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This long-running column examines ethics in the paralegal profession. Do you have an ethical dilemma or question? E-mail us today.
Few Inquire About Esquire
For most paralegals, law school isn’t part of the future plan.
At one time or another, many paralegals have been asked if, or when, they are going to law school. In the most recent My Opinion survey, LAT wanted to know the answer to that question and found that it’s a resounding “no.” Our survey results indicate that 98.8 percent of respondents currently are not attending law school, while only 1.2 percent are enrolled in law school.
Of those who are not attending law school now, 72.4 percent have no plans to attend in the future and only 27.6 percent of respondents said they are planning to go to law school one day. “There have been occasions since I graduated from college that I’ve seriously considered law school [but], to be honest, especially at this point in my life, I’m very happy as a paralegal and have absolutely no regrets about making this my career,” said Mathew Laskowski, an 11-year senior paralegal from Manville, N.J.
Twenty-seven percent of those who are not
planning to attend law school in the future said one of the reasons
is that they don’t have the time or the money. “I have wanted to be
a lawyer for quite some time now, but the finances just don’t permit
it ...,” said Penny L. McCracken, a 14-year certified paralegal from
For 21.8 percent, their career as a paralegal
already is professionally fulfilling. “Working for a government
agency allows me the same (and sometimes more) job satisfaction [as]
an attorney,” said a 10-year paralegal from
Other reasons for not attending law school
include never having an interest in going to law school or becoming
a lawyer (13.4 percent) and not wanting the responsibility that
comes with being a lawyer (13.4 percent). “The lawyers I work with
are always on call. I can’t imagine that being worth it,” said a
20-year senior corporate paralegal from
For 12.6 percent of respondents, being a
paralegal has made them realize they never would want to become a
lawyer. “I have appreciated this profession for the vast legal
experience and flexibility it has provided me. If I had become a
lawyer (especially in litigation), I strongly believe that this
flexibility would not exist,” said Ken Isaacs, a 26-year paralegal
Additionally, several paralegals also cited family as one of the top reasons they are happily choosing not to attend law school now or in the future. “At one point, I did want to be a lawyer,” said Christine M. Parizo, RP, a 4-year registered paralegal from Northampton, Mass. “Finances prevented me from going to law school and a friend suggested I check out a career as a paralegal. I’m glad I did because I have found it to be very professionally fulfilling and I still get to work reasonable hours and have time for my family.”
Twenty-two percent of respondents who are
planning to attend law school in the future became a para-legal as a
stepping stone to becoming a lawyer; 18.6 percent are doing so
because they have hit a glass ceiling in their careers and want
more; and 17 percent want the higher salary, benefits and perks that
come with being a lawyer. Others with law school on their
educational horizon want to be able to make legal decisions on
behalf of their clients (15.2 percent) and some said being a
paralegal has made them realize they want to become a lawyer (13.6
percent). “I used to think I’d never be able to be an attorney. But
now … I think I could make a difference in some clients’ lives. I
wish I could do more for the client…,” said a 7-year paralegal from
Deborah Myers Fernandez from
According to our survey results, 49.4 percent of
respondents don’t feel that they have come across more new
paralegals who are entering the field solely as a stepping stone to
law school, while 34.1 percent said they are seeing that trend. “I
teach at the local community college’s paralegal program. In the
last three years, I have seen about 25 percent of our students
complete their bachelor[’s] degree and go on to law school. It’s
great that paralegals are going into law school with the advantage
of experience in the legal field,” said Deana M. Waters, an 8-year
advanced certified paralegal from
On the other hand, Baxter Quinn Andrews, a
3-year litigation paralegal from
LAT’s survey also found that most employers (67.8 percent) don’t offer any incentives for attending law school. Of those that offer incentives, 8.9 percent pay for some of the costs; 2.2 percent give time off to attend law school; 1.1 percent offer a monetary incentive; and 1.1 percent pay tuition and all costs. Laskowski’s firm gives its paralegals who make the grade in law school strong consideration for summer associate positions.
Still, for paralegals like Wendy Kimbel, a
30-year advanced certified freelance paralegal from
Are you currently attending law school?
Are you planning to attend law school in the future?
If you currently are in law school or plan to attend in the future, what are the reasons?
I want to be able to make legal decisions on behalf of my clients: 15.2%
I became a paralegal as a stepping stone to becoming a lawyer: 22.0%
I want the higher salary, benefits and perks that come with being a lawyer: 17.0%
Being a paralegal has made me realize that I want to become a lawyer: 13.6%
I have hit a glass ceiling in my career and want more: 18.6%
If you are not planning to attend law school in the future, why not?
My paralegal career is professionally fulfilling: 21.8%
I never have been interested in going to law school or becoming a lawyer: 13.4%
Being a paralegal has made me realize that I never would want to become a lawyer: 12.6%
I don't want the responsibility that comes with being a lawyer: 13.4%
I don't have the time or money to go to law school: 27.0%
In recent years, do you feel that you have come
across more new paralegals who are entering the field
I don't know: 16.5%
Does your employer offer any incentives for attending law school?
I don't konw: 12.2%
Total survey responses: 87
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