So, When Are You Going To Law School?

Posted on | November 29, 2010 | 9 Comments

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If Paralegals had a dollar for every time they had this question asked of them, they could retire right now.

If you are a Paralegal student, don’t worry.  This question will be coming your way, many times, whether you want it or not.

Last week I was in one of the new attorneys office’s doing file inventory.  This attorney, I guess trying to make small talk, asked me if I was planning on going to law school.  When I told this attorney no, she actually said, “So, this is your chosen career path?” with a look of confusion and disdain on her face.  She was totally baffled that someone would actually WANT to be a Paralegal.  That someone would enjoy that job. It’s like she thought I just rolled out of bed one day, wandered into the firm, got a crappy Paralegal job and have been trying to find something “meaningful” to do with my life.

Being the bitch that I am I told her, “Wow, what a nice thing to say to someone.” “Yes- this is my profession and something I enjoy doing.” “I have no plans of going to law school and racking up thousands of dollars of debt for answers to questions that I already know.  Believe it or not, I am perfectly happy being JUST a Paralegal.”  Then, I got up and walked out of her office.  She called after me, but I pretended not to hear.  I didn’t want to hear her insincere apology.

In this profession, most people you run into will be truly confused that you will actually want to be a Paralegal.  That it isn’t a stepping stone for law school.  This goes from the attorneys, to the mail room clerks, secretaries, couriers, etc.  There is no discrimination on who asks it and the look of confusion that follows  when you tell them that being a Paralegal is what you want to do for the rest of your life (unless you hit the lottery).

I have had this question asked too many times to count, and I can’t even imagine how many times MALE paralegals are asked.  Probably triple the amount that I have been asked.  Sometimes I am insulted, sometimes I just let it roll off my back.  I guess it is who asks the question and how they ask it.

I guess most do not understand that Paralegals are a profession.  Not a stepping stone, not something to do until we figure out our career path.  Yes, some Paralegals do go to law school, but don’t assume all Paralegals want to be an attorney.  That is NOT why we do our jobs.

Personally, I love being in the Paralegal field. The Paralegal field contains unlimited opportunity, you can determine your own path, and (for most) you’re not regulated. It’s a wide-open marketplace. You can’t give legal advice or represent people, which is awesome… Attorney pay isn’t that great these days and  often people won’t like or take your advice, and if you represent them (either individuals or corporations); they usually resent every penny they pay you. As a Paralegal, you don’t have to deal with that crap.

As a Paralegal, you can contribute significant talent, in many capacities. Most don’t realize the degree of mobility and opportunity available within the ‘paralegal’ field. You can work in ‘traditional’ Paralegal positions – with law firms or corporations. Since you learn enough about the law and how it operates to assist in legal work, you can apply that legal knowledge to assist (or take over) other business functions, such as marketing, mediation, contract drafting-modifying-negotiating, document management, administration, and supervision.

For example, if you have Paralegal training and love art, you can work with art-based companies, such as marketing/advertising firms, in the contracts or compliance department. Or if you supplement your Paralegal training with real estate education, you can work for title companies, mortgage brokers, real estate firms, preparing closing documents. Or you can learn law marketing and be a Paralegal/law marketer – can you imagine how valuable that could be? The list of opportunity goes on and on, ad infinitum, limited only by your motivation and dedication.

If you are an attorney, unless you know your Paralegal has plans to attend law school, please, for the love of all that is good and holy, DON’T ask them when they are going to law school.  We aren’t.  We are happy with the work that we do and actually chose to make it our career.  Shocking, but true.


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9 Responses to “So, When Are You Going To Law School?”

  1. (Former)CorpParaII
    November 30th, 2010 @ 1:38 am

    Funny, I was never asked by lawyers as to when I was planning on going to law school (as an assumption that being a paralegal was just a stepping stone). I think that’s because they’d have to admit a paralegal was as smart and as capable as they are. They would then have to look at me as a potential colleague…. which would completely ruin the lawyer/mere staff delineation. They do like to think they’re the brightest and the best! :)

    I did have a few bosses suggest that I go to law school because they knew I was more than capable (although I had no desire to become one of “them”); however most lawyers don’t think staff members are capable of doing a lawyer’s job.

  2. SC
    November 30th, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

    This irks me to no end too. I didn’t go to law school right after college, I thought about and I could have, I had great grades. It bothers me that I am always thought of as some sort of overqualified secretary. But, I also did not want to go in debt like so many other lawyers that I went to college with for the not so great pay. Anymore, law schools are like mills and they just churn out lawyers that there are no jobs for. Why would I spend 100,000 just to prove “I could do it.” I know I can and please, stop looking down your nose at me! I know plenty of lawyers that were not the brightest bulbs in college.

  3. Anonymous
    November 30th, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

    OMG! You have no idea. I’m going to forward this to my parents who have never been that understanding about my choices.

    Don’t forget the long hours that go into being an attorney. Call me crazy for wanting to enjoy my kids instead of drowning in caffeine night after night. Quality of life > law school degree.

    They have now hired two attorneys as PARALEGALS in my firm. They know nothing and refuse to call themselves Paralegals – they call themselves “Associates in Training.” All the other staff call them dumbasses. There is no plan for more Associates either. They also refuse to listen to us seasoned paralegals, as they continue to fall flat on their faces.

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  8. Anonymousoneman
    December 12th, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

    Who do you have more respect for: a nurse who takes orders or the doctor who diagnoses the condition? A paralegal is the equivalent of a nurse and a lawyer is the equivalent of a doctor. No matter how much you know, you will always take orders, and never get the respect you crave until you get the law degree AND pass the bar exam. Good luck.

  9. Paralegal
    December 12th, 2010 @ 11:15 pm

    Good luck to who? Me? There is no way in hell I am going to law school. I have no desire to be completely in debt while I have 3 children to put in college.
    While I understand your comment, I don’t feel it is right to just “accept” the fact that we, as paralegals, will never get respect unless we are lawyers.
    There are several lawyers who respect their paralegals and know they could never do their job without them.
    For you to suggest otherwise, just suck it up or be a lawyer is not the way I choose to deal with this problem.
    Most attorneys I have and currently work for know I am NOT a person you throw orders at or treat with disrespect. That happens once and then that attorney and I have a “come to Jesus” meeting where it doesn’t happen again.
    Not sure how you meant your comment, so I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you did not mean to demean our profession or the nursing profession.
    Good luck to you as well.

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