I graduated five years ago with a BS degree with a concentration in advertisement.  I’m very interested in taking the correct steps to become a paralegal, but I am unsure of where to begin due to the fact I have already gone to college. I currently have a full time job as well. I would really appreciate any assistance you could provide me with.  I have started listening to your podcast with Vicki Voisin and I’m hooked. ~ NC Paralegal Wannabe

Practical Paralegalism’s Response:

I’m glad to hear from you – and thanks for the positive feedback regarding the podcast. I’ve been awed by some of our guests myself! 🙂

I think the first step someone in your position has to take is to evaluate your current employment. If you need to work full-time, then any paralegal education of course will have to be scheduled around that. I think most NC legal employers welcome four-year degrees – but they also want a certificate from a reputable paralegal program and the NCCP certification. You’d probably only have to take paralegal courses in the community college program, because most of your general education credits should transfer.

Also, there’s the issue of the job market for legal professionals right now; it’s especially tough in rural areas. If you want to stay in NC, there are more opportunities in larger cities like Charlotte and Raleigh, but you’ll hear a lot of new graduates of various paralegal programs lament the difficulty landing entry-level employment. I’d keep an eye on the paralegal want ads in the areas where you’d like to work, and see what specialty areas are most in demand and what qualifications employers want.

Which brings us back to the issue of your current job. Most legal employers want experience, and it’s easier to sell a combination of legal experience and education. I suggest to people seriously committed to the paralegal profession that they try to locate an entry-level legal job, even if it’s secretarial. That is a particularly hard transition to make if you already have a full-time job that pays better than entry-level law jobs.

If you’re still in the exploration stages, I’d suggest taking a paralegal course or two at the local community college to see if you like this kind of work. Joining LinkedIn Groups for paralegals and following conversations is a great way to see what people are saying about the profession – good and bad. Subscribing to a paralegal magazine or two, and following paralegal blogs can also help you see the best and worst of the field.

Being a paralegal is a great career for bright, detail-oriented, and articulate people, but like any other career in this challenging economy, it’s taking more perseverance and patience than ever to land a job.

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Readers, any additional advice for someone that already has a non-legal job, but wants to make the change to a paralegal career?

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