The First Step to Exploring a Career in Law: Paralegal Work
During my senior year at Hamilton, when I started to seriously consider different post-grad job options, I tried to be as logical and self-aware as possible. Most helpful to me was identifying jobs that require skills that align with my personality and strengths in a compatible environment. Crossing off careers that would not be a match helped hone the field -- for example, blood and needles make me queasy so anything in a hospital is a no-go! I also knew I was interested in being in a big corporate office.
Identifying my skills and strengths led me to seriously consider, and ultimately pursue, a job in law. The lawyers and paralegals that I spoke with, while considering applying for paralegal opportunities, emphasized strong attention to detail, a good work ethic, and clear written and oral communication skills. As a psychology major and literature minor, a reading-intensive job appealed to me.
Being a paralegal is a fantastic way to figure out if law is for you, and I highly recommend that anyone considering a legal career work first as a paralegal. You get to work with attorneys on billable work, while also seeing the different departments and inner workings of a legal organization. Other benefits of being a paralegal before law school include getting a break from school before diving into three more years of intensive studying, not having to take your LSAT during your time on the Hill, and having a paycheck. Law school is a big commitment, both financially and timewise. I thought being a lawyer might be the right move for me, but I wasn’t ready to commit to that. A paralegal was the perfect way to explore this potential path.
I started my paralegal job in the real estate department of a big law firm three months after graduation. Although I was open to all types of law, I am so happy that I ended up in real estate law. I grew up in NYC, so getting to see the behind-the-scenes of certain buildings and projects has been so interesting, and I’ve loved expanding my knowledge of the city. real estate law is also one of the most tangible types of law, as you are dealing with land and buildings, which really “grounds” the work. Learning so much about New York real estate was not something I had imagined when finding a paralegal position, but it’s been my favorite part of my job.
Although it is unlikely that I’ll attend law school, being a paralegal has given me the experience to make a more fully informed decision. My paralegal job has not launched me into a career as an attorney, but it has taught me so much, and now I’m excited about exploring careers in real estate.