Thursday, October 7, 2010

You can't use a legal education in all sorts of fields..

Not quite LA Law

Today I went to downtown Los Angeles for a big job interview. It was for a sales position at a biotechnology firm that specializes in genetic research selling equipment to hospitals.

Yes, I know it has absolutely nothing to do with being a paralegal. I won't be working with attorneys, lawyers, policy analysts, other paralegals, or Judge Judy..

It has nothing to do with civil litigation, BAJI, CACI, Lexis- Nexis, WestLaw, Shepards Citations and it won't require me using Abacus, Amicus, Timeslips or any other sort of legal software program. I won't use my dubious skills I learned in Civil Litigation, and it won't teach me everything I learned from Corbin on Contracts!

However, the job does pay very good money, there is potential for growth, and it provides a very unique professional atmosphere.

 So as they say in French, "Voir Dire"!

I met with the lady who called me for the interview. She was an older woman, pleasantly plump with big blonde 1980's hair, and a thick southern accent. She said "Your credentials and experience are pretty impressive, you have worked in inside sales, finance and operations management. You have degrees in Finance and Economics and you speak 4 foreign languages (not including spring break spanish), I think you would be a good fit for this position.."

She then told me about the company, what they were looking for in a qualified applicant and that they would be very interested in hiring someone like me, then the questions were headed in a very scary direction..

Olivia* the Obese Recruiter then turned to me and she said "I see that after you were downsized you went back to become a paralegal? WOW! That must be pretty neat. All the court room action and drama, wearing expensive suits, eating out at five star restaurants"

It seems as if she had a very unrealistic view of the legal profession. Of course, being pleasantly plump and having that big hair, I am not surprised she was thinking about five star restaurants.

Then she shook her head and put my resume down.

" I just don't get it! Why on earth would you want to work for this company? Why don't you get a job in a law firm? Why don't you get a paralegal job?"

Then it hit me.

I hate this dreaded question I get whenever I try to return in the business world of why I got a Paralegal Certificate during the "Great Recession" of 2008-2010, but why I don't have a Paralegal job.

I told her I went to get a paralegal certificate to learn more about business law, contracts, wills and trusts, and that it would help me in the business world.

She kept shaking her head. Shaking it like a salt shaker, she said "Geez. This is going to be tough. I have to convince the head of recruiting that you are a great fit for this position. The only problem is this paralegal degree is really hurting you. They will think you will leave this company and find a better job in the lucrative legal industry."

While Olivia* the Obese Recruiter was rambling about how hard it will be to get this job with my paralegal background, I suddenly had all these thoughts racing through my head:

"What the fuck is lucrative about the legal industry? The fact that most paralegal jobs being offered pay 10-12 bucks an hour? The fact that students are graduating with law school with 150-200k in debt and getting job offers for 30-40k a year. The reason why I applied for this job is because there are no fucking jobs in the legal profession. The reason why I want a job at this tech firm is because it pays REAL MONEY! Not some monkey ass 10 dollar an hour entry level paralegal bullshit. The reason why I am looking for jobs outside the legal industry is the same reason why you can't get on the treadmill fatso, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO MOTIVATION! "

She kept going on and on, but then at the interview, she looked up at me and shook her head one last time.

She said  " I really wish you didn't have this paralegal certificate, it may really hurt your chances of getting this job, and I really have to work hard making it work. I hope they look beyond these things that are hurting your career. I will call you in the next few weeks with a follow up."

And then I left Olivia behind, as well as her Krispy Kreme donuts and Coffee ..


The Bottom line is this folks. If you decide to go to law school, get a paralegal certificate, get a masters in law or do anything in the legal profession, don't think it will "open doors" for you. It may actually shut doors, close them, and have the doors be slammed in your face.

You will have to justify to all non legal employers why you got a degree in something law related but you aren't working in the legal profession. So unless you really want to become a paralegal, lawyer, or work in the legal profession, don't pursue any sort of legal education unless thats the only field you really want to work in.

You may find yourself being shut out for jobs just because you made the poor choice of getting into the legal profession in the first place.

-The Poor Paralegal

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons and for potential non legal employment opportunities


  1. Every non-law job I apply for is the same. They think I must be independently wealthy (because all attorneys are) and they have even indicated they think I'd be unlikely to accept anyone else's authority because I have "FU" money.

    I think the only solution is EXPOSE these firms for the cheap, trashy people they are and let the world know what unmitigated low-class, low-rent employers most law firms are.

    We've gotta shatter the myth!

  2. why don't you just take the paralegal certificate off your resume? it's not like a jd where you have to account for the three years.

  3. I have tried to take the Paralegal certificate off my resume. However, employers then ask what I did for the past year after I was laid off, and what am I supposed to say? I stayed home, got fat, and watched "Days of our lives" all week long?

    You have to explain why you don't have a job in the legal industry. Some employers are open minded though, its still tough out there...

  4. The JD is definitely a black mark against those seeking non-legal jobs. Applying for jobs is awful, in this economy. My wife has a Master's degree in Criminal Justice from an accredited school, i.e. Weber State. She earned a 3.9 GPA and has 4-5 years' experience in her field.

    Yet, it is brutal out there. It doesn't help that most of her experience is in Iowa - putting my ass through law school at Third Tier Drake. Her degree has also been watered down with pieces of garbage such as Phoenix, Stevens-Henager, etc. handing out CJ degrees like they are candy wrappers.

    Good luck, and keep documenting your story. It is not just pissed off attorneys and paralegals running scam-bogs. Many MBAs, MAs, MSs, and Ph.Ds, as well as dentists and physicians/medical students are likewise drowning in debt- with little chance of ever attaining upward mobility.

  5. Yes, I cannot emphasize enough that this nonsense about a JD being flexible or somehow useful in other fields is utterly untrue for anyone but the ANECDOTAL FEW.

    Yes, kids, the JD from a non-elite school is just fine for those who ALREADY HAVE successful non-law backgrounds/connections/careers; for them, the JD is just a feather-in-the-cap, additional bauble to dangle from their already-loaded c.v. That is not you, lemmings. You are starting out, and it will be impossible to explain to some non-law employer why (heavens!) you would want to be an insurance adjuster/salesperson/broker/whatever rather than engage in the "lucrative and glamorous" practice of law.

    You have been warned kids. For an unconnected person, explaining away the JD is not so easy, as you are now, officially, in the eyes of the public, "overqualified" for anything else but the practice of law, no matter how miserable is the stench-filled legal job market.

  6. I know! Out of necessity I applied for a position within the medical field as an office assistant, and was turned down by a highly critical manager. During the interview, she turned away from her "script", looking at me over her reading glasses and asked,"Why are you here looking for work? Shouldn't you be applying for a job at a law firm?" I replied with a smile,"My office skills are outstanding." She shook her head and said,"I'm sure...I'll send your file up to the main office. There isn't much more I can tell you." As I stood in front of the elevator, waiting to go down to the lobby, I wondered, "she said up to the main office: which way is up? Seems my paralegal career is going down." From that moment on, I realized that being unemployed with a paralegal degree is worse than having no degree at all.

  7. Wow I just ran across this blog and I have to say that you nailed it right on the head! I got my Paralegal Degree in 2010 and have not been able to use it for anything since. Here I thought I was doing a great thing and giving my working career a new breath of life when all along I was breathing in the noxious fumes of failure.
    What did I get for my 50 thousand dollars of student debt; I got a three year, multi-state job hunt leading to a dead end 11 dollar an hour job at a local factory which requires the mentality and talent of an orangutan. Now don't get me wrong; the job isn't terrible, but it is far from realizing the fruits of my labors, not to mention the hype created by the schools who promise great things.
    If anything good came out of my education I would have to say that it was key in helping me understand the in's and out's of the legal situation I was in (Divorce/Custody) and aided me in the successful completion of my case. In the end however, I truly wish I had taken course in business administration or something similar. Maybe then I could get a Human Resources job somewhere.

  8. Why didn't you just explain that the market is saturated? Everyone and their brother is going towards the paralegal career, along with aspiring attorneys. Educate her!

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