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Old 12-29-11, 05:10 PM   #1
on the path
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Way OT: Paralegal

I'm hoping to hear from anyone who is in the legal profession and/or has studied law. Specifically, I'd like to know more about becoming a paralegal. Feel free to discuss this publicly, and I would welcome any private messages as well.

Me - I'm 50+ years old, and have had a career in an entirely different profession. It's time for me to enter a new field, while I'm healthy and still have my wits about me.

I seem to think in legal terms and I typically use very precise language. Often people whom I've just met ask me if I'm a lawyer. My writing is very clear and very communicative. I think I would excel at being a paralegal, and I believe I would really enjoy it as well.

I don't have many useful college credits, having studied in the arts, specifically music, but I'm thinking I could complete the necessary course work relatively quickly if I got on a fast track and stayed with it. There's a lot of information to be found online, but it's hard to weed out the better educational sources from the ones that have the slickest advertising. I'm open to an online course, or in - person, brick and mortar study.

I think being a paralegal is a career that might still afford me enough time for cycling, which I absolutely love, and possibly to train for racing (!), which I've never done. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Any help at all would be most appreciated.

Happy cycling to all

John
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Old 12-29-11, 05:30 PM   #2
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I am degreed paralegal. See my PM.
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Old 12-29-11, 05:45 PM   #3
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I am degreed paralegal. See my PM.
Didn't come through. Arrgh!! I think my settings are correct. I'll wait and if it doesn't come through maybe I'll try a PM to you and you can respond? Thanks so much, I really appreciate it.
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Old 12-29-11, 05:47 PM   #4
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Check now.
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Old 12-29-11, 05:51 PM   #5
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Check now.
Now I've got it, thanks. I'm responding...
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Old 12-29-11, 08:27 PM   #6
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Jobs are really going to depend on the local market. Nearly all the paralegals at my old firm were fabulous secretaries that gradually did more and more paralegal type work. Some went to school part time to supplement their on the job knowledge. We rarely hired a paralegal from the outside, and the ones we did hire were hired because of their experience in a particular field.

Good luck! Feel free to pm me if you have any questions. I am a retired IP lawyer.
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Old 12-30-11, 07:25 AM   #7
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I went back to the University of West Florida to earn a BA in law in 1986-1987, qualified for the Certified Legal Assistant exam. I already had my Environmental Engineering degree and had worked as a Well Drilling engineer off shore and taught physics, chemistry and biology at an honors school.

Due to our son being born 10 weeks premature 4 days after I graduated I didn't start a job search soon. I was working as a site administrator in construction to make ends meet. The Navy Facilities Engineering Command notified my F-I-L that I was qualified to be a Quality Control Engineer that May and certified me the same day. I never got to work as a paralegal and have been back in engineering as a civil engineer since 1988 and got my NAVFAC and USACE QE qualifications, passing their exam and course work.

The course of study was much like the first 2 years of law school, as far as course work, legal research and moot courts. I have constantly used my research skills as an engineer and find I can hold my own in contract negotiations and disputes. To be honest my court room observations and dealings with lawyers in the real world made me not want to work in the legal field. I just don't believe in "sue the bastards" on my personal principals. If I had gotten in with a state Attorney's office or a federal prosecutor I would have been satisfied. I'll never actually know.

P.M. me if you want to talk about what the course of study was and pretty much still is. The computer has really changed the way things are done in research and legal documents as well as general office procedures. I imagine Miss 'K can help you a great deal.
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Old 12-30-11, 08:47 AM   #8
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......my court room observations and dealings with lawyers in the real world made me not want to work in the legal field. I just don't believe in "sue the bastards" on my personal principals.
I don't know if I'm one to be in the legal profession for these same reasons. It's interesting - people seem to have a general disdain for lawyers as a group, but people seem to like their lawyer.

Understanding that one has to take what's available, I would prefer to be in the field of environmental law or elder law. I already know way more than I ever wanted to know about matrimonial law, but don't get me started...

I'll be thinking about this and doing more research as well. And yes, Miss Kenton provided some excellent real world perspective.
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Old 12-30-11, 09:08 AM   #9
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It was never a case of a lawyer's personality or style bothering me, just how the tort system worked. That is where most litigation occurs that uses paralegals in our area. Now there are many good dedicated Environmental Law groups out there to work for. Just do the research on your area of interest and look into a community college or a local state college/university to keep costs down. Many more firms and agencies are using paralegals/legal assistants now so your choices are better than mine were.

I wanted to work in sexual harassment or equal opportunity/rights law, especially the federal side of the house.

Bill
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Old 12-30-11, 09:29 AM   #10
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My thinking is the way to do it is to first find the lawyers and a field of law you want to work in, as a legal assistant/clerk, whatever. If they like you I suspect the work-study road to paralegal would be available and supported.

My observation, most of the people I see looking miserable are working for the wrong lawyers or in the wrong field of law. And, I see alot of those. Survey says...lots of very unhappy people in the legal profession. So..it's all about fit, sort'a like bicycles.
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Old 12-30-11, 10:18 AM   #11
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I don't know if I'm one to be in the legal profession for these same reasons. It's interesting - people seem to have a general disdain for lawyers as a group, but people seem to like their lawyer.
There is a disdain for a lawyer until one needs one. Then they become fine.
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Old 12-30-11, 11:37 AM   #12
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... It's interesting - people seem to have a general disdain for lawyers as group, but people seem to like their lawyer...
I've heard the same thing said about Congressional representatives and senators.
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Old 12-30-11, 01:12 PM   #13
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The course of study was much like the first 2 years of law school, as far as course work, legal research and moot courts.
Legal research classes might be somewhat similar. However, unless they changed law school since I went more than 30 years ago, the first couple of years was Socratic method, and not like paralegal course work. I taught a contracts course to paralegals and business law students and it wasn't remotely the same as contracts in law school.
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Old 12-30-11, 04:52 PM   #14
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]Legal research classes might be somewhat similar.[/B] However, unless they changed law school since I went more than 30 years ago, the first couple of years was Socratic method, and not like paralegal course work. I taught a contracts course to paralegals and business law students and it wasn't remotely the same as contracts in law school.
Legal research is legal research. Is there a precedent? Has it been upheld? Will it work for my case? Is there another case that fits better? Are there any red flags? All my paralegal instructors were working attorneys. None of them indicated their research was "somewhat" similar.
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Old 12-30-11, 05:27 PM   #15
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I was a downtown, suit-wearing lawyer for a while and learned that paralegals can make you or break you. The work they do is essential, and they get respect for it if they demand it. You will know more about the case than the lawyer.

There are times you will work insane hours just like the lawyers do, but generally you would have much more control over your life than they do - meaning you get to go home. You won't get the big office (who cares) or the big $, but you would get more time for your own life.

I say go for it. There's nothing you can't learn. Also, if it's an option don't rule out the JD and working as a briefing attorney for an appellate judge or something like that. That's ALL about writing.
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Old 12-30-11, 06:35 PM   #16
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Legal research is legal research. Is there a precedent? Has it been upheld? Will it work for my case? Is there another case that fits better? Are there any red flags? All my paralegal instructors were working attorneys. None of them indicated their research was "somewhat" similar.
Yes, research is research but the class requirements may or may not be similar. I don't know what kind of papers and writing one has to do in paralegal legal research and writing classes as compared to law school. That is what I meant by my qualification.

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Old 12-31-11, 08:47 PM   #17
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I had Socratic method in all my course work save graduate accounting and finance, and our legal courses were all using curriculum and text from law schools, specifically U. of Florida, Florida State and Stetson law schools among others. The legal writing and research was full on courses and case studies from law school curriculum. As Miss Kenton said Shepardization is Shepardization no matter where you are.

I have full respect for lawyers and save having 2 children to care and provide for I would have my J.D. too. Just my priorities. And day 1 was drummed in : Don't practice law if you aren't a lawyer and passed the bar. No exceptions.
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Old 12-31-11, 09:13 PM   #18
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I'm not an attorney but do consulting work for the federal government in legal related areas. Both the federal and the private side use lots of paralegal support. So the demand is there, at least in the federal arena. If you want to advance, the work quickly seperates the good and the best in the field - as already mentioned, one key aspect is finding the most relevent precedent. Online research including westlaw is the biggest part
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Old 12-31-11, 10:03 PM   #19
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I had Socratic method in all my course work save graduate accounting and finance, and our legal courses were all using curriculum and text from law schools, specifically U. of Florida, Florida State and Stetson law schools among others. The legal writing and research was full on courses and case studies from law school curriculum. As Miss Kenton said Shepardization is Shepardization no matter where you are.

I have full respect for lawyers and save having 2 children to care and provide for I would have my J.D. too. Just my priorities. And day 1 was drummed in : Don't practice law if you aren't a lawyer and passed the bar. No exceptions.
So (other than accounting and finance) your classes were all reading cases? Did the textbooks have nothing but cases in them? This was at the University of West Florida for a BA in legal studies? I am curious as this was not done in either school I taught at and actually doesn't seem all that practical a way to teach people to be paralegals. As an IP lawyer reading cases wouldn't have taught my paralegals much of anything. (But your engineering coursework would have. )

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