a) not sucking; and (b) giving you better options if you choose not to go to law school.

things that could be good, depending on your personality:

(1) science
(2) banking
(3) creative things
(4) consulting
(5) engineering
(6) starting your own business
(7) tech
(8) accounting
(9) literally anything where you work with other people, develop skills, are challenged, and (ideally) has a brand-name to put on your resume

I completely disagree with the above for two reasons. First, being a paralegal will give you a better idea of what practicing law will be like, partly by doing the work and partly by working with those who do. Does it suck? Yeah, sometimes. But it's better to find out whether that particular vintage of sucking is for you before you drop a ton of money on a JD. Second, unless you're working in the White House I don't think any particular type of employment will give you an admissions bump. The more important factor is that you worked, rather than where you worked. By the way, I'm not saying that the lines of work listed above are not valuable for other reasons, but to say that being a paralegal is not worthwhile is ridiculous.

TCR is get a job. What it is isn't as important as having one, period.

you are misconstruing my post. i did not say that "being a paralegal is not worthwhile." being a paralegal is obviously preferable to unemployment or working at starbucks. my point was simply that there are better options for those who think ahead.

as for your specific points. first, while paralegal work can give an idea of what practicing law is like, a lot of paralegal work is not all that much like practicing law. accordingly, if the value of being a paralegal is "doing the work," be careful about which paralegal jobs you take. my sense is that the more "prestigious" the law firm, the less like practicing law the work is, which is unfortunate because it means that you may have to trade off between firm prestige (and therefore resume value) and actual substantive work. second, as a corollary to point #1, you can work with those who do actually practice law by working at a law firm in a non-law role (e.g., marketing). that way you still get most of the benefits of being a paralegal while avoiding the suckier parts of it. third, i was not evaluating post-UG, pre-law school jobs in terms of whether they give a law school "admissions bump." as you correctly recognized, few jobs will do that. rather, my point was being a paralegal will not some great boon to you when seek your first job as a lawyer, since paralegals are so common among law students. doing something else interesting, on the other hand, can distinguish a [job] applicant from all the other sheep in the herd. source: biglaw partner in my family.

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Tr3
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby Tr3 » Wed Jun 03, 2015 10:40 pm

I did legal internships during undergrad and then did financial consulting after, followed by nonprofit for majority of time between UG and law school. All of those things came up in interviews, but I think I had solid experience in private and nonprofit, so it because a way for me to discuss my future goals with law school. I think whatever you do, they just want to see that you are capable of holding a job/being responsible and then just relate it to your outlook on future endeavors.

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Lwoods
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby Lwoods » Wed Jun 03, 2015 10:52 pm

iamgeorgebush wrote:i would counsel against working as a paralegal. first, paralegals are a dime a dozen at law firms, so if you decide to go to law school, being a paralegal will not be some great boon to you when applying to firm jobs. source: biglaw partner in my family. sure, having a brand-name firm on your resume can help, but if you can get a job as a paralegal at some firm like cravath, then you'll have other options. second, paralegal work is the worst. at least in biglaw, all the right-after-college paralegals do is shit like make binders. essentially, you get the work that first-year associates don't want to do. third, if you ultimately decide the law is not for you, you will not have acquired as many transferable skills as you would have if you were doing almost anything else.

granted, you can develop good connections while a paralegal that will help you in your legal career. but that can be true if you work at an organization that frequently employs lawyers (e.g., an investment bank) or if you work in a non legal role (e.g., marketing) at a law firm as well, and those things would have the advantage of (a) not sucking; and (b) giving you better options if you choose not to go to law school.

things that could be good, depending on your personality:

(1) science
(2) banking
(3) creative things
(4) consulting
(5) engineering
(6) starting your own business
(7) tech
(8) accounting
(9) literally anything where you work with other people, develop skills, are challenged, and (ideally) has a brand-name to put on your resume


As someone who worked in a support role at one of the big firms, I have to agree with a lot of this. And actually, I'd say an entry level paralegal in BigLaw doesn't do work the 1st years don't want--s/he does the work senior paralegals don't want. Being a secretary was a much sweeter gig.

Still, the main benefit of working for a law firm prior to law school is learning whether or not you'd actually like the work. That alone may be worth it for some.

But really, do something that interests you. You might decide against law altogether. And if you do end up going to law school, doing something outside of law is going to stand out more on a resume (differentiate you for the sea of other law students) and later give you something to talk about with clients and potential clients.

The big firm name on my resume helped a little in my job hunt, but not nearly as much as the other stuff I did.

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TasmanianToucan
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby TasmanianToucan » Thu Jun 04, 2015 9:05 am

iamgeorgebush wrote:you are misconstruing my post. i did not say that "being a paralegal is not worthwhile." being a paralegal is obviously preferable to unemployment or working at starbucks. my point was simply that there are better options for those who think ahead.

as for your specific points. first, while paralegal work can give an idea of what practicing law is like, a lot of paralegal work is not all that much like practicing law. accordingly, if the value of being a paralegal is "doing the work," be careful about which paralegal jobs you take. my sense is that the more "prestigious" the law firm, the less like practicing law the work is, which is unfortunate because it means that you may have to trade off between firm prestige (and therefore resume value) and actual substantive work. second, as a corollary to point #1, you can work with those who do actually practice law by working at a law firm in a non-law role (e.g., marketing). that way you still get most of the benefits of being a paralegal while avoiding the suckier parts of it. third, i was not evaluating post-UG, pre-law school jobs in terms of whether they give a law school "admissions bump." as you correctly recognized, few jobs will do that. rather, my point was being a paralegal will not some great boon to you when seek your first job as a lawyer, since paralegals are so common among law students. doing something else interesting, on the other hand, can distinguish a [job] applicant from all the other sheep in the herd. source: biglaw partner in my family.

Ok, I think there's room to meet in the middle here. While I question the notion that the specific nature of your work experience prior to law school has a significant impact compared to, say, law school grades and the school you attend, if your biglaw family member says it does then maybe it does, at least at his/her firm. And likewise, I didn't expect having been a paralegal to have done much in that area either. I am more interested in the role being a paralegal can play in deciding whether the law is right for you, which also means that I think that the idea of the "prestige" of the firm a paralegal works at being of any importance at all is silly.

Granted, if you're making binders for 10 hours a day, you're not going to come out with any better idea of what it would be like to practice as a lawyer, and in that case being in marketing at a law firm might be better. However, I still maintain that if you can find a paralegal job where you actually get to do legal work early on than there is nothing better. Can we agree on that?

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Dexter97
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Re: What type of job did you do before law school and what would you recommend?

Postby Dexter97 » Thu Jun 04, 2015 3:05 pm

Post removed.
Last edited by Dexter97 on Tue Jan 12, 2016 9:29 am, edited 1 time in total.




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