Paralegals go to court
As a legal assistant, you will have an insight into legal practice. At some point, it's natural to wonder if you're better off as a lawyer. After all, you have a lot more on-site experience than the incoming staff, many of whom have never entered a courtroom or seen a number of M&A documents. Couldn't you apply what you've learned to advancing as a lawyer? Before you take the big step, here are a few things to consider.
Are You Really Getting a Salary Upgrade?
Paralegals who want to become lawyers are often tempted by the higher basic salaries lawyers typically make. But that number could be misleading. Lawyers are employed and no longer paid for working overtime. In contrast, the more paralegals they work, the more they get paid. If you're talking about a trial situation where everyone on the team works 20 hour days (not that unusual, unfortunately), the paralegals might actually earn more per hour than many of the lawyers! Before you decide to invest $ 100,000 or more in law school for a higher salary, do the math and make sure it will actually result in a higher hourly rate (taking into account any student loan payments you have left over could stay).
How is your quality of life affected?
While it doesn't seem like you are a sought-after paralegal, you probably have more control over your work-life balance than a lawyer.
Because you get overtime, attorneys at least pay attention to the number of hours you are asked to work. As a lawyer, you will basically be on call all the time, which many people find deeply uncomfortable.What kind of work do you want to do?
Another important motivator for considering making a transition from attorney to attorney is a more interesting or challenging job.
Here it is important to take a close look at labor lawyers, especially young lawyers. While a senior partner's life looks glamorous while handing over documents for cross-examination in court, keep in mind that it will take many years to get to this point. As a new attorney, you still have to pay your dues in the trenches by doing routine chores that are less interesting than organizing all of the documents for a paralegal case. Before you decide to go to law school, do some informative interviews with lawyers in your law firm (if you feel comfortable you might go that route) or with other lawyers you know. Get a good feel for what they are doing all day so that you will be able to assess whether "lawyer work" is really what you want to do.
What kind of work can you get?
Paralegalists going to law school sometimes expect to have some entry into the hiring process, but even if you have work experience the law department is a very hierarchical place and if you work as a paralegal for an AmLaw company it is unlikely to that you get hired as a lawyer unless you end up in one of the top law schools. Personal connections are important, of course, but they only go so far.
Ultimately, the family tree still bears the day in many places.
If you do decide to apply for a law degree, think about how you can hold off your debt and that you will have more options when you graduate. Unless you are aiming for a fancy BigLaw job, then doing law school part-time while you keep working would be a great option.
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