Let me start by saying that paralegals don’t typically want to be lawyers, and are quite fulfilled with their career as-is. There are those, however, who love with the legal environment and proceedings so much that they want to be in charge. The good news is, the education and experience that comes with being a paralegal acts as a great steppingstone on the path to lawyerdom.
A paralegal learns the inner workings of the legal system by assisting attorney’s in the preparation of cases. They may do research, interview witnesses or prepare paperwork. As a result, they not only get relevant experience, but also a clear and objective view of what being a lawyer entails. So, they are well-positioned for the next steps.
Although a paralegal is a highly-skilled legal professional, they do not hold the same credentials as lawyers. Most hold a two-year associates degree, while lawyers need a law degree and to pass the bar in the state in which they want to practice. And, before anyone can enroll in law school, they need a Bachelor’s degree. So, that is step one if the paralegal doesn’t already have the pre-requisite education.
In order to enter law school, you must first pass the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). Having a working knowledge of the terminology will help; but, it is still a test you will need to study for. The next step is to get accepted and enrolled in the law school of your choice. Having already performed most of the duties of a lawyer and having a solid familiarity with legal terminology will make the courses that much easier.
Some paralegals go to law school and retain their job as well. In fact, many firms offer tuition reimbursement as an incentive for promising paralegals to continue their education. But, that’s not the only advantage. Case law will be less abstract to a person who has likely encountered similar cases over the course of their paralegal career. Plus, you will have lawyers to discuss your studies with…instead of dorm-room friends.
The final step in the process is passing the bar exam and officially bearing the title of attorney. Then, all you have to do is find a job…perhaps without leaving the firm you already work in!
Becoming a lawyer is a hard road to similar work to what the paralegal already does; but, it puts you in charge and yields a higher wage. For those who want it, starting out as a paralegal can ease the process.