The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
Who can resist an article entitled “Become a Legal Assistant and Never Worry About Job Security Again”?
Not me. The article shows up in a Google news search for “legal assistant.” Some readers might think this is real news.
But I’m going to encourage newbies thinking about getting a paralegal degree to take Joel McLaughlin’s article with a big grain of salt. And not only because it’s essentially an advertisement for one online degree program.
In the first paragraph, McLaughlin repeats, “As a legal assistant, you will never worry about employment again.” In a down economy, we’re all concerned about employment if we have any sense, and if McLaughlin has kept up with legal news over the past few years, he’ll know that many lawyers and legal staffers have lost their jobs. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does project growth for the paralegal profession, these jobs are not easy pickings, like ripe fruit from low-hanging branches. There is stiff competition for every legal support staff position advertised.
But the statement that bothers me the most – because it is misleading to the uninformed – is “by obtaining certification online, you can be ready to go in to the job field in as little as eight months.” He refers to “legal assistant certification” again later in the article.
Sure, you can get a paralegal or legal assistant degree or certificate online, with a value very much dependent on the reputation of the program and the quality of the training – but you can’t become a certified paralegal or legal assistant without passing one of the voluntary national exams offered by organizations such as NALA, NFPA or NALS, or meeting the requirements in states that offer voluntary certification for paralegals.
Vicki Voisin, The Paralegal Mentor, has a fantastic post “Why Should You Be Certified” at her blog which explains the enormous difference between having a paralegal certificate and being a certified paralegal. Be sure that you know the difference, not only when you’re researching paralegal education, but when you’re describing your own credentials.