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Virtual Paralegalism

The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism

Do Your Homework Before Enrolling in a For-Profit Paralegal Program

I sometimes get email from people interested in a paralegal career, asking if they should get a paralegal certificate (often online) versus an associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. I always tell them to thoroughly research the educational requirements that area legal employers prefer before making a decision – and that many employers today are looking for paralegals with four-year degrees.

My concern for those individuals seriously considering certificate programs (which are very different from becoming a certified paralegal) is that they may spend a great deal of money and time to earn a piece of paper that isn’t recognized or valued in the legal field.

Journalist Barry Yeoman discusses the pitfalls of some for-profit colleges in “School of Hard Knocks,” which appears in the June 2010 issue of Good Housekeeping. With so many for-profit career colleges aggressively advertising paralegal programs, I’m sharing several of his invaluable tips for protecting yourself here.

Yeoman recommends that potential students:

  • Research the school at the Department of Education’s College Navigator (http://www.nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/). Low graduation rates and high default loan rates might mean dissatisfied students and unemployed graduates.
  • Ask the school recruiter or admissions counselor about graduation and placement rates as well.
  • Contact potential employers in the area where you hope to work and ask if they hire graduates of the school.
  • If you are planning to continue your education, such as earning a bachelor’s degree, find out if your course credits will transfer to the institutions you are interested in attending.
  • Read every single piece of paper before you commit yourself in writing to the school’s program – and tuition payments.

Yeoman also suggests that you explore the possibility of pursuing your training at the local community college or state university, a recommendation I strongly agree with, especially if area legal employers view the paralegal program favorably and frequently hire graduates.Bottom line? Do your homework before enrolling in any paralegal program.Related Post: A Word to the Wise about Online “Legal Assistant Certification”

2 Responses to Do Your Homework Before Enrolling in a For-Profit Paralegal Program

  1. This is exactly why, last year, I canceled an interview for a part-time teaching position in one of those for-profit paralegal programs. The research I did after I initially accepted the interview revealed numerous class action lawsuits and government investigations resulting from the the school chain's conduct. No thanks!

    By the way…The school is still running the ad for the same position more than a year later!

  2. I'm rarely unsettled by anything I read in Good Housekeeping, but the theme of the article is that some of these programs prey on women desperate to re-enter the workforce with in-demand skills – so they can support their kids. After investing a chunk of their lives in full-time training and taking on a boatload of student debt, some of them find themselves with a piece of paper that's worthless in the touted hot career area, such as the medical field.

    I've got a new appreciation of my sheepskin in paralegal studies from the local community college.

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Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]gmail.com

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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