« on: June 17, 2015, 10:58:40 AM »
Hi Geeklawgirl (great name). I'll try to match my responses to your specific questions.
Your experience will help a little, but not much. Law school admission is a numbers game, and your GPA/LSAT profile will dominate the process. Work experience (even something highly relevant like paralegal) is a soft factor. It kind of helps, but that's about it. If your numbers are below median at a particular school, being a paralegal won't make up for that. If your numbers are average or a little above average, it might help.
Especially at part time programs, there are lots of paralegals attending so it's not especially unique.
In Law School
Your research experience will help and you will be more familiar with legal terminology, reading cases, and maybe understanding legal rules than your classmates. However, it may be less useful than you anticipate.
Law school is an academic process, and it's really REALLY different from the practice of law. For example, if you take a class on Bankruptcy your prior experience will definitely be useful. But, nothing that you've done as a paralegal will prepare you for engaging in a Socratic method grilling on Torts, or spotting a Rule Against Perpetuities issue on a Property exam. Law school has it's own culture and rules, and they aren't really parallel to the world of legal practice (as goofy as that may seem). There is a shared language, but the processes are fundamentally different.
Getting a Job
Yes, it will help you here. In fact, it might help a lot. You will have a better network than most new lawyers, be more mature, and understand what law firms/agencies are looking for. This is huge, and I think this is where your experience will pay off.
The degree to which your experience will help is somewhat dependent on your pedigree and the specific job your applying for, however. Certain firms/agencies are still going to want a pedigree and high grades. At those places your experience will probably not be enough to overcome a non-elite degree or low grades.
In other words, if a Whittier grad with paralegal experience and a Stanford grad with no experience both apply to a Biglaw firm, the Stanford grad will probably get the job anyway. At smaller firms and government agencies like the PD/DA, however, your experience will definitely help.
Paralegal experience can also help if you decide to open your own office. I had a friend who was a family law paralegal for years before and during law school. She opened her own solo practice straight away and was actually successful, which not common. Her experience in seeing how a firm runs and what needs to be done on a daily basis was crucial to her success.
When to Tell Your Bosses
Can't answer that. You know them better than anyone here does.