One of my friends is considering the paralegal profession. He is just out of college with a history/journalism degree. He is interested in becoming a paralegal. He has a great GPA, and is very intellectually and analytically oriented, in addition to being widely read and legally/politically aware. I am wondering what would be your advice to him with respect to the following :
1) Should he start off with an internship in a paralegal firm, and move on to getting a degree in paralegal studies?
2) What is the nature of work and gamut of opportunities, for recent college grads with no legal experience, but yet want to work their way up in a paralegal firm?
~ Ohio Graduate Student
As you and your friend probably already know, the job market is tough for everyone right now, no matter what their major. There is a lot of competition for every paralegal job posted, but it can be interesting and rewarding work. Many firms want that four-year degree, but sometimes they also want a paralegal certificate from a reputable, usually ABA-approved, program.
Without knowing your friend’s current employment situation, I would say that interning for a law firm, if his schedule permits, is a good way to see if he likes the work. If he does, then he could look into the preferred paralegal programs for the area of the country where he resides or plans to settle.
He could also apply for entry-level jobs; some firms may consider him for entry-level positions with just a bachelor’s degree. Working in an entry-level job to gain legal experience while completing a preferably ABA-approved paralegal program offers the best chance to move up the ladder to a paralegal career.
As for your second question, I always suggest to anyone considering the paralegal profession that they frequently review the legal support staff want ads for the area(s) of the country where they want to work. That’s the best indicator of the available opportunities, including job duties and specialty areas in demand. But don’t limit the job search to just paralegal jobs – look for legal assistant, legal secretarial, and other related jobs as well.
* * *
Readers, any additional advice for a journalism major considering a paralegal career?