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Taking the Next Step: Paralegals and Legal Assistants Going to Law School

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Enrolling in a Juris Doctorate program means immense professional advancement for the paralegal. ''Going to law school meant great professional improvement,'' said Renee Sova, a former paralegal and current Director of Alumni and Advanced Specialty Programs at the American Institute for Paralegal Studies, who decided to attend law school after more than seven years as a paralegal.
 
Taking the Next Step: Paralegals and Legal Assistants Going to Law School

And the decision to enroll may be beneficial to the firm as well. ''My employers were really the ones to push me to go to law school,'' said Ms. Sova. As the profession continues to evolve and gain respect, law firms realize paralegals' worth and strive to keep valuable employees. In fact, some firms even offer reduced work hours for part-time law students or the prospect of a job upon graduation.

''I think that [going to law school] gave me more credibility and respect in the office,'' said Kathleen Malone, former legal assistant who recently finished law school and passed the Bar Examination in Massachusetts. ''However, some law firms may not be as accommodating,'' Ms. Sova warned. ''The lines between attorney and paralegal are becoming less blurred, and attorneys may be reluctant to let a good legal assistant or paralegal go.'' Ms. Malone agreed, ''Law firms are 'caste' system, and…a firm [may not] see you as a lawyer if you have worked as a secretary [or legal assistant].'' Another potential problem? ''If an employer knows that you want to 'learn the law,' they will not hesitate to dump research projects [on you] and seek to give you things to 'help you learn,''' Ms. Malone recounted.

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