career change* looking for advice on the different branches of study for paralegals

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sarah in Plymouth, Massachusetts

50 months ago

i am new here please be nice :) currently starting a paralegal assoc program as a complete change in careers, ive always worked in healthcare admin. im looking at picking my classes for the fall and am interested to know what others advise would be the wisest choices for areas of law to study? I have 4 electives to choose from including cyber law, us judicial systems, real estate law, amer constitutional law, comparative legal systems, family law, estate admin, law of business organizations, admin. law, bankruptcy law, environmental law, criminal law, conflict dispute and resolution, unequal justice, labor law, and employee benefit law.

Now I actually have heard great things about paralegals in the field of IP and find it interesting, but unfortunately I dont see that course of study offered. (figures)

Basically, Im a single mom who needs a well paying job fairly quickly after graduating, Im looking to go into an area of law where I can learn and sharpen my skills as well as grow. Ive heard people say not to bother with criminal law and that real estate law would be a wise choice...

Any advice at all is greatly appreciated :)

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sarahinboston in Plymouth, Massachusetts

50 months ago

guest in San Francisco, California said: Well paying and paralegal is a contradiction in terms.

Hopefully you are not going to one of those ripoff for profit trade schools charging $20K+ to enter "the booming paralegal field".

Nope. Since when do trade schools offer Associates Degrees? I am actually building on college credits that I already have, just taking a different course of study.

Actually, I was told by an instructor who is also an attorney, that I have an advantage because of my location being close to boston that many paralegals do find good paying employment near/in the city. But thanks for your input.

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MS in Dallas, Texas

50 months ago

None of those electives are going to help you get a job as a paralegal. Can you do something more practical - legal software, ediscovery, advanced Excel, Westlaw - something along those lines? Finding an entry level well paying paralegal job is hard. There are so many unemployed attorneys now and unemployed paralegals with experienced there really isn't a need to hire someone without experience. The only reason a law firm would do that is to save money - meaning it would be a low paid job.

Also don't believe anything a school tells you as far as available jobs. They are selling a school program. Period.

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sarahinboston in Plymouth, Massachusetts

50 months ago

I am taking advanced MS office as well. Unfortunately, no legal software courses are offered as of now. The school hasnt sold me on a program, I did alot of research on the job outlook in boston before coming to my own decision so I feel pretty confident about it, just trying to gauge which area would be wise to learn more about. Im 37 years old not a dumb kid, so Im not exactly easily swayed by promises of jobs by an advisor..been there done that. But I do trust the opinion of the intstructor that I spoke with, she has alot of contacts and has been with the college for 17 years and she does feel that for OUR area, fresh paralegals are still very employable..even if I do need to take a legal secretary position at first. Maybe its not so in your area..but in the northeast I have heard nothing of unemployed lawyers but more of a downtrend in healthcare. My goal is to actually eventually get a government job as a paralegal but using my healthcare background, once I do get some experience.

all of that considered..Im going to jump right in. I figure, even if I can get a job making a little more than what Ive been making for the last 12 years as a medical receptionist, which by the way is CRAP..with no place for advancement..then Im better off than I was before. In fact, I was laid off in april from the dr's ofc I was at for 5 years since the move to electronic medical records we were just not all needed anymore..and that is whats happening in my area in healthcare. The shift thats taking place has made me lose faith in that field, so its time for a change. My best friend is an NP and worked to death and miserable, and 2 friends who are LPN's can only find jobs in nursing homes and they are miserable as well. They were the ones sold by colleges on the fabulous opportunities for LPN's much to their disappointment, they are now glorified CNA's.
Hey I feel that if worse comes to worse I will always have my healthcare admin exp. to fall back on..

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BG in Carlsbad, California

50 months ago

The time to enter the paralegal field was twenty years ago. There's little chance of a law firm hiring a 37 year old paralegal with no experience. Sorry, but that's the way it is.

Your best bet is to make an appointment with a career counselor.

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sarahinboston in south shore, Massachusetts

50 months ago

BG in Carlsbad, California said: The time to enter the paralegal field was twenty years ago. There's little chance of a law firm hiring a 37 year old paralegal with no experience. Sorry, but that's the way it is.

Your best bet is to make an appointment with a career counselor.

OH REALLY? is that the way it is???

This forum is a joke.... maybe I'll come back and post an update in 3 years when Im a 40 YEAR OLD PARALEGAL WITH A GOVT POSITION IN BOSTON.

PEACE.

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MS in Dallas, Texas

50 months ago

Now I am not a total Debbie Downer on your situation especially since you're in Boston. If you have connections in the govt who can help you get interviews, that will be a huge help. Govt jobs are hard to come by even in the best of times. Now with layoffs it is even harder. In California they are shutting down entire courtrooms and all the jobs that went with each one.

The govt jobs also pay less than a private sector job. AND if you work for the govt and then later want to transition to a law firm as support staff, that is even harder. Govt workers have a reputation of being lazy and that is not lost on law firm administrators.

In my paralegal class we had 5-6 former govt workers wanting to get a paralegal certificate and the teachers told them it would be extra hard for them to find a law firm job as it's hard in general to go from the public sector to the private sector. ONE of them went on to be a career paralegal in law firms, but none of the others found work. The successful one wasn't the brightest bulb in the box, but the most persistent and very outgoing and likable.

If you need the big bucks (such as they are), shoot for a large law firm who will bring you on with a "paralegal" title. Avoid solo attorneys who pay diddly and who are sometimes bent in the head.

Also, I wouldn't poo-poo the negative comments. All jobs have complainers, but the legal field in particular has undergone a sea change and things are very very different now. I'm not sure if the entire "paralegal certificate" thing even means anything any more. The law schools are putting out about twice as many attorneys as there are attorney jobs. Where do you think those unemployed attorneys are going to show up? Working as paralegals because that is a lot of bang for your buck for the employers. Where I work now, about 25% of the paralegals were unemployed attorneys. That is a HUGE increase when 10 years ago employers would never hire an attorney to do paralegal work.

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parafreegal in Chicago, Illinois

49 months ago

As others have said, paralegal jobs are extremely scarce nowadays. There are LOTS of paralegals who are unemployed or who have left the field. Firms have laid off paralegals. Firms have outsourced paralegal work. Those who are left have more responsibility with the same pay.

Yet schools are still churning out paralegals and hyping the field. It's insane.

I've seen ads for paralegals/litigation support paying $10/hour with A LOT of varied responsibilities. If you do happen to get a paralegal job with no experience, it will be low paying.

Twenty years ago, I might have recommended it, but even then jobs weren't plentiful. The paralegal field has always been more hype than anything.

The jobs simply aren't there. Be prepared to be a runner, a go-fer, a secretary or a litigation support support person starting out at low pay. You won't start off as a paralegal at a big firm making coin.

Sorry, but this is the reality.

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worn out in Fishers, Indiana

49 months ago

It truly doesn't matter what courses you take. It used to be that a certificate was enough. Then a bachelors got you into the bigger firms, but unfortunately the other postings are correct. After 27 years I can say that this is not the same field I entered. There seems to be no admin help for a paralegal to do her job well.

Yes, lay offs, downsizing, unrealistic expectations to those left to do the work of 2, but this may be true in all career fields. Always thought I would go to law school but yes, lawyers are applying for paralegal positions now.

Sorry, but we are just being candid. You may rethink this and get further education in the health field. If you do stick with it and can afford to do so when you are out, I say you try like gangbusters to get into IP right away doing anything, paralegal or not and work your way up.

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