Readers’ Questions – Should I get a Paralegal Certificate?


I currently hold my MBA; however, I am interested in obtaining a paralegal certificate. With your current expertise and experience, what could I do with the two????

 

I’m going to preface this response by saying that I am always going to be a strong proponent of education.  I think school is great and if you have the money and the time I can’t think of anything better than getting an education.  Having said that, I also believe that getting some times just because you hold certain degrees or certificates, you are not going to be guaranteed a position.  I don’t know where you live but I can tell you that in New Jersey and a few other states a paralegal certificate is not a requirement to get a paralegal job.  A college education, however, is required by most employers.

My suggestion to any paralegal who lives where a certificate is not a requirement and has a college degree is to go and find a position at a small law firm where you will be exposed to a variety of areas of the law.  When I started my career I worked in a two lawyer firm and did everything from legal secretary work to file clerk to paralegal.  I figured out pretty quickly what area of law I was interested and began improving those skills.  I would also recumbent that you read, read a lot and write a lot.  Start a blog, write short stories, summarize newspaper articles.  Once you are comfortable don’t be afraid to ask your attorney to let you get your feet wet in summarizing depositions for him or draft motions.  Learn what each of the documents looks like and start drafting your own.  Then ask your attorney to review them.  Impress the attorney and you will get to where you want to go.  Being a paralegal is hard work and you can never just sit still, keep moving.

The above reader also told me that, not only does she have an MBA but she already works at a bank.  So my advice in her case would be to look internally.  Apply for an internal position in the legal department and learn everything you can.  Since you already have your MBA why don’t you consider taking the Certified Paralegal Exam.

I am not discrediting an education in paralegal studies.  However, I am saying that if you already have an MBA.  What you will get out of a paralegal course will be no more than what you will receive from on the job training.  I am a strong proponent of regulating the profession via a national certification and I will discuss this at a different time.

I encourage you to work with a law firm or in-house at the bank you are currently employed.  Get all the experience you can for a few years and then reassess if you still want to be out on your own.

Hope this helps.  Let me know what you decide.

XoXo

Ana

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2 thoughts on “Readers’ Questions – Should I get a Paralegal Certificate?

  1. I would actually have to respectfully disagree. Employers, at least in my state of California, expect that you have a basic understanding of legal terminology, blue book citation, and legal writing and research. They don’t want to spend time and money for on the job training to learn as you go. Legal writing isn’t the same as the creative writing you would write in a blog, even a legal industry blog. Supervising attorneys don’t want to have to teach and remind their paralegals about shepardizing and checking their cites. You need to already know basic discovery and pleadings. Ask an MBA the difference between Form Interrogatories and Special Interrogatories and they will probably scratch their head unless they have a legal background already. These are things you learn in paralegal school that they won’t teach you with your MBA. Some programs are admittedly better than others. But there are still basic paralegal skills you need before calling yourself a paralegal.

    I agree, however, with the advice of starting below paralegal. Although the work is certainly much lower than an MBA would expect to get, it is often the best way to prove yourself. I started out as a receptionist, then administrative assistant, records clerk, and then finally a paralegal. I also went to school and received a degree in Paralegal Studies. Every employer I’ve interviewed or worked for have all required a Paralegal Certificate or Degree. And most are now requiring that paralegal education come from an ABA approved program.

    I would suggest taking a few courses, at least in the legal writing and research. This way, when your attorney asks if the cases you cited were shepardized, you can say, “yes” instead of “huh?”. Look at your local paralegal ads and see what they are requiring of paralegals in your market. Just because it isn’t “required” doesn’t mean that the market doesn’t demand the education. You may find that nearly all the ads ask for the paralegal certificate or degree. You will at least be knowledgable about the minimum requirements are.

    1. Hello and thank you for your comment. I agree that in California things are different. If I’m not mistaken, and please correct me if I’m wrong, California has a certification requirement.

      I also agree and I believe I stated that I am not against education in any form so taking a few courses to learn the basics is always a good idea. However, I do not believe, a requirement. To your point, regarding legal writing and shepardizing, I believe can be learned on the job if the person is starting from an entry level position. Also, not all paralegals shepardizing or write briefs. Many, spend more time doing document reviews, real estate closing a, drafting wills, etc.

      I do appreciate your taking the time to comment and I also appreciate a good disagreement.

      Thank you so much. I look forward to seeing you around here again. Even if we don’t agree.

      Ana

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