Saturday, April 27, 2013

The JD as a sub-paralegal qualification?

I want to follow up on a post made by dupednontraditional on the 23rd, and one comment in particular made by BoCo:

BoCo  April 23, 2013 at 10:01 AM
 
From a job posting for a legal assistant with the Colorado AG's Office:

"A J.D. degree will not substitute for the paralegal certificate."

http://agency.governmentjobs.com/colorado/default.cfm


And here's the relevant part from that job ad for a Legal Assistant:

Minimum Qualifications:A paralegal certificate obtained through either an ABA approved paralegal studies program or an accredited college or university AND at least one year (full-time equivalent) of paralegal experience.

Substitution: Four years of work experience in a paralegal capacity which included conducting legal research, preparing drafts of legal documents and gathering and compiling data from legal references and resources will substitute for the paralegal certificate. A J.D. degree will not substitute for the paralegal certificate.
 
These kinds of job ads are not uncommon; other examples are regularly brought to our attention.

I teach law (part time) and work full time as a lawyer.  I supervise many paralegals.  I have also taught in paralegal programs on occasion.  I'll be the first to admit that a JD program lacks much in the way of practical teaching, but let's put this into perspective:

1.  A JD is far more rigorous, far more in-depth, and far more practical than a paralegal certificate.
 
2.  An average JD student is far smarter, harder-working, motivated and committed than the average paralegal student.
 
3.  An average JD grad is almost always a far superior employee (in terms of ability) than a paralegal grad.
 
4.  Paralegal programs are disgracefully lightweight, easy, and are in no way superior to JD programs.
 
5.  A JD grad could walk into almost any paralegal job and pick up the skills in a week after being told how to do things just once, not ten times.
 
6.  Online paralegal certificates are pathetic, as are those who "attend" those programs.

I think that our message might be getting lost on some people.  The message we want to convey is that a JD program is not a good economic choice right now - no jobs, too expensive.  Our message seems to be interpreted by some (e.g. Colorado AG's Office) that a JD has no value whatsoever, even less than a paralegal certificate.  This is a bad outcome.

Let me explain further. I don't mean to insult paralegals out there - you do a great job (some of you) - but don't start to think that you're "better" than JDs.  The paralegal students I taught, at an ABA-accredited paralegal program, found it hard to understand basic legal concepts, wrote like middle school kids, lacked motivation, and were doing this because they had nothing else to do with their lives.  A couple were highly-motivated and smart, but most weren't.  Most were rather stupid to be honest. Most just didn't care.  The work I graded was embarrassingly bad.

The paralegals I see in my office are good, but they are the one-in-one-hundred paralegals, and they tend to be older, with no formal paralegal education, and a decade or two of experience.  When I have to interview paralegals for openings, the vast majority are poorly-spoken, have resumes riddled with errors, seem lazy, entitled, and I know that they would just make a mess of things at work.  Their work experience up until that point is fast food or retail, and generally they get through three or four jobs each year.  Once in a while, there's a good one who we hire straight away.  But most of the new paralegals these days are literally idiots.

Compared with the law students I teach, there is no comparison.  A law student is a vastly superior person in almost every way; professional, smart, motivated, good writers, quick learners, committed etc.  And law students these days are hungry for work.  Paralegal grads think that they should be handed a career on a plate.

So let's try to make sure that when we're complaining about JDs and law schools, that we are careful that we don't shoot ourselves in the foot.  Our job is to bring down the trash law schools, remedy the oversupply, reduce the costs of law school, and reform legal education to make it more relevant to practice.  Our job is not to destroy the reputation of the JD degree so that we look inferior to paralegals.  The day paralegal certificates are considered more attractive than JDs for even these low end positions is a sad day indeed.

50 comments:

  1. No, most JDs are idiots. A guy who opts for the more rigorous (AND less remunerative) of the two programs is the idiot. Obviously.

    And "hungry for work." Haha, now we've really gone down the rabbit hole. That's just about the LAST way I'd describe most of the people who frequent this site.

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    1. Instead of "first", I see the tradition has now become for this pathetic troll (Leiter? Tannebaum? Painter?) to lie in wait, eagerly refreshing his browser for hours and hours and hours and hours and hours, just so he can pounce with the same old post. Yes, we are the losers.

      Go put on some pants and play outside.

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  2. This is a great Post and topic, although it highlights nothing really new.

    For over ten years at least, and in the classified postings for Paralegal jobs both in the newspaper and on Craigslist, I have seen "JD's need not apply for this job" or "No JD's" or similar wording.

    You might find this old post interesting. It was written by a proud paralegal:

    http://www.practicalparalegalism.com/2010/05/heres-why-no-jds-need-apply-for-that.html

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    1. That article seems to highlight the deficiencies of paralegals in a way. The author was trying to paint all law grads with the same brush because one was rude and did something dumb. I think the underlying problem is that successful paralegals have an inferiority complex because they know that they were smart enough to be lawyers if they wanted to, but everyone thinks they are dumb. And when you get one of these paralegals in a position of power, they use it as a chance to get revenge and stop JDs from getting hired. It's their way of saying "I'm just as smart as you."

      The no JDs need to apply rule is pathetic and nothing more than a disgruntled paralegal whose JD boss pissed her off.

      Which is yet another reason to avoid this toilet profession. Even your legal assistants, er, sorry, paralegals hate you. Even though you employ them and put food on their table and pay them before you pay yourself. They still hate you.

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    1. Blog owners need to ban:

      1) Painter
      2) Anyone attacking Painter
      3) Anyone mentioning Painter

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    2. But that would include you....

      And I agree!

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  5. Unfortunately, the labor market doesn't fill spots by starting at the top and moving down the chain until everyone is employed in law or any other field.

    People hire what they need and are reluctant to hire much more than that because we have this weird psychological bias that has us believe that there's some rational order to education, training, and the economy, where JDs don't need paralegal positions. Instead, the JD wanting the paralegal position is a "loser." Even if they're not, the insecure employer might think the lawyer would interject too much in an effort to advance.

    If there was a massive doctor oversupply, do you think hospitals would hire doctors to nursing positions? It's like putting a wrench in the factory. Employers want cogs. A paralegal certificate makes you a cog. A JD does not.

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    1. JDs have expectations; paralegals don't.

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  6. Not to pick on Colorado, but there was a JD, bar passage required lawyer job posted on Denver craigslist-drumroll please-which paid the awesome amount of $17.00/hour. No kidding.

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    1. It wouldn't be such a bad deal for a noob, especially if it was a full-time position.

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  7. Probably, the employer knows that a JD who is hired as a paralegal will not be satisfied working as a paralegal. At some point, tensions are bound to arise because the JD wants to do lawyer work, and the employer wants the JD to do paralegal work. Lawyers don't bring coffee. Paralegals do. How long can a JD endure being asked to bring us coffee? What employer would feel comfortable barking out an order to a JD to bring us coffee?

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    1. Isn't that a curiosity of American business life, though? It's okay to bark orders to bring coffee to someone who a PhD in astrophysics, but is working as a secretary, but it becomes much odder if the person working as a secretary is an MD or a JD.

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    2. Yeah. It's a social pecking order. It's always been around in one form or another.

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    3. Paralegals do not bring coffee either and secretaries are there to do secretarial work on a routine basis. Lawyers and paralegals and secretaries bring coffee to other persons in meetings with them as a courtesy sometimes, but usually people will get up and get their own coffee.

      Any lawyer moron who consistently asked their secretary to bring them coffee would be fired.

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    1. I work at the same office as that idiot. One day he was bragging about making comments on this blog, and I'm pretty sure it's him.

      For the record, he constantly screws up the office's cases with his stupidity, but he never gets blamed or fired for it, ever. Our boss claims he's a "good worker", which is untrue. He's also a so-called minority - they're probably afraid he'll sue them if he gets fired.

      Just thought you'd like to know that he isn't as great as he thinks he is.

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    2. Yeah, the quality of the "movement" would soar by multiples if people didn't hide behind anonymity. Anonymity allows the childish side to come out.

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    4. @ 11:46 am,

      Would you email me? This sick person has taken this too far. Thanks!

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    5. I'd prefer not to get involved. Especially if you want to start calling the office every day. Too much drama.

      He's harmless. But so stupid.

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  11. I run a 3 lawyer office with 4 paralegals. Quite frankly, I am considered laying off 1 of the lawyers as the paralegals are more effective than the lawyer I am contemplating of firing. My top paralegal has 15 years of experience. She can prepare a RESPA statement, prepare motions, file pleadings, etc. and I pay her 90% of the associate's salary. She is cheaper to have and she is happy. The associate on the other hand is checking the classifieds and looking for a more lucrative place to work. In my opinion, JDs have no loyalty. I get dozens of cover letters and resumes from young lawyers looking to work as legal secretaries or paralegals. You don't see American Airlines hiring former pilots to fill in flight attendant positions. An employer invites trouble by hiring a lawyer in a non-lawyer position. This is my opinion after 25 years in the profession.

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    1. I agree. A lot of paralegals have ambitions but the smart ones realize quickly not to go to law school.

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  13. "found it hard to understand basic legal concepts, wrote like middle school kids, lacked motivation, and were doing this because they had nothing else to do with their lives."

    Sounds like half my JD class.

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  14. I really don't understand why none of you around here have mentioned it, but Paul Campos has moved on to other topics and can get published:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/04/23/dzhokhar-tsarnaev-interrogated-without-miranda-warning-for-more-than-two-days.html

    I remember a time when there was an author of a blog called First Tier Toilet that wasn't too keen on Campos getting involved in the scamblogging at all, and saw Campos as an opportunist more or less.

    I just don't know what to make of it all.

    Do you?

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    1. Yes, I guess any publicity is good publicity. He's left scam blogging and branching out now that he has a name. Smart enough to get ahead of the curve on the law school scam; smart enough to build a career outside of law school. More power to him I guess.

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    2. Campos hasn't abandoned the cause. At Lawyers, Guns, and Money, he has blogged on law school issues three times in April, and several times in March.

      Calling him an opportunist seems deeply unfair unless the opportunity he was seeking was to be smeared by colleagues and to risk his lucrative and cushy job.

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  15. Has anyone with a JD actually tried applying to a paralegal program? Presumably, it would provide for advanced standing/exemptions from some courses.

    Having both credentials would, presumably, be a creative way around the "No JDs" stipulation in job postings.

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  16. Dude, everyone who started working during the recession has a job history full of fast food and retail, especially if they weren't living in reach of a major city. What did you expect people to do as their first job? No one else would hire us, and in many cases, they still won't.

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  17. I was told that a JD, with 4 years experience, may be a substitute for a paralegal cert. - depending on the type of experience. Still not a good result. As a state employee (and former AAG) I can tell you that many of the younger AAG’s are constantly looking to get out. The salary is well under market and most salaries have been frozen for four years. Also, there are limited opportunities for promotion. The old timers – who have ten plus years in the state pension plan - are held hostage by the potential retirement benefits. A smart JD working as a paralegal would be frustrated since he/she would quickly realize that he/she can easily do the work a typical AAG does. They would also likely apply for any open attorney position.

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  18. Illinois is in the 5th spot in the wage chart provided by the Bureau at an average rate of $52,330 in a year. Some areas and regions even pay as low as $35,000 annually. http://techniciansalary.net/paralegal-salary/. Click here

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  19. People who do well in school do not always do so well in life; people who do well in life do not always do well in school.

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  20. The part that hit me over the head about paralegals: "The paralegal students I taught, at an ABA-accredited paralegal program, found it hard to understand basic legal concepts, wrote like middle school kids, lacked motivation, and were doing this because they had nothing else to do with their lives." It's true. If you could do better, you would. Just like being a junkie. Nobody ever says: "I want to be a paralegal when I grow up."

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  21. The part that screams at me: "The paralegal students I taught, at an ABA-accredited paralegal program, found it hard to understand basic legal concepts, wrote like middle school kids, lacked motivation, and were doing this because they had nothing else to do with their lives." Precisely. If you could do better, you would. It's just like being a junkie. Nobody ever says: "When I grow up, I want to be a paralegal."

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  22. I agree with the part of this blog addressing the concept that there are currently more jobs available for paralegals than there are for attorneys thus creating a huge misunderstanding between the value of a paralegal certificate and a JD. There is no comparison between law school and a paralegal studies program. A JD requires much more time, effort and discipline. That said, most paralegal certificate programs (at least here in CA) require the student to have at least an AA or BA/BS degree prior to enrolling. The paralegals who were slow-learning and potentially useless are the individuals that jumped on some bandwagon thinking being a paralegal was the answer to their previous dead end jobs. Those individuals will never make it in the legal field or they won't go beyond being a file clerk or bottom-of-the barrel legal secretary doing basic clerical stuff. I've met unprofessional and even incompetent paralegals as well as attorneys. It comes down to the individual, his/her educational background and workmanship regardless of what his/her title is and what credentials he/she holds.

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  23. I completed an AA degree in paralegal with a 3.97 index. It was a career change for me because I left the IT - computer profession. I used to be a computer programmer & a computer systems analyst for 22 years. I have spent three years trying to get a part or full time paying paralegal job at a law firm in New Jersey. Since 2011 I have only been able to get three short duration paralegal internships. During prospective job interviews, even in 2014, for a paralegal and legal secretary job, I have been told that I am over-qualified. The jobs that I have interviewed for pay approx. $20,000 to $25,000 a year (with part-time jobs offering $10,000 a year). The salary offered for paralegal jobs is currently poverty level. I have found lawyers to be condescending to me during job interviews and/or internships. I feel that the paralegal job has been incorrectly advertised by the legal profession. I am a technical expert, and score on proficiency tests for MS Word, MS Excel, etc. grades of 100% but still cannot get a poverty level job. Thank God my husband still works. I expect that the paralegal job will disappear by 80% over the next ten years. My last IT job was working at a leading telecommunications job and I earned $60,000. It was a complete mistake that I completed the paralegal program graduating with high honors and receiving four awards. Since lawyers have difficulty finding work they will take paralegal jobs, even if the pay is low. My advice to anyone is NEVER pursue the paralegal degree. The colleges still offer the AA or certificate in paralegal studies just so that the lawyers who are the instructors get paid. I have always been an excellent student and have a MBA degree in Computer Information System, average 3.75. Can you explain why I cannot get a Paralegal job after three years of searching and gone on 42 interviews? The answer is that unless you have a connection to get a job forget about it!!!!!!!!!! The three lawyers that I have had internships consider me to be excellent in my work but never offered me one single penny to show any appreciation. When I worked in the computer field at five different companys a new hire was given anywhere from one week to one month to learn the computer application and become an expert. Lawyers don't want to spend even one minute training the paralegal. I have found lawyers to be very condescending to their support staff with the lawyers having a superiority attitude. The paralegal today has been degraded to the status of a brainless typist. Even the above article entitled "The JD as a Sub-Paralegal Qualification?" has strong negative undertones; e.g. "but most of the paralegals today are literally idiots." Since the author is a teacher of paralegals, is it proper etiquette to insult the paralegal students or paralegal professionals? Remember that many of the postings on the internet are an open book for anyone to read. I myself wrote many legal blogs as an unpaid ghost writer at two law firms. By the way, the first computer programming job I had was at a bank, and I had to make coffee whenever I got asked (about once a week). I did not mind making coffee because I was well paid for my IT job performance.

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  24. Wow, after reading all these posts I will think twice before going to paralegal program. I really want to do it because I have passion to law studies, and there are reasons why I don't consider Law school. If all that said above represents how lawyers treat and perceive paralegals, then this career is not for me. I will not bring coffee to anybody, and I will not tolerate abuse and unhidden disrespect. So, I guess I will not remain in the profession for too long. Does anybody can tell me if this all true, and you as a paralegal will always be perceived as mentally retarded? I'm really passionate about paralegal career, but lawyer's attitude turns me away. I guess, with all those applications for paralegal positions lawyers get, there is no choice. If you get hired, you kiss their ass, or they find other employee next day. As much as I'm interested in this field, I'm not sure now if this career for me. I need advice, please.

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    1. Hello Anonymous,

      Please don't let one person's snarky blog turn you off from your passion. Many successful attorneys started out as certified paralegals. It's much more economical as well. For those who are on the fence about a legal career, it's easier to spend 10 grand and realize their passion is elsewhere than 100 grand. In regards to their attitudes towards paralegals, every attorney I worked/work under have never belittled or disrespected me. To give you a little background on myself, I'm 25 years old, live in Southern California, graduated from UCI with a B.A. in Crim, law & Society, and have received my paralegal certificate from UCLA. From 17-23 I worked as a part-time secretary, I had an internship as a paralegal during my last semester of UCI with two prominent attorneys, a temp. position as a corporate paralegal a few weeks after receiving my certificate (unfortunately I had to quit that job after having a tumor removed from my calf and my recovery time was extended out a month), and for the past 8 months I've been working as an intellectual property paralegal at an I.P. firm. I've never had to grab coffee for an attorney, only a client (and the attorneys have had to grab coffee for them as well.) Every attorney I've worked under has been respectful and treated me as an equal. I'ver handled research and some legal writting they normally do on their own. Now I did have to work my A $$ off to earn it, but as the old adage goes, "respect is earned, not given."

      Please don't feel forced to do something out of fear of being treated like a trained chimp. I don't know your specific circumstances but I too have aspirations of law school (I plan on taking the LSAT in either December 2015 or February 2016.) My reasons for holding off on law school were financial.

      I can't stress enough that this is not the attitude of most lawyers. Every attorney I've worked/studied under has not only continued to give me advice, accolades, letters of recommendations, but they've encouraged me to pursue my dreams of becoming a lawyer. I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm bragging, I can assure you I in no way think or act entitled or pretensious. I will readily admit I have areas that need to be worked on (i.e. I need to hone my writing skills.) I just want to drive home the point that as long as you have a pasion for law, put in the effort and over-time, you'll have your attorney's respect.

      Hope this helped.

      Respectfully,

      Anonymous (A.K.A. Lorri B.)

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  25. Just wait you hit about age 40, 'Lorri', and you'll see that these self-entitled lawyers won't respect you at all. All of your superlatives regarding these self-serving plagiarists tell me that you don't have the front-line experience that you've alleged here. Fact is, lawyers are the FIRST to throw their support staff under the bus. Which is why I defeated two California bar members as an unrepresented claimant in a unemployment insurance appeal. Imagine receiving a subpoena duces tecum from a non-lawyer ! It was a crushing, humiliating defeat for these husband and wife licensees, who were too 'chicken' to appeal to the Superior Court. Idiots !

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    1. No need for quotes my dear, Lorri is my actual name. I'm pretty sure the point of my comment was to stress that not ALL attorneys treat their paralegals like brain dead lackeys. In regards to my 'front-line' experience, you can take shots at it all you want. I will however say that I am very grateful for the attorneys I've worked under and currently work under and have NEVER been thrown under the bus by any of them. If I am still working at my current firm (going on a year next month) in 14 years, I will be one very happy lady with a fat 401K to boot. My previous comment was not to sing the praises of all those who pass the BAR. I was trying to encourage those who are interested in working as a paralegal, whether as a stepping-stone or career choice, to not be dissuaded by some article written by a guy with a holier-than-thou attitude. As far as your victory in court, congratulations.

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  26. I hope the The Adjunct Law Professor has retired. This person sounds like the jerk paralegals hate and the one who people complain about on message boards.

    I finished an online paralegal program from Berkeley which is not an ABA school. I had a job within one month of receiving the certificate this year. I received a few calls a week for phone or in person interviews which started immediately after I received my certificate. I even received a call from a local Bar Association and only declined an interview due to accepting a job. I live in a large Western city.

    My boss told me he received more resume from lawyers than actual paralegals during the hiring process when I applied for the paralegal position. He says that not everyone who finishes law school is capable of doing paralegal work due to their attitude and quality of work, and they will constantly be searching for any attorney job. I can't be too bad at my job, because I have accompanied my boss to a trial and observed an appeals hearing regarding one of our cases.

    No one working in a field that's on the decline is in position to insult another person about their job. Hint, hint! I don't believe most paralegals were flipping burgers or working retail before their first legal job. I think that's a pretty low jab at a large group of people. Have you seen the numbers lately of law school admissions or heard about how some schools are lowering their LSAT requirement to entice students! The whole industry is changing. Washington State just graduated its first class of Legal Technicians and other state are showing interest in the outcome of these special paralegals who can now give advice and so their own practice.

    Yes, I'm sure I have a few typos and a few of my sentences could be questioned on their organization, but I'm off the clock for the day leaving me the ability to not be an anal jerk about grammar.



    If you must bash paralegals then have you considered what most people truly think about attorneys. It's not very pleasant. I can think of a few such as arrogant, narcissist, liar, cheater, greedy and a person who lacks a conscience. Who haven't heard a lawyer joke! People don't like lawyers until they really need one and their case is resolved to their satisfaction. I still imagine that they are not happy to pay any bill or the ideal that the lawyer is taking a cut of a settlement.

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  27. Keep in mind that a paralegal background/certificate is a real advantage if you are a Purchasing Manager or an Accountant, regardless of whether or not you have any degrees.

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