Paralegals and law school

25 05 2010

In virtually any field, a bachelors degree will carry you only so far.  Eventually, career advancement requires some form of graduate degree.  Obviously, in the legal field, if you want to maximize your career potential, this means earning your J.D.

While I still dream of penning the “great American novel,” realistically I know I need to go to law school to advance my own career. Last summer, while searching for the proper law school for me, I attended an information¬† session for the part-time, evening program at the SMU Dedman School of Law, a program designed specifically for working professionals. The event organizers stressed that the program was ideal for paralegals, yet surprisingly few paralegals applied. In fact, I met only one other paralegal during the seminar. This made me wonder, in an age where almost every law school offers some form of part-time evening program, why do more paralegals not apply to law school?

As a paralegal, we have an intimate understanding of the legal field. While this certainly does not guarantee success in law school, it does make us a little more prepared for the dense subject matter to be presented in the classroom. The practical knowledge we gleaned through personal experience should help us understand the application of the material, making it easier to digest and process. We all worry about the economics of earning a law school degree, but we also understand that the degree can easily pay for itself in a few years of practice.

What other elements keep paralegals from taking that next step? Do some firms discourage their paralegals from seeking their J.D.? Has working as a paralegal pulled back the curtain too far, revealing too much of the reality of being an attorney?

Personally, I know I must take that next step.