So, what do I do?

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Dana J. in Dallas, Texas

37 months ago

Okay, so I graduated with a Liberal Arts B.A. in 2008. Since then, there have been no employment prospects available for me - no fast food, no retail, no secretarial gigs, I even tried to hire myself out as a maid... no takers. I looked into nursing and decided that I'm not up for the constant threat of communicable illness, the stress of dying people/high nurse:patient ratios and physical attacks from patients, so I decide to indulge my longstanding interest in the legal field. I have enough undischargable debt from my undergrad degree and have heard enough horror stories to avoid law school, so I decide that perhaps a career as a paralegal's a fine way to have my cake and eat it. Additionally, I study the OOH and it says that the field is one of the fastest growing, and the median pay is commensurate with what I could hope to recieve as a wandering liberal arts major. I come here, however, and learn that that's apparently not the case.

So, what do I do? I haven't started classes yet and want to be sure I'm making the right choice. When replying, keep in mind that there are no readily available options - I'm unemployable now, have been ever since graduation day, and will be for the forseeable future unless I attend school for *something.* If the market is bad for new grads but it will increase my odds of survival as a human above what they currently are, that's something I need to know. Furthermore, paralegals, K-12 teachers, nurses, IT people, academics, creative types - they *all* say that the market's abysmal for what they do. Where do I find reliable information on what occupation *is* secure for the next 20-30 years and has copious openings available for people across the spectrum of experience/qualifications? Or has the world broken apart and destined me to a glorious career in MLM or commission-only sales because I'm not a math whiz?

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Dana J. in Arlington, Texas

37 months ago

Oh, I'm well aware that paralegals aren't lawyers, and I have no problem with the idea of being a permanent suboordinate, in fact, the American dream of "being my own boss" is my very worst nightmare. I looked into court reporting as well - I want to be involved with the law, but without being a lawyer. My selection of paralegal *is* the result of inventorying my interests and making a compromise based on that, my talents/disposition and practicality/the amount of available positions.

That's the thing. I've been reading TONS of talk from regular people on the ground in fora and people have yet to say about the jobs in *any* field, "Oh, I/we love _______! Come on in, the water's fine and they're always looking for new _______."
EVERYONE says they're struggling, barely holding onto their positions, unhappy, underpaid, overworked and actively in the process of being outsourced, "insourced" (H1Bs or "responsibility creep" for lower-paid workers), rendered obsolete by technology or moot by lack of demand. And furthermore, "No one is desperate enough to hire and train a noob in this economy when they can get an experienced worker at bargain basement rates, or get a noob to work for experience with no pay and no promises." This is what the fora for every occupation I've researched tell me. It just seems like you (rhetorical "you", not literal "you") just have to pick the type of unhappiness you're willing to stand and pick the type of struggle you're willing to endure - which is why I'm looking for hard, accurate facts with which I can make this epic decision. If I can't trust the OOH info, and the typical worker on the ground in just about every field will say that the market for what they do is atrocious, then what do I do? How do I find out if there's a fount of stability in the legal profession in particular, in the world of work in general? After this ordeal, stability is what I desire the most, and it seems as elusive as a more typical passion, if not more so.

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Dana J. in Arlington, Texas

37 months ago

Did that go through?

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mary in Tampa, Florida

37 months ago

When I saw the word "stability" I started laughing. This is not our father's employment market.

I have three college degrees, court reporting, BS in Business Administration, and paralegal, AND Florida teacher certification. I am doin substitute teaching. I got an interview for a part time parlegal assistant, a few days later, got a "we chose someone else" letter.

As for court reporting, I am now on CAT. My untranslates are too high. I am working on my writing and dictionary every day to get them down. Mine are averaging 20 to 25 percent untranslated. I thought 10 percent was good. The other CR's say one percent is my goal. Before I thought I would hit 225 and look for a job. Now my goals is to get my untranslates to 15 percent, then look for a job. I don't want to market myself, not be prepared - and end up with a bad reputation.

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mary in Tampa, Florida

37 months ago

I see my typos - doin, parlegal, paralegal assistant, my goals is

stress is rough.

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Elly John in Kingston, Jamaica

37 months ago

mary in Tampa, Florida said: I see my typos - doin, parlegal, paralegal assistant, my goals is

stress is rough.

Mary do not get discourged, the stress and lack of jobs are in all areas and all countries. You/we just have to keep trying and be creative with the skills we have and in some cases learn new ones. All the best.

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Dana J. in Dallas, Texas

37 months ago

"I especially urge you to do your due diligence regarding realistic paralegal employment prospects and realistic legal industry working conditions before you incur debt for paralegal school on top of the school debt you're now trying to discharge"

Oh, no. I'm not trying to discharge anything at the moment. Interest is accruing and it's all deferred. I want to be able to pay it, but I do understand that it's there forever, so I'd like to be as conservative as possible with my choices. I've been doing the research, but the research is only as good as the sources I have access to. Also, I'm trying to get a legal secretary job so I can get a feel for the legal environment... they're supposed to be easier to get than paralegal jobs, but I can't get one of those either. That being said, I'm a horrible test case because of my profound unemployability and my state's institution of tort reform.

"Companies have changed. Employment has changed. Employers no longer value hard work, good work and loyalty."

"When I saw the word "stability" I started laughing. This is not our father's employment market.

I have three college degrees, court reporting, BS in Business Administration, and paralegal, AND Florida teacher certification. I am doin substitute teaching. I got an interview for a part time parlegal assistant, a few days later, got a "we chose someone else" letter."

So what's the answer... entrepreneurship/freelance contract work for everyone, including but not limited to young people with no training, older people with mounting medical bills, and families with mortgages? What do you tell a young person who wants to contribute to society, build a life for themselves, and stop being a burden on their family?

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Dana J. in Dallas, Texas

37 months ago

As far as CR is concerned, I was told that most of the schools are unregulated and bad with attrition/failure rates upwards of 90%, the equipment is prohibitively expensive, and it takes 4-5 years to get good enough to pass the test instead of the 2 years usually advertised - if you ever do, because it's a combination of talent and technical skill. I was also told that for the few and the proud, a literal wealth of backlog awaits, but the advent and advancement of voice recognition technology dangles overhead like a sword of Damocles. Also, you're an independent contractor, meaning a third of the salary is probably going to be spent on benefits and overhead. In light of this, I bolted.

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mary in Tampa, Florida

37 months ago

I was a court reporter in 1981, worked for ten years. I passed the RPR (registered professional reporter) before I finished school. As a reporter, I had four brand new cars (two were hot Camaros), expensive clothes.

That's all I have going for me right now.

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brambleton in Ashburn, Virginia

37 months ago

Dana J. in Dallas, Texas said: I looked into nursing and decided that I'm not up for the constant threat of communicable illness, the stress of dying people/high nurse:patient ratios and physical attacks from patients, so I decide to indulge my longstanding interest in the legal field. I have enough undischargable debt from my undergrad degree and have heard enough horror stories to avoid law school, so I decide that perhaps a career as a paralegal's a fine way to have my cake and eat it.
So, what do I do?

Dana,

You might reconsider nursing. There are a few specialties where you would have minimal to no patient contact. With your Bachelors, you can do an accelerated, 18-month second degree RN bridge program at most universities. Nursing offers more scholarships, grants and work-agreements than any other field. You can combine your interest in the law with a combined MSN/JD degree like the one offered at the University of Maryland. There is also nursing informatics, academia, research, community health, administration and management. If you like to write, there are dozens of professional nursing journals and academic text books that need evidence-based contributions. Your working environment is limitless, including hospitals, private practice, government work at all levels, cruise ships, MediVac helicopters, schools, court room, and home. These economic times has been rough on all professions, including all of health care, but I think that nursing has a slight advantage. The salary can start out modestly, in the 40-50K range and will definitely surpass 100K if you choose fields like CRNA (nurse anesthetist), CRNFA (surgical first assist),legal nurse consultant, nurse executive, etc. You can search for more information on a variety of nursing topics at www.allnurses.com

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brambleton in Ashburn, Virginia

37 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Modestly? In more than eleven years in law I never made more than $40K+bonus! Good post, brambleton. Fly safe!

You were seriously underpaid, sadly! My flying pays around 40K a year with me working 8-10 days a month. It took a long time to get there though. Nursing for me, pays twice that much with quadruple the work and responsibilities. Flying is freedom and is truly a dream job. The other job has been extremely painful from getting into school, jumping through all the mandatory loops, and the daily beatings continue, working in a war zone that is Trauma One. When I fly, I actually only work a third of each hour, and in nursing, I work practically every single minute for 12-14 hours. Lunch and potty breaks are optional. I hesitate to recommend nursing for anyone because it is a brutal field. But then, I've been spoiled, so I am told, by my first career. Nevertheless, you can make nursing work for you, regardless of your interest because there are many avenues to choose. I am very lucky to have both.

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

37 months ago

Apparently the paralegal market in Dallas is turning around. I am getting a lot of emails from recruiters even though I am not looking. All say it's picking up.

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brambleton in Ashburn, Virginia

37 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: I WAS underpaid, from the standpoint of not being paid commensurate with the responsibility, stress, expectations and demands, but also because I was paid below market. (Sorry, Dana, it happens.) When I lost my job paralegals at my experience level were paid fairly at $48K-$54K. Upon inquiry I gave that range at an interview. The interviewer responded that my expectations were fair. I didn't have to be told that. I already knew they were fair; on my last day that attorney told me I would earn within that salary range in my next job. He knew damn well he underpaid me, but that's for another discussion.

Please extend my respects to Capt. Sullenberger. He's my aviation hero.

I'm sorry for your troubles and wish you sunny skies ahead!

I know Capt.Sully and F/O Jeff Skiles personally. My hospital recently asked me to see if I could get them to speak to the Main Operating Room staff about CRM (crew resource management) since we use similar protocol borrowed from the aviation world. I think that would be the coolest thing ever and look forward to doing other projects that combine aviation and health care like charity medical missions.

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Dana J. in Dallas, Texas

37 months ago

Paralegal in Dallas, are there any attributes that prospective employers are generally looking for that could increase my chances? My undergrad degree is from a locally prestigious university and I've spent the past 2 years learning Spanish - I plan to become fluent* in the process of getting my cert. I'm considering electives in Oil and Gas and/or Bankruptcy. I also intend to improve my Excel skills, take something about Quickbooks/basic accounting and raise my typing speed from 55 to like, 70 or something.

Brambleton:

I've been to allnurses... it's where I got the skinny on the whole thing. The accelerated BSN was the draw for me, and the prospect of becoming a nurse paralegal was alluring. To qualify for any of the non-bedside care positions, however, they want you to have been on the hospital floor for a number of years. I can't deal with that much human waste and enmity for that long.

Displaced Legal Professional:

The fall of print journalism means that the market is flooded with experienced, quality writers with serious credentials, many of whom live and breathe the craft. Alongside them are similarly unemployable English majors and Journalism students that would actually love to write for a living and are willing to do so for free. I took one English course in H.S., so a lot of the grammatical terms and rules are unknown to me. I have an intuitive sense re: how to apply them, but it's not something I could easily explain to someone else. Also, you'd be hard-pressed to find a woman who will admit to liking children less than I do. It's funny... other people's parents despair over the decision to go into such a mercurial field, but mine exhort me to write against my will and better judgement. Do they believe in my abilities that strongly, or do they have that little belief in my ability to get a "real" job? *shrugs*

*If it falls through, ideally I could go for certification as a court interpreter

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buncle19 in Carlsbad, California

37 months ago

Dana J. in Arlington, Texas said: Oh, I'm well aware that paralegals aren't lawyers, and I have no problem with the idea of being a permanent suboordinate, in fact, the American dream of "being my own boss" is my very worst nightmare.

That's probably why the paralegal vocation attracts a lot of women, since they are comfortable in suboordinate roles and are tolerant of abusive lawyer relationships. My hope is that this changes, but I doubt it will.

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

37 months ago

So the word is Bank of America is hiring 60 paralegals with litigation experience to work near DFW airport. That's all I know.

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