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.These kinds of job ads are not uncommon; other examples are regularly brought to our attention.
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.
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.