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

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Carolina in Vienna, Virginia

68 months ago

Thank you all for your comments.

Mary: The faculty members at GW hold J.D.s and Ph.D.s and are very well known. The courses are more appealing to me (that's the MAIN reason I haven't decided yet)and there are 9 professors teaching 12 courses. You don't need to earn the graduate certificate in PS from an ABA-approved school to take the examinations.

DLP in Denver: Actually the tuition at MU is more expensive than GW's. I am not planning to get a Masters in Paralegal Studies. I just want and I am clear that I ONLY need the certificate which costs approx. $12,000 including books. I do not attempt to enroll in the online program.

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Mary inTampa in Tampa, Florida

68 months ago

Girl, for you to spend, or borrow, that money, you make sure you have the job market you want and make the money you want. Don't let a boyfriend, or the "can't leave mom and dad, they're old, have to stay with them" thoughts get in the way. Be sure you think of yourself - because you're the one going through the sheit to get the degree and you are the one to pay the bills.

If you're at one job, and after three years you are not satisfied, then go get another one - just be sure it is a better firm and better money.

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Carolina in Vienna, Virginia

67 months ago

Thank you! The graduate certificate at MU costs $17K

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Mary inTampa in Tampa, Florida

67 months ago

Carolina in Vienna, Virginia said: Thank you! The graduate certificate at MU costs $17K

Too bad you're not in Florida. St. Petersburg College has a program - ABA approved, $75.00 a credit (a very nice program). Susan Demers has a doctorate degree, was/is an attorney. Her husband is a big attorney. Most of the classes are taught by attorneys.

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Carolina in Vienna, Virginia

67 months ago

I know Mary...The paralegal certificate up here is very expensive almost everywhere you go.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

67 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Actually, that isn't all that bad for 2008 dollars. My ABA certificate from a free-standing school cost something like $7K-$7.5K in 1994. My pay as an entry paralegal in 1995 was $21K. Entry pay around here is now $28K-$34K. So everything is relative.

Finally, I see the salary of your first job - $21k. I had stated my first job was $11/hour , no benefits, 9-5, no stress.

I interviewed for my first Paralegal job in Philadelphia. say 1994. The salary was low to mid twenties ($23k to $26k) with full benefits and small office. The Legal Secretary position I was offered, same time period, was $33k.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

67 months ago

MH in San Jose, California said: legal eagle in Silver Spring, Maryland
"Paralegals with master's degrees earn the highest salaries of all.
Paralegals with bachelor's degrees plus post-bacc certificates earn the next highest salaries.
These stats come from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics ( www.bls.gov )." -

I really don't think a masters degree is neccessary for a paralegal career. The expenses and time spent on a masters degree will not increase a paralegal's salary; years of experience will.

I absolutley concur. I was a Paralegal for 10 years.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

67 months ago

Director in Washington, District of Columbia said: Here's what GW offers for its tuition:.......
A full-time Director of Career Services dedicated to the program

An education; not training

Hum - And no guarantee of getting a job. ONce you graduate, you are on your own to get the job. I will comment that Washington D.C. is a meca of lawyers and government jobs.

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Director in Washington, District of Columbia

67 months ago

Do you know of a program that guarantees a job?

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

67 months ago

JK in Florida said: I would like to know if anyone is familiar with Boston University's online certificate program and whether that might be considered a worthwhile program.

I am familiar with B.U. I have my undergraduate degree from there. The program aside, one needs to be concerned with the job market you will be seeking your paralegal job in. Florida is not a big opportunity state for legal. Most communities are small. Exceptions, jobs in Miami and W. Palm Beach. Two parts: are there jobs in Paralegal where I live??? If not, take serious stock before you put out your money for trainiing.

In FL - entry level jobs will pay in low to mid twenties.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

67 months ago

Director in Washington, District of Columbia said: Do you know of a program that guarantees a job?

My point is although they are marketing proffessors with law degress, I sure hope so, and a Director of Career Services , who will be little to no help in getting a job, working in legal clinics, probably will not do much of value for resume experience, etc.

Point being - the most important thing is Can you get a job in this field in tiday's economy. Can you afford to start at low twenties? The rest of what they offer is marketing. Absolutley do agree- should have J.D.'s and J.D. who have had a law career for your professors, as this program offers.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

67 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Of course not. No program can out-and-out guarantee a job. One must select a program that provides the best chances of getting a job. Considering that an ABA-approved paralegal certificate is the highest grade credential available and one that has the industry seal of approval, I think such certificate provides those chances.

I concur.

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Mary inTampa in Tampa, Florida

67 months ago

Don't let all the fluff of this program go to your head. We've all been there. It sounds like you REALLLY REALLY REALLY WANT the GW program. You don't want to regret whatever decision you make. So go to both schools, walk through the halls, TALK to the instructors and TALK to the students. Go on a class night and sit in a few classes. Whatever decision you make, weigh the pros and cons of each program.

Something to think about: If GW is not ABA approved, then why isn't it?

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Director in Washington, District of Columbia

67 months ago

That's great advice.

Carolina from Virgnia, come by any time and I will show you around. You can sit in on a class, talk to the professors and students, and tour the campus. Call me and we'll set something up.

Have a good weekend, all. These discussions are so much fun!

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

67 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Speaking of fluff:

Graduation ceremonies in cap and gown on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

I LOL on that one, fluffy.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

67 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Also, and this is very important, ask about the placement rate. Schools which train for certificates or similar vocational credentials are competitive. Ask each school how it defines placement; some paralegal schools consider night document coding for $6.50 an hour as placement.

Try to verify your answer independently. All schools brag about high placement rates; why else would you attend if you aren't reasonably assured of getting a job after you fork over the dough? Even with "help" from the Director of Career Services.

Ultimately, your decision rides on which program can best further your goals.

Great comment. And I further advise to get your local legal newspaper to read the real, real of what is going on in law and the job classified section.

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3L USC in Aiken, South Carolina

67 months ago

GW directors claim that his program is "An education; not training" is reason enough to disqualify this program for serious consideration. Practical training should be the focus of paralegal program.

The GW MA program appears to be mini law school light. Law school is theory and a paralegal school should be practical.

And 20k+ for Paralegal MA??? That's ridiculous. And touting the program as competitive? Compared to what? 3.0 UGPA requirement? Oh wow. What competative MA program doesn't require GRE, writing samples, or anything?

Just don't forget the Director is running a business.

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3L USC in Aiken, South Carolina

67 months ago

GW specialty in "international law"?

Wtf kind of useless specialty is this? International law, as a career or specialty, does not exist.

Anyone know international lawyers or law firms? There are only a small handful of elite positions that really classify as international law, and someone had a chance at them, they would know it and not be getting ripped off at some 20k paralegal MA program.

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Joel Irving in Lindenhurst, New York

67 months ago

Heidi in Bellingham, Washington said: I am graduating next month and will then have a BA in Sociology. I am currently looking into two different certification programs (in Seattle, WA) for Paralegal work that begin in September.

Does anyone have advice on the importance of being certified through an ABA-approved program?

My first choice is the University of Washington Extension Certification program. Although it is NOT directly ABA-approved, it is approved by the University of Washington School of Law - which IS ABA-approved.

My second choice is through a community college, which offers an Advanced Paralegal Certificate (advanced because it requires BA for admission). This IS ABA-approved, just not as prestigous as my first choice.

Therefore, is ABA-approval or prestige of greater importance? Does it matter more for a recent graduate of the program or more in the long run with years of
experience?

Thank you!

I would look at the program that offers an internship.

www.newyorkparalegalblog.com/

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Mary inTampa in Tampa, Florida

67 months ago

That Internship is important - especially for someone who has never been in a law firm before. It's EXTREMELY UNLIKELY you're going to get any job in a a law firm, with a paralegal degree - yet, you have never even spent a day in a law firm environment. In that situation, the only job you will get will be a legal secretary job which says no experience necessary - for close to minimum wage.

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Sudent in Denver, Colorado

66 months ago

I am getting my BA in Political Science and I would like to go to law school. My LSAT score is 155 and GPA 3.51 this would be enough for some law schools especially for part-time program. I was thinking to go to Arapaho college and get ABA approved paralegal certificate. And then go to law school. I would work as paralegal during the law school. Is it worth the trouble?

Displaced Legal Professional in Arvada, Colorado said: Perhaps the CCs with the ABA-approved programs require one to earn an Associate's degree in paralegal studies concurrently with the paralegal certificate.

The major ABA-approved paralegal school I attended in Denver several years ago required a Bachelor's degree to enroll. The small private college ABA-approved paralegal program my wife attended in Massachusetts required a Bachelor's degree. The Bachelor's was required for enrollment in its paralegal certification-only (non-degree) program. I cannot speak for the degree program.

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Sudent in Denver, Colorado

66 months ago

You got a point. Why you don't have examination?

3L USC in Aiken, South Carolina said: GW directors claim that his program is "An education; not training" is reason enough to disqualify this program for serious consideration. Practical training should be the focus of paralegal program.

The GW MA program appears to be mini law school light. Law school is theory and a paralegal school should be practical.

And 20k+ for Paralegal MA??? That's ridiculous. And touting the program as competitive? Compared to what? 3.0 UGPA requirement? Oh wow. What competative MA program doesn't require GRE, writing samples, or anything?

Just don't forget the Director is running a business.

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Experience IP Paralegal in Washington, District of Columbia

66 months ago

<<<I interviewed for my first Paralegal job in Philadelphia. say 1994. The salary was low to mid twenties ($23k to $26k) with full benefits and small office. The Legal Secretary position I was offered, same time period, was $33k.>>>

Yikes, that was my experience in Philly as well -- IN 1988! I hope they pay better now. Philly isn't exactly a cheap place to live. And I vividly recall that secretaries made much more than paralegals.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

66 months ago

Experience IP Paralegal in Washington, District of Columbia said: <<<I interviewed for my first Paralegal job in Philadelphia. say 1994. The salary was low to mid twenties ($23k to $26k) with full benefits and small office. The Legal Secretary position I was offered, same time period, was $33k.>>>

Yikes, that was my experience in Philly as well -- IN 1988! I hope they pay better now. Philly isn't exactly a cheap place to live. And I vividly recall that secretaries made much more than paralegals.

Yeah, I was dismayed at the paralegal salary. Correct you are, Philly has a huge city wage tax, and I was commuting on train from Wilmington. Yeah, I remember the big news when a legal secretary got a job in a big BKR firm at $40k, with experience.

Geez- 1988 was high times. THe best we will ever see. Everybody making money and lots of jobs. THen came the S&L crisis, then the dot.com crash. Now- economic meltdown. JObs loss increased every month 2008. Next is the credit card smack down.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

66 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said:

I suspect my firm's experienced legal secretaries were paid more than the paralegals, but there was friction between the groups. The legal secretaries did some similar work as the paralegals but were unhappy they couldn't bill for it....

If they want to bill- till them to go get their paralegal certificate. Bunch of winers. Want2be(s) on a dictaphone.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

66 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: They would have had to take big-time pay cuts. As the expression goes, you can't have your cake and eat it too.

That is right- Again- Want2bees on a dictaphone.

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wondering in Scottsdale, Arizona

65 months ago

Can anybody give me advice? I was a legal secretary on and off for 15-20 years, in NY, Boston & here in Phoenix. I did this both before and after my Bachelor's (in Art). Finally I got a Master's Degree in Counseling Psych, worked at it for a few years and decided I didn't really like it. I tried to go back after the Master's to work as a legal secretary, but just got a little depressed because I didn't really / never really wanted to work as a secretary. I am in my mid-40's and still youthful, attractive and energetic. I have a community college ABA program here to attend. Do you think someone like myself, with a master's and years of legal experience, would have to enter at $21K? Don't you think I'd at least make $50K - what they're paying experienced legal secretaries over here? Also, can anybody recommend a lucrative field to practice in given my degrees? No jokes about the art, please :) Not sure I would like healthcare, would probably prefer something like real estate, corporate, something a little dry maybe. I have years of experience in litigation, but it has been a long time. I am also quite ready to move from this area. Wouldn't mind moving to DC, or back to the East Coast, which is where I'm from. Years ago, a legal adminsitrator told me not to get the paralegal cert because she said legal secretaries made more and could actually go home after work and not have to think about their job. But what she didn't take into account was that I hated the low prestige moniker of being a secretary....

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Experienced IP paralegal in Washington, District of Columbia

65 months ago

I went through the same thing about being a secretary - graduated with a BA and MA in English, then got my paralegal certificate at an ABA-approved school, and worked as a legal secretary because the money was better and it was much easier to get a job, although I really wanted a paralegal job because I hated being a secretary, with all the demeaning baggage attached.

But, now in my mid-40s, I have to agree with DLP. If I were you, I'd forget about law. There is very little prestige in being a paralegal instead of a secretary, and frankly I now envy secretaries because they don't have to bill, and if they work for someone who is not horrible (a big "if", I know), it's not a bad gig at all.

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wondering in Scottsdale, Arizona

65 months ago

Wow - thank you both so much for saving me ceaseless years of grief! I really do appreciate it. Art teacher sounds much more like my style & pace!

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wondering in Scottsdale, Arizona

65 months ago

Experienced IP paralegal in Washington, District of Columbia said: I went through the same thing about being a secretary - graduated with a BA and MA in English, then got my paralegal certificate at an ABA-approved school, and worked as a legal secretary because the money was better and it was much easier to get a job, although I really wanted a paralegal job because I hated being a secretary, with all the demeaning baggage attached.

But, now in my mid-40s, I have to agree with DLP. If I were you, I'd forget about law. There is very little prestige in being a paralegal instead of a secretary, and frankly I now envy secretaries because they don't have to bill, and if they work for someone who is not horrible (a big "if", I know), it's not a bad gig at all.

Thanks for seconding that motion - no pun intended !

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

65 months ago

I agree. Skip the legal field entirely.

You would not benefit salary wise from your Masters and past legal secretary experience in an entry level paralegal job. It wouldn't make any difference.

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wondering in Scottsdale, Arizona

65 months ago

Thanks so much. It's good to know it's unanimous!

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Director in Washington, District of Columbia

65 months ago

Not unanimous, wondering. I think the paralegal profession is fabulous and all of the paralegals in DC that I know (and I know a lot of paralegals) LOVE their jobs.

If you do decide to go to DC, look me up. I would be happy to show you around and tell you more about the paralegal market in DC.

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Experienced IP paralegal in Washington, District of Columbia

65 months ago

Director in Washington, District of Columbia said: Not unanimous, wondering. I think the paralegal profession is fabulous and all of the paralegals in DC that I know (and I know a lot of paralegals) LOVE their jobs.

If you do decide to go to DC, look me up. I would be happy to show you around and tell you more about the paralegal market in DC.

This is a joke, right?

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

65 months ago

wondering in Scottsdale, Arizona said: Can anybody give me advice? I was a legal secretary on and off for 15-20 years, in NY, Boston & here in Phoenix. ... Finally I got a Master's Degree in Counseling Psych, worked at it for a few years and decided I didn't really like it. ........ I have a community college ABA program here to attend. Do you think someone like myself, with a master's and years of legal experience, would have to enter at $21K? ... ....

Yes - I do think you may have to start out in low 20's to mid 20's pay. REASON: lawyers do not care about your previous background. Although the legal experience as secretary gives you legal experience, and you would pick up quickly, most likley- still have to pay your dues. AZ pay for paralegals is low in general.

Phoenix does have a Paralegal Association. Send them an e-mail and ask about salaries.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

65 months ago

Experienced IP paralegal in Washington, District of Columbia said: I went through the same thing about being a secretary - graduated with a BA and MA in English, then got my paralegal certificate at an ABA-approved school, and worked as a legal secretary because the money was better and it was much easier to get a job, although I really wanted a paralegal job because I hated being a secretary, with all the demeaning baggage attached..

WOW- you did the legal secretaqry gig also- me too after my first paralegal job. Funny- some legal houses think the jobs are interchangeable for the "paralegal." They are if you can type fast.

I also hated being a "secretary". Not a fast typer, although I did 1 years of legal secretary temping. More of those jobs.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

65 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: I'd also add, wondering, is unless you're hired specifically as a paralegal you may never have the chance to be one.

Although you'd have your ABA certificate, so do many legal secretaries. Firms would see your legal secretarial experience on your resume and want you to be one. Or they could offer you legal secretary and promise (hah!) to promote you to paralegal. You would do so great as a legal secretary that you would be type-cast in their eyes. They wouldn't want to give up your secretarial abilities and you would never have a chance to be a paralegal.

I concur. With that comment- do not even think about going for para cert.

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

65 months ago

My entry level salary in 1999 was $30,000, but stupid me didn't negotiate and I could have gotten $32,000, but, oh well. I had great benefits including profit sharing, medical, long and short disability, life insurance, 401(k) match, but no paid overtime.

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stephanie in Kansas City, Missouri

65 months ago

If you have no experience and have just graduated from school how hard is it to get into this field?

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Director in Gaithersburg, Maryland

65 months ago

Hey Stephanie, Did you graduate from high school or from college?

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stephanie in kc

65 months ago

Director in Gaithersburg, Maryland said: Hey Stephanie, Did you graduate from high school or from college?

Just High School for now I went to college for a year but I didn't finish I am entering a COTA program but am windering if I should switch my major to paralegal either way I just want to be able to help people.

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Director in Gaithersburg, Maryland

65 months ago

You should major in something you love so that you will do well -- your grades are more important than your major.

This is a good time to get your bachelor's degree, because the job market isn't the best right now, so it is a good time to get out of the makret and go back to school. By the time you get out, the job market is sure to look better.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

65 months ago

Paralegal in Dallas, Texas said: My entry level salary in 1999 was $30,000, but stupid me didn't negotiate and I could have gotten $32,000, but, oh well. I had great benefits including profit sharing, medical, long and short disability, life insurance, 401(k) match, but no paid overtime.

We all live and learn. MORE important- you got the benes and 401)k match - the key to your future.

Curious- how long did it take until you were enrolled and contributing to the 401 (k)??

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

65 months ago

Paralegal in Dallas, Texas said: My entry level salary in 1999 was $30,000, but stupid me didn't negotiate and I could have gotten $32,000, but, oh well. I had great benefits including profit sharing, medical, long and short disability, life insurance, 401(k) match, but no paid overtime.

I am sure the fact that you wanted to nail the job offer down solid, being your first para job- did not want to upset the apple cart.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

65 months ago

Paralegal in Dallas, Texas said: My entry level salary in 1999 was $30,000, but stupid me didn't negotiate and I could have gotten $32,000, but, oh well. I had great benefits including profit sharing, medical, long and short disability, life insurance, 401(k) match, but no paid overtime.

Dallas - I gather you had billable hours. YES, no. I had an interview in Philadelphia for para positon, billable hours, nd it was flat salary- no overtime. The paralegals told me thaty ere in there in weekends. Yeah- right. That is me- I had my experience under my belt at that point -

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stephanie in kc

65 months ago

Thank you for your reply. I used to live in Breckenridge CO.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

65 months ago

kmm in Wilmington, Delaware said: Dallas - I gather you had billable hours. YES, no. I had an interview in Philadelphia for para positon, billable hours, nd it was flat salary- no overtime. The paralegals told me thaty ere in there in weekends. Yeah- right. That is me- I had my experience under my belt at that point -

CORRECTION- no overtime pay.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

65 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said:

In any event, be sure you finish college with a degree in something. More doors will open for you with a college education than not.

Extremely important comment.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

65 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: [fortunate to} have landed my first paralegal job three and a half months after I graduated from paralegal school. Others in my school were still trying to find their first jobs six months after they graduated. Some of them may have had prior legal experience, which helps little in getting that first paralegal job.

YOu did get a quick start and job landing. It was luck and timing.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

65 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said:

Perhaps a better statement is one should major in something one is good at and for which one has an aptitude - not necessarily something one loves.

Most important. MY MOTTO- got to help yourself first before you can help others.

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