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Old 06-17-2010, 02:25 PM
Location: Southwestern Connecticut
811 posts, read 1,621,196 times
Reputation: 368


My friend has a bachelors degree in communications (concentration in public relations and crisis management) and would like to start a career in the legal field.

She's considering going back to school to get a paralegal certificate but I'm questioning if that's necessary since she already has a higher up degree.

What would be her best option in further qualifying herself for a position in the legal industry if it's at all necessary.

My personal suggestion was to get in contact with a recruiter and network since I think she has a decent educational background to fit into an entry position now.

Can anyone offer some advice on what her best options could be?

Location wise we're located in Stamford, CT (just northeast of New York City)
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Old 06-17-2010, 04:49 PM
Location: Nassau, Long Island, NY
16,408 posts, read 31,706,428 times
Reputation: 7310
Is your friend a new grad?

Someone I know who is in HR in a NYC law firm told me that nowadays law firms don't want to hire full-fledged paralegals (as they can get expensive), but would rather hire what they call "Case Assistants" at $15 an hour (yes, in NYC they are getting away with that). Their ideal "case assistant" is someone who is a new college grad who "doesn't know what they want to do yet, but needs a first job." Then they train the case assistant on whatever need to be done (much of which had previously been done by much more expensive paralegals).
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Old 06-17-2010, 06:37 PM
Location: Southwestern Connecticut
811 posts, read 1,621,196 times
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I'd rank her as a new grad... June 2009.

She likes researching/debating ethics issues and similar work so she thinks paralegal in that type of law area might interest her. It would be a first job in that field for her.

With the tuition costing nearly 10k though, I'm trying to help figure out the cost benefit of a paralegal program vs. just getting a masters in something relevant to the legal field. A law degree at this point is beyond what she's looking for.
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Old 06-17-2010, 07:26 PM
Location: Massachusetts
4,999 posts, read 5,362,959 times
Reputation: 7375
It isn't necessary to have a certificate or a degree to be a paralegal but it would certainly help her find a job. Without any experience and no certificate or degree it's very unlikely she would be able to get a job at this point as an actual paralegal. As I_Love_LI noted above if she is bright, detail oriented, etc. she might be able to get a lower level position and work her way up to paralegal. In my legal department we have a couple of people who did that....began as a legal clerk doing mostly filing and worked their way up as they gained exposure and learned new skills. But it takes a while. Also, it sounds like you may want to do a little research about what paralegals do. There is a wide variety in their responsibilities, but many of them do not get involved in research. Those that do research it tends to be objective....find out the licensing requirements for a pharmacy in Sioux City, verify that this case is overturned, etc. They don't generally formulate arguments, etc. This is a big generalization, but common responsibilities for paralegals are maintaining business licenses, processing equity awards, keeping stock records, cataloguing documents, etc. It's a good job but not for everyone. And to really succeed as a paralegal I cannot stress enough how important it is that the person be detail oriented, and that the person enjoy the focus on detail (not just be good at it).
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Old 06-17-2010, 07:49 PM
6,578 posts, read 24,357,242 times
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She can attend a post-bac paralegal program and just get the certificate and then hopefully get an entry level real paralegal position. It's hard to do. I think just 3 or 4 of us - out of 30 - were successful doing that in the post-bac paralegal program I attended (I have a communications degree too).

Other times you can just get into a law firm via receptionist or junior secretary type position and then hopefully get promoted. The law firm experience will subsititute for the lack of certificate. Your pay will be a lot lower at first and sometimes firms won't take a 4 year degree into a low level support position.

The current job I am in (in-house corporate) required law firm experience and a paralegal certificate.

The last job only cared about experience. They had no education or certificate requirement. It was a mid-sized law firm.

The job before that was also mid sized and they required paralegals have 2 of the 3 (1) legal experience (2) 4 year degree (3) paralegal certificate.

The big high paying firms usually like to see a 4 year degree and a paralegal certificate from an ABA approved paralegal program.

Unfortunately, the legal profession is in transition right now. There were tons of layoffs over the last year or two. Salaries were cut. It can also be a tough job - long hours, demanding attorneys, thrown staplers and whatnot.
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