Paralegal Schools: Are They Worth It? Part One

Posted on | August 25, 2010 | 13 Comments

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I can only speak about my experience with the Paralegal school that I attended. 

The school I attended was ABA accredited and VERY expensive.  What sold me initially was their accreditation.

The program was taught by two men.  One was the head of the Paralegal program and a retired lawyer.  The other is a practicing probate attorney.  This also sold me because I thought that being taught by lawyers would be a great way to start my new career.

I, however, was very wrong.

The retired attorney taught Criminal Law, Employment Law, Intellectual Property, Family Law, Probate and Torts and Legal Ethics.  Now, I use the term taught very loosely.  If we had a text book, he would read to us from it, line by line.  If we had a question, he would never answer it.  He would just tap dance around the question and then start reading again. 

In Criminal Law, we did not have a text book, so what was his answer?  He had us print of the Texas Penal Codes.  That was it. 

The practicing attorney was an arrogant jerk who thought that everything that came out of his mouth was nothing but gold.  He is a very smart man, but like the other “teacher”, I learned nothing of value in any of the classes he taught.  This attorney taught Real Estate, Contract Law, Litigation, Civil Law  and Legal Research and Writing.  Once again, I learned NOTHING of value to train me to be a paralegal.

For example, in our Legal Research and Writing class, he had us Shepardize with the library.  Now, I understand the concept of teaching us how to use the library, but he never went beyond that.  No Westlaw, no Lexis-Nexis, no Pro-Docs, no Timeslips, nothing useful.  He also made us memorize useless information like all the counties in Texas, and also insult us because we didn’t know all the Latin terms he loved to throw at us.

Disillusioned by my course work, I was looking forward to my internship (which we had to find on our own).  Paying the money we did, they should have found that for us.  Anyway, I found a litigation firm that was eager to have free slave labor for 180 hours.

The first day there, I was thrown the receptionist job AND six files with notes on them, such as File a Default Judgment on this, etc.  I literally panicked.  At no time did we learn how to draft motions, pleadings, etc.  Not wanting to look like a complete fool, I randomly called a litigation firm in San Antonio, asked for a paralegal, tearfully explained my situation and she walked me though the process.  I will always be eternally grateful for her help.

The internship went ok, but I still had no idea what I was doing.

When I signed up for this school, they promised job placement was 100%. (Shut up- I know that is bullshit, but I fell for it).  The job placement sucked.  The only thing they could do was teach you how to write your resume.  Seriously. 

I was the one who worked my ass off to get my first paralegal job.  My school did nothing, but when they heard I was hired, sent me a form to fill out to add me to their success list.  I faxed it back with the words “Screw You.”

Out of my 18 classmates at the time, only two work as Paralegals.  Everyone else could not find work, or got fired because they did not know what they were supposed to.

Was my school worth it? HELL to the no.

I suggest that if you want to go to a Paralegal school, sit in on their classes.  If all they do is lecture like you are going to law school, get the hell out of there.

Now- I know not all schools are bad, so I asked Corporate Paralegal to give her opinion on Paralegal schools, which she did because she is awesome. 

Read my post, read Corporate’s post and do lots of research before you chose a school.

Hating my Paralegal school right now,


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13 Responses to “Paralegal Schools: Are They Worth It? Part One”

  1. WIParalegal
    August 25th, 2010 @ 8:41 pm

    That is EXACTLY how it was for me. Sure I received an AAS degree, but I knew nothing about the “real” work a paralegal does!

  2. Paralegal
    August 25th, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

    Sad, isn’t it? I racked up debt for nothing.

  3. Laramill
    August 26th, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

    Sorry you had such a bad experience. I was in a ABA accredited Bachlor’s program that was great. I received access to different areas of law and how to research…including LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Casemaker. There was also mock trial and an internship. There were more opportunities to find a job if you ended up staying near the school but as I moved back home, finding a job did prove more difficult. I believe my main beef is that I feel our career should be more regulated sort of like nurses…so if you spend the money for the education you get better pay. At this point, I don’t see a difference in pay compared to someone with less schooling or no schooling, even though I have more knowledge and can jump into the position with more skills and adapt quicker.

  4. Paralegal
    August 26th, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

    I am so glad you had a better experience than I did.
    You are VERY right about the legal profession not paying us for education received. The lines are very gray in their world as to what are job descriptions are and how much we get paid.

  5. GrumpyHumbug
    August 26th, 2010 @ 12:47 pm

    Never went to a paralegal school myself. Have a regular BA in History, which for most firms makes me OK even without formal Paralegal certification. Started in this industry at the bottom in a Clerk’s Office doing basic intake work, then because a case administrator. A few years later, moved to a small private firm where I learned the other half of the job. Learned everything on-the-job, but there are still things I do not know.

    My experience is unique, because I literally fell into this occupation without looking. (I needed a job, the Court hired me, and it grew on me. Not unlike fungus.) If you are actually planning to be a paralegal, though, school is certainly worthwhile. A good paralegal school education would have saved me from making more than one significant learning mistake over the years.

  6. LifeintheLPA
    August 26th, 2010 @ 3:42 pm

    I’m currently in Paralegal School trying to obtain my AAS in Paralegal Studies (at night) and work as a receptionist in a law firm during the day. I will say I have a few pros and cons to the entire situation, more cons than not. Of course my school is a small dinky community college that prides themselves in career training. We have no accreditation (although we’re told they are “working on it”) and that information isn’t disclosed when you are looking into the school. In fact, you’re told that they “pretty much have the ABA accreditation” when you sign up. My classes are taught by people who have JD’s and their Esq.’s but when it comes to learning, you really don’t. I have learned more from working as a receptionist at a law firm, than my classes geared for people who are trying to be paralegals. My criminal law class we had to memorize word for word our state statutes. You get one word wrong my friend, and you have gotten a zero on the two pages you’ve just written out, by hand. They pride themselves on career placement, but the job I have now I got on my own, and I have a better chance of getting a paralegal position when I graduate in December, then I do with them. Their way of “placing you in job” is sending an email out to the entire school with the job posting so that everyone you go to school with will apply for that same job as you. One girl told me she went to an interview and they actually had 5 of her classmates coming in that same day as well. But my pros include the fact that I can learn something with school that either involves a nearby state that my attorneys don’t practice in and they have tons of questions for me about how things work in other states. I am also the only staff member (including our legal assistants and paralegal) who knows how to research in WestLaw and LexisNexis. I have my advantages of using it in my firm, but not much. (I think it scares our attorneys to think that the receptionist would be doing their legal research. If they weren’t such cheapskates than we could have a part time law clerk from the city’s university do it)

    The experience I am getting now, not to mention all of the networking I do, is what is going to get me that paralegal’s job (hopefully in bankruptcy), not my “degree” from a crappy community college with no accreditations.

  7. Paralegal
    August 26th, 2010 @ 3:53 pm

    You are very lucky to have “on the job training” that your other classmates will not have. You will be very marketable when you graduate.

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