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Choosing Your Specialty for Paralegal Training

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Do you have work or educational experience that will make you particularly attractive to a certain kind of employer?

It may seem a little premature to be talking about employment when you're just worried about where to go to school. But what you want to do as a paralegal has a great deal to do with where you decide to receive your training. And what you want to do as a paralegal depends a lot on your background.

This doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to get a good general legal education. Indeed, a general legal education is what most paralegal training programs offer. And I think it is important to be introduced to areas of the law that you are not familiar with. You might find them more interesting than you thought.

Nonetheless, your background may influence your career choices.

Do you have any medical training or experience? You might be perfect for a law office that does a lot of medical malpractice. You could take a course in tort law to prepare. A career counselor would say, "That's a market that doesn't seem to have a lot of competition in it. Registered nurses who have litigation experience-not necessarily practicing nurses, but people who do litigation and have an R.N. degree-we have a lot of those positions open that we can't fill"

Do you have experience or training in social work or education? Perhaps you will be drawn to family law, and you will want to be sure that such a course is available. When I started law school, I planned to do something completely different from what I ended up doing. I also have friends who are practicing exactly the kind of law they were interested in on the first day of law school. It is to your benefit to find a paralegal program that offers you as many options as possible for a well-rounded education, while at the same time offering training in the area(s) you are most interested in.

Don't despair if the school or schools you are most interested in lack a particular course you are interested in, such as employment law or administrative law. It may be possible to receive training in your particular area in another way
One of the best alternatives is an internship. In this case, you want to make sure not only that your program will help you get an internship, but also it offers contacts in several different areas of the law. If you were interested in employment or administrative law, for example, you could intern in a human resources office or with a government administrative agency.

If an internship simply can't be worked out, you may still be able to receive your specialized training. Perhaps you can take a relevant course at another college, and maybe your program will agree to transfer the credit. As I noted earlier, sometimes law schools let undergraduates take certain law courses; if not, you might be able to audit.

If all of your attempts to find training in a particular specialty seem to fail, go have a chat with the placement counselors in the programs you are interested in. Ask them if they have ever placed someone in your field, what contacts they have, and how much work they are willing to do on your behalf If their answers satisfy you, consider attending the school, even if it lacks the course you want.

Remember, if you are interested in or have a background in The Arts, Civil Rights, Corporations, Criminology, Environmental Issues, Financial Matters, Litigation, Medicine, Real Estate, and Social Issues, then:

Look for courses such as; Contracts, Copyrights, Entertainment Law, Sports Law, Administrative Law, Civil Rights Law, Constitutional Law, Elder Law, Employment Discrimination Law, Antitrust Law, Business Law or Corporate Law, Contracts, Employment Law, Intellectual Property, Labor Law, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Evidence and Trial Practice, Administrative Law, Environmental Law,.

If you have a background in real estate, then Property, Bankruptcy, Taxation, Trusts and Estates, Wills and Probate, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Evidence and Trial Practice Torts would be helpful.

General specialties that almost anyone can pick up include, Insurance Law, Torts, Contracts, Landlord / Tenant Law, Property, Real Estate Law, Administrative Law, Family Law or Poverty Law.

Your personal background already gives you an advantage in the field. And it is always possible you will discover you like another area of the law better.

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