Choosing between ABA-approved and non-ABA approved certification program...

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Unemployed Paralegal in Denver, Colorado

46 months ago

Andrea2011 in Pasco, Washington said: I am a legal assistant with over 26 years' experience as a legal assistant. Almost all of that experience has been in civil litigation with an emphasis on insurance defense and construction law. Over the years I worked in estate planning, family law, and real estate. I prepared all types of legal documents including dissolution documents, wills and trusts, interrogatories and requests for production, notices, subpoenas, orders, and wage garnishments. I have no formal college education, but instead attended a trade school/business college that no longer exists. I am considering taking the NALS or NALA exam to obtain paralegal certification. What are my chances of obtaining employment as a paralegal?
Unless law firms in your area ask for either credential, IMO it's not worth the effort to take either exam.

You do have a lot of experience. Your experience is your selling point - at this point much more than your education or extra credentials. IMO if you rewrite your resume as a paralegal one you stand as good a chance as anyone to get a paralegal job. I would list only your last ten years of employment. Listing all of it will give away your age. We all know that law firms practice age discrimination as much as any employer.

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tmf1977 in Yonkers, New York

46 months ago

Andrea2011 in Pasco, Washington said: I am a legal assistant with over 26 years' experience as a legal assistant. Almost all of that experience has been in civil litigation with an emphasis on insurance defense and construction law. Over the years I worked in estate planning, family law, and real estate. I prepared all types of legal documents including dissolution documents, wills and trusts, interrogatories and requests for production, notices, subpoenas, orders, and wage garnishments. I have no formal college education, but instead attended a trade school/business college that no longer exists. I am considering taking the NALS or NALA exam to obtain paralegal certification. What are my chances of obtaining employment as a paralegal?

In NY, the demand for paralegals who passed NALA and NFPA certification is minimal. In fact, I have yet to see any job ads in NYC and the surrounding smaller markets requesting such certification. Typically it's experience, and a degree which employers seek.

I recommend having your resume professionally drafted. You have a great deal of experience, so it will be a matter of how to sell yourself on paper (which is crucial today). I have used Resume Edge in the past, and I have had excellent results with their services. The resume they crafted for me has helped me land interviews, even in this tight job market. They are pricey, but they have packages, or you can use their editing service for a fraction of the cost.

You may want to invest the time and money in taking advanced software courses, and if you can, try learning a litigation management program like Summation. The trend now is legal support possessing intermediate skills in MS Office, Visio, and experience in using database programs like Oracle, Live Note, and Hummingbird.

All the best.

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allenrd1 in North Little Rock, Arkansas

44 months ago

I have a bachelor's and a Master's. Should I pay for another degree in paralegal studies? I would much prefer to use federal funds for school.

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Unemployed Paralegal in Denver, Colorado

44 months ago

You really don't need another degree. You've got those bases covered quite nicely and a paralegal degree won't make you any more employable. Just earn a paralegal certificate.

I would urge you to check out the LR job market beforehand. Few paralegal jobs are open, at least around here. You may find yourself unable to find a job and saddled with whatever debt to pay off for your paralegal program.

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Toni Marsh in Washington, District of Columbia

44 months ago

allenrd1 in North Little Rock, Arkansas said: I have a bachelor's and a Master's. Should I pay for another degree in paralegal studies? I would much prefer to use federal funds for school.

Hi allenrd1 -- You didn't mention whether your bachelor's and master's degrees are in paralegal studies, but if they are not then a paralegal studies certificate will help your career. You will especially benefit if you attend a school that has a robust career services office and will assist you in your search.

I am not sure what you mean about using federal funds, but be careful about incurring too much debt. Look for a program that you can afford and that will be a good investment.

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Unemployed Paralegal in Denver, Colorado

44 months ago

@allenrd1:

Whatever you do, do NOT be talked into a Master's in Paralegal Studies degree. With your educational background that "degree" would be overkill in every way.

Also be sure to choose a program that offers courses in bread-and-butter legal work, such as litigation, Workers' Comp and family law. Esoteric courses, such as international law, won't get you hired in your first job - and getting yiur first job, first and foremost, is your major concern. Far more attorneys practice in the specialties I just identified than in international law.

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Toni Marsh in Washington, District of Columbia

44 months ago

Not sure if I would take career advice from someone named "unemployed paralegal"

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Unemployed Paralegal in Denver, Colorado

44 months ago

I was employed as a paralegal for more than ten years, Toni, in multiple specialities.

I'm not sure if I were interested in paralegal if I would take any advice at all from you, Toni, who is clearly identified on this forum as director of a paralegal program at an expensive D.C. university and whose interest is clearly obvious - to generate buzz, and students, for her expensive program.

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Mark in Redwood City, California

39 months ago

A search through Craigslist covering the San Francisco Bay Area from March 16 through April 15 returned 22 jobs requesting an ABA approved certificate and another 22 without the ABA distinction. There were 132 paralegal jobs posted for this same time period. Thus, there were 88 positions that didn't mention certification at all. I am a paralegal with 28 years of experience. For those like me with a 4 year degree and more than 5 years of experience, it's wise to get a certificate if you suddenly become unemployed, but it doesn't need to be an ABA approved one because the large body of work you have done over many years is distinguished all the more with your new certificate. For those like me, to get an ABA approved one is a little like returning to undergraduate studies. Why would you do it? You don't need the equivalent of a two year AA degree when you already have a 4 year degree. If you still feel uncomfortable and not fully certified yet, then join the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and take their PCCE or PACE certification exams or join the National Association of Legal Assistants and take their CLA or CP exams. You'll be very marketable. Those who don't have a 4 year degree and have little to no work experience in the paralegal field, you should probably obtain a certificate from an ABA approved program, use this coursework to cover some of your general education requirements at a university and graduate with a 4 year degree in legal studies or jurisprudence. For me, I have a 4 year degree, 28 years of experience and I'm currently enrolled in UC Berkeley Extension's online certificate program and plan to take the PCCE and CLA exams for further certification.

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sam in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania

36 months ago

Hi all, I have decided to go back to school to be a paralegal but I have a few questions I am hoping someone can answer for me.

One should I got to an ABA approved school vs a non ABA approved school?

Two is it worth it to get your bachelors in paralegal? Ive seen alot of Associate programs available but not very many bachelors programs.

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Sweet Thor in Los Angeles, California

33 months ago

Hi Mark, I am very interested in your advice on the ABA and non ABA paralegal program. I've been working as a Legal Assistant/Legal Secretary for over 12 years and have a bachelors degree. After many years of putting off schooling to obtain a paralegal certificate I decided it's time. I've been racking my brain for months with this whole ABA and non ABA paralegal programs. I ran across this site called CLS and they have schools that offers online paralegal programs for about $3k but is non ABA and not really a well known school (Cal State Dominguez Hills). I've also ran across Duke University and UC Berkeley that are non ABA but are really well known schools and the course is double the amount. I see that you have been attending the UC Berkeley Extension program that is offered online. I am also debating on attending UCLA Extension Program which is ABA approved, twice a week and takes 1 year to complete. What are your thoughts? I really need someone who is in the same position as I am help me decide. Your comment is much appreciated.

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Sweet Thor in Los Angeles, California

33 months ago

Mark in Redwood City, California said: A search through Craigslist covering the San Francisco Bay Area from March 16 through April 15 returned 22 jobs requesting an ABA approved certificate and another 22 without the ABA distinction. There were 132 paralegal jobs posted for this same time period. Thus, there were 88 positions that didn't mention certification at all. I am a paralegal with 28 years of experience. For those like me with a 4 year degree and more than 5 years of experience, it's wise to get a certificate if you suddenly become unemployed, but it doesn't need to be an ABA approved one because the large body of work you have done over many years is distinguished all the more with your new certificate. For those like me, to get an ABA approved one is a little like returning to undergraduate studies. Why would you do it? You don't need the equivalent of a two year AA degree when you already have a 4 year degree. If you still feel uncomfortable and not fully certified yet, then join the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and take their PCCE or PACE certification exams or join the National Association of Legal Assistants and take their CLA or CP exams. You'll be very marketable. Those who don't have a 4 year degree and have little to no work experience in the paralegal field, you should probably obtain a certificate from an ABA approved program, use this coursework to cover some of your general education requirements at a university and graduate with a 4 year degree in legal studies or jurisprudence. For me, I have a 4 year degree, 28 years of experience and I'm currently enrolled in UC Berkeley Extension's online certificate program and plan to take the PCCE and CLA exams for further certification.

Hi Mark, please see my comment below. Thanks!

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BG in Carlsbad, California

33 months ago

According to the BLS, the vast majority of paralegals hold either a 2-year associate's or certificate from a community college. Only a small percentage of paralegals attend an ABA approved paralegal program.

Law firms are primarily looking for experience in the field coupled with a paralegal credential (certificate or degree). I also know of paralegals with only a degree in English working in this field. It's actually a plus in the legal field, since law is hinged around written communication skills. There are also many paralegals who have worked themselves up through the ranks legal secretary to paralegal), who have no credentials. It will, however, become much harder to do this in the years ahead.

All in all, the legal industry will continue to see a major decline in the years ahead, not only in North America, but also in Europe. Technology and better legal software will replace many paralegal support functions, along with routine analytical tasks performed by lawyers, especially as we enter into AI based diagnostics and algorithms.

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Smiling in San Diego, California

33 months ago

"Technology and better legal software will replace many paralegal support functions, along with routine analytical tasks performed by lawyers, especially as we enter into AI based diagnostics and algorithms."

I would agree with this. I predict best bet for working in law as a para is to have some type of computer engineering or IT undergrad and then the para certificate. Associates will do doc and motion drafting, while paras will be heavy in software and computer work to manage the evidence and docs of the case.

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DJ from Columbia in Matthews, North Carolina

7 months ago

Hey I plan on entering a paralegal certificate program. I'm 24 currently working on my masters in business admin (partially because my job is paying for it). My bachelor's is in political science with a concentration in pre law.

Question 1. Should I do an ABA program from a tech school or Non-ABA from a school with prestige ?

Question 2. How do I gain experience the paralegal field?

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