A paralegal posted a common question to one of the LinkedIn groups: “Am I absolutely out of my mind trying to find paralegal work, with no experience yet, only a certificate, and entering law school in the fall? Not exactly the ideal situation for a lot of hiring companies, apparently.”
I had to put in my $.25, naturally.
No one who is seeking further education is out of their minds! That being said, looking for a job and intending to go to law school can present a problem for most law firms around time, money and disruptions.
There are two types of hiring: career paralegals and transitional. Those who are career paralegals have selected this field with the intent on staying in it. Those that are considered transitional work as a paralegal with the intent of moving on to another position outside of the paralegal job. They use the position as a bridge to somewhere else.
Transitional paralegals are more common in certain parts of the country. There are major firms that have established a job category directly aimed at the transitional paralegal. The position requires little or no experience and seeks those who can devote only 18 – 24 months to the firm. These folks are usually on their way to grad school or law school. The majority of transitional hiring firms are located in New York with a few in San Francisco and Chicago.
My suggestion is not tell your potential employer that you are on your way to somewhere else and stopping in their law firm for a look-see. Most employers hesitate to hire you because of the significant investment they will have in training and recruitment. If they know that you are not there for the long haul, they are concerned they will have tremendous expense and disruption replacing you in a short period of time. You are viewed as a short-timer. For the sake of your career, you may find promotions hard to attain. On the other hand, you may have an employer who is 100% behind you. You need to find out the attitude of the firm before announcing your plans. Nothing is worse than making a mistake that could be a career buster.
Frankly, what you do on your own time, as long as you get the work done, is your business – even if you have been accepted to the finest school in the country. Perhaps you are just thinking about law school. The action has not yet happened. Right now, it’s in the future, perhaps a dream, possibly a nebulous goal but definitely not yet a reality. There are a whole host of things that may happen between now and the time you do enter law school. The fact is, some end up not going for whatever reasons – one of which is they love the paralegal career – another is, ‘lo and behold, after looking around and seeing first-hand, it slowly dawns that life as an attorney is not exactly as any of those exciting TV shows make it out to be. Hmmm….imagine that.
Chere Estrin is the CEO of Paralegal Knowledge Institute (www.paralegalknowledge.com), an online training organization for paralegals. She is a well-known job hunting coach (www.legalcareersrx.net) and CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing (www.estrinlegalstaffing.com), a nationwide staffing company. Chere has written 10 books about the paralegal career including the Paralegal Career Guide 5th edition and is Editor-in-Chief of KNOW, the Magazine for Paralegals. (She has Sundays free from 3-6:00 a.m.) Chere has written hundreds of articles and has been interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Above the Law, ABA Journal and other great publications. She loves to hear from you! Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.