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Author Topic: Paralegal vs. Lawyer  (Read 74191 times)

chocolatedlux56

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Paralegal vs. Lawyer
« on: February 28, 2006, 12:39:27 PM »
Hello everyone, I don’t know if this is the right forum for this or if anyone knows, but I was wondering if anyone had been or had considered being a paralegal. If anyone was a former paralegal or a current one, why are you now considering law school? My main concern about paralegals is that I don’t want to be a pee-on for some lawyer at a firm and do most of their work while they get all the credit. Any feedback

wunder

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Re: Paralegal vs. Lawyer
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2006, 12:55:55 PM »
I am a legal assistant that will be starting law school in the fall.  (Main difference between a legal assistant and a paralegal - at my firm at least - seems to be whether you have a formal paralegal certificate)  Paralegals make half the money that attorneys make if they're lucky and take half the credit but also only have half the responsibility and everything they do has to be supervised by an attorney, which takes the load off your shoulders.  In my position I deal with clients occasionally but spend most of my time doing legal research and writing for the attorneys that they read over before they talk to the client.  I've heard that to get your paralegal certificate you take an easier version of a lot of first-year law school classes, so it's something to consider if you think you'd want to be a paralegal for a while before going to law school.  Although you don't have as much direct responsibility, you can have just as much stress as the attorneys, especially if they don't delegate responsibilities well or just in general aren't good managers.  But, you can certainly have a lot less stress because you are not in the center of the storm, too. 

All that being said, I am counting the days until law school starts.  Working as a legal assistant has made me realize I want to be the one calling the shots, regardless of whether it is more work, more stress, etc.  It just fits my personality better.  But I have certainly learned a lot this way!

UFBGD

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Re: Paralegal vs. Lawyer
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2006, 01:30:26 PM »
I agree with wunder.  I too am a legal assistant and find few difference btwn an asst and a paralegal.  I would say the main reason someone in a paralegal position would go to law school is because they know how an office runs from the ground up and why not go get your J.D. and make more money, maybe become an associate if are not interested in owning your own firm/office.  I've learned so much as a legal assistant and am now ready to make the next big step..law school. 

lsatflunkie

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Re: Paralegal vs. Lawyer
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2006, 07:51:00 PM »
I've been a paralegal for 14 years.  The difference between a legal assistant and a paralegal really depends upon where you work.  The legal assistants in my office are assistants to both myself and the attorneys.  Legal Assistant is sometimes the same thing as a legal secretary.  Again, it depends upon where you work.  There are legal assistants who know very little about the law, procedure, drafting documents and such- but there are some that know a lot and some paralegals act as secretary's.  In my firm, I have a secretary that I share with the attorneys.  It all depends upon the firm, the paralegal and their knowledge.  I disagree about the idea that there's less responsibility on a paralegal.  In my firm, anything and everything that I do is my responsibility.  The stress is very real and very much mine.  If I have a motion that's due in court tomorrow- I have to make sure it's drafted, signed, and correct before it goes to Court.  My job, my stress, my responsibility.

I am going to law school because I have reached my greatest potential as a paralegal.  I probably reached it quite a few years ago and am bored with not going to court to represent clients.  I"m tired of being in the office.  While I do sometimes attend trials and conferences and even get to negotiate settlements, it's not enough- it's not challenging enough for me.  It gets boring knowing everything about every aspect of what one is ALLOWED to do.  I'm not going for the money, either.  I earn more than most attorney's out of law school 5+ years and I live in New York.  I'm going because I should have gone 10 years ago- but couldn't due to health reasons.  Then I got married, had a child- and here I am.

Good luck to both of you with your applications!!

blondelawstudent

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Re: Paralegal vs. Lawyer
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2006, 11:20:26 AM »
As the previous poster stated, there can be a huge difference between "legal assistant" and paralegal". This difference depends on the size of the firm, type of firm, and type of law.

At my firm, the legal assistants are pretty much administrative assistants; they have no "real" legal knowledge and they are there to be utilized mainly for clerical duties.

The paralegals at my firm do a lot more, and have use of the legal assistants for their clerical duties. The paralegals at my firm are also required to have college degrees and a post-bachelor's certificate from a ABA school. Quite frankly, I can't really tell the difference between the lawyers and paralegals (with the obvious exceptions of not being able to obtain and represent clients and set fees).  Our paralegals draft motions and complaints, work as a liason between the lawyer and clients, do legal research and assist in trial and litigation issues. And they are responsible for their work.

2 things to address:

While lawyers do make significantly more- as one of the lawyers here told me "It's a draw"- unless you are not taking out any student loans for law school, you will be in debt for a good portion of your legal career. People tend to forget that and get caught up in the large salaries.

Also, paralegals can be highly paid, and in some cases, more than many attorneys. In the midst of my law school application journey, I was sent careerbuilder.com listing from lawyers about paralegal salaries- and I couldn't believe what some paralegals were making. Well into the upper 70's on up depending on your field (IP and Real Estate paralegals bring in the biggest salaries)

Keep in mind (and again, I reference this from my current job at a law firm) the market is currently flooded with attorneys. Many law firms are looking to cut costs by replacing attorneys with certified paralegals. In California there is pending legislation about licensing paralegals due to their expanding duties.

Ultimately, you have to pursue whatever your dream is. I still plan on pursuing my dream of law school, but if need be, being a paralegal is perfectly acceptable for me in the interim.
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Lloyd

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Re: Paralegal vs. Lawyer
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2007, 06:59:28 AM »
I realize this thread is very old now but maybe someone can still help me.  I'm an undergrad approaching my senior year and thinking about becoming either a certified paralegal or a lawyer.  The only thing deterring me from becoming a lawyer is the number of hours they work.  My impression is that attorneys spend an inordinate amount of time working, and I'd rather have a healthy work-life balance.  (I do not want to be one of those people whose work IS their life.)  Do paralegals work significantly less than lawyers?

Also, does anyone have any tips for becoming a paralegal?  What should I look for in a paralegal education?  I'm currently looking at the paralegal diploma offered by NYU, but the curriculum doesn't appear to include an internship.  How important are internships?  Any other tips?

Any and all advice is appreciated.

(EDIT:  I just realized this board was for high school students.  Sorry about that, but I'll leave this post up here anyway.)

bamf

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Re: Paralegal vs. Lawyer
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2007, 08:56:55 AM »
I realize this thread is very old now but maybe someone can still help me.  I'm an undergrad approaching my senior year and thinking about becoming either a certified paralegal or a lawyer.  The only thing deterring me from becoming a lawyer is the number of hours they work.  My impression is that attorneys spend an inordinate amount of time working, and I'd rather have a healthy work-life balance.  (I do not want to be one of those people whose work IS their life.)  Do paralegals work significantly less than lawyers?

Also, does anyone have any tips for becoming a paralegal?  What should I look for in a paralegal education?  I'm currently looking at the paralegal diploma offered by NYU, but the curriculum doesn't appear to include an internship.  How important are internships?  Any other tips?

Any and all advice is appreciated.

(EDIT:  I just realized this board was for high school students.  Sorry about that, but I'll leave this post up here anyway.)

you dont need a certificate to be a paralegal, just apply.  Countless firms hire tons of college grads every year.  that being said it sounds like the worst, most mindless job ever.  Go to law school and just don't work for a huge firm if you are concerned with hours.
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I am Penny Lane

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Re: Paralegal vs. Lawyer
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2007, 10:42:04 AM »
I work at a very small firm, I do EVRYTHING the attorney does not. Reallly for me, paralegal and legal assistant are the same thing. The only thing I do not do for him is prepare hs briefs (yet). The hours are not bad at all, occasionally I have to work super late, but it happens so rarely and he is so nice about it that I don't mind.

I really enjoy it, and I feel like I have a good understanding of what a lawyer REALLY does. I am glad I am taking a year off to work here now. If you need a PT job while in undergrad you should try to get a PT job in a law office as a runner or intern.... I think it is worth it.
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Re: Paralegal vs. Lawyer
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2007, 10:53:58 AM »
Paralegal = A job
Lawyer = A career

lgllgl2atty

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Re: Paralegal vs. Lawyer
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2008, 04:13:34 PM »
Paralegal = A job
Lawyer = A career

So wrong.  Paralegals often choose their career based upon the availability/proximity of law schools in the area--sometimes, relocation is not an option, and there isn't a school in driving distance.  They also decide that, while they want to work in law, they want to focus on the practice and not the politics of "making" partner or being on the right "track" for promotion.  Sometimes they enjoy working with the law but are not comfortable speaking in public.  They may like performing research and drafting documents, investigating and organizing, and aren't so much about soliciting business or client management.  And there's also that idea that they'd rather jump in and get their feet wet so that they know what they'll be doing, instead of hauling off to three years of graduate school, only to find out that they HATE the legal profession and would rather spend their time developing herbal remedies for homeopathic uses.  To say that being a paralegal is not a career but a job is an ignorant statement by an uninformed person.