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3 Benefits of Having Paralegal Experience Before Joining Law School

Paralegal working at a desk - Tulane SoPA

The road to law school is rarely a cut-and-dry, linear pathway. Many aspiring lawyers take circuitous routes, pursuing non-legal degrees, careers, and interests before finally making the decision to enroll in a J.D. program.

For others, getting their feet wet in the legal realm is the only stepping stone needed to prepare for their next phase of life.

Between the hands-on experience and networking opportunities available, working as a paralegal before attending law school is a smart move for anyone looking to make a name for themselves in the courtroom.

At the Tulane School of Advancement (Tulane SoPA), our General Legal Studies degree and Paralegal Certificate program are your green-light pathways toward advancing in the field before making the move to become a practicing attorney.

Gain a Firsthand Legal Background

It's no secret that admission into law school is a competitive game.

According to BeMo, the median acceptance rate for law schools throughout the U.S. is below 50 percent, resting at 40.8 percent as of 2023.

What does this mean for you?

Standing out on your application and working your way into a law program may require more than just meeting the baseline criteria. Real-world experience is the gold standard of any college application, and working as a paralegal offers just that.

While you may not be defending clients in court just yet, your role as a paralegal will allow you to do much of the same work as a lawyer — right alongside them — with daily responsibilities including:

  • Conducting factual and legal research
  • Discussing case details with lawyers and clients
  • Organizing, maintaining, and preparing legal documents, and
  • Assisting in trials and closings

Having first-hand familiarity with the field, you'll gain the background knowledge, skills, and experience that leave you with higher chances of getting admitted to your top-choice law program.

Access Opportunities for Funding Your Studies

Like the admissions competition, the tuition and fees that come with law school can be incredibly high — costing some students upwards of $100,000.

Fortunately, pursuing the paralegal route before taking on law school can potentially grant you financial assistance from your firm.

Applying to most law schools requires you to sit for the Law School Application Test (LSAT), the standardized test accepted by all American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools. Preparing for this integral part of law school admission requires hard work, but LSAT prep courses help add structure and accountability to study sessions.

The only downside — some courses can cost thousands and eat at your wallet before you even get to paying your test fee.

The good news is that some law offices pay for their paralegals' LSAT courses and exams to help reduce their financial burden while also providing them with an avenue for career advancement. Many firms also offer tuition reimbursement programs, with the expectation that the funded paralegals will become their next practicing attorneys after graduation.

However, not all firms will have the capacity to fund your studies. Before deciding where you'd like to work as a paralegal, be sure to ask about their options for law school reimbursement.

Develop Your Professional Network

When it comes to law school admissions, quality letters of recommendation are just as valuable as high LSAT scores.

During your time as a paralegal, you'll gain access to a robust network of seasoned legal practitioners who have walked in your shoes to reach their career goals. After showing what you're capable of in the courtroom, your colleagues and supervisors may take it upon themselves to vouch for your admission into law school when the time comes.

According to the Law School Admission Council, the best letters of recommendation come from work supervisors.

If your references are leaders in the legal industry, your letters of recommendation just might attach tremendous weight to your name.

Earn Your Legal Studies Degree or Paralegal Certificate at Tulane SoPA

Looking for industry experience before submitting your law school application?

Tulane SoPA's Bachelor of Arts in General Legal Studies and Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Paralegal Studies are ABA-accredited programs, equipping you with the disposition and skill set you need to succeed as a practicing paralegal. All of our courses are taught by faculty who practice what they teach, granting you insight into the field, directly from the classroom.

Need more info? Get in touch today to learn more about your pathways to law school at Tulane SoPA.

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