Following high school graduation, many graduates face a tough decision – do I continue my studies or begin working and go onto college later? For many, the belief is that obtaining real-world work experience pays off in the end while others argue that going onto a post-secondary program immediately following graduation is beneficial because the student is already in the “learning” mindset.
While many paralegals or legal assistants are working in law firms with only a high school background, obtaining that additional license or certificate will make a candidate stand out in the crowd. However, acquiring work experience while obtaining your degree brings the benefits of both.
The best option in that situation is to work part-time in the field or intern while going through school, but many employers will agree to pay for the education of their employees if they should choose to continue their studies. Someone who starts at a law firm as a legal assistant, if working for the right company willing to help fund the employee’s education, could work while going to school to obtain a paralegal degree and not incur any student loan debt.
This situation is rare, however. Ultimately to get your foot in the door, an individual should have some educational background in legal work or at least have started paralegal studies before applying for a position. While college education alone cannot give you that real-world experience needed to really succeed in today’s professional world, college education does show a level of dedication and ability to think analytically and logically in a structured setting.
Knowledge obtained through a post-secondary education makes a candidate even more appealing as that person is assumed to know the most recent and up-to-date information and technology in the field. The legal field has changed a great deal over the course of the past twenty years, and many of the current paralegal professionals in law firms at the moment have been there since before that time. New hires with college education and knowledge stand out amongst those who are still working the system has it “as always been done in the past.”
In the end, experience alone or education alone is not enough to help you succeed in the legal field. Employers are looking for both. The question to answer is how to go about obtaining this balance.