Deciding whether to attend paralegal school or law school is not an easy task. Both have significant pros and cons, making the decision a challenging one. If you are trying to decide between these two career paths, here is some valuable information you can use to help make your decision.
Pros of Pursuing a Paralegal Career
Paralegal school is much more affordable than law school. In fact, many paralegals can start their careers with just three months of paralegal-specific training, provided they have the right college education behind them. Most paralegals start working with little school debt other than the college loans that most people have, in comparison to lawyers who graduate law school with tremendous amounts of debt, usually pushing the six-figure mark.
Paralegals do not have to pass a school entrance exam. Those who take the LSAT and do not receive high enough marks to enter law school often have no choice but to enter the paralegal program, unless they want to continue taking the LSAT in order to improve their marks.
Paralegals also have less stress in the field than lawyers. Since they must work under an attorney or lawyer, paralegals answer to someone other than themselves for their actions. Also, working in law requires long hours. Paralegals are usually able to get overtime pay. This is not the case for lawyers.
Cons of a Paralegal Profession
Pursuing paralegal school when you qualify for law school limits your advancement opportunities. There is only so far you can go in the system as a paralegal. The highest you can earn in most markets is $90,000 a year.
Some people feel that the tasks assigned to paralegals are mundane and become routine over time. This eliminates some stress, but also may eliminate the challenge of the job. Paralegals usually operate in a shared office environment, which some may view as a con to the job.
Pros to Attending Law School
The main two benefits to attending law school are unlimited career growth potential and the fact that a good lawyer has unlimited earning potential. If you are successful as a lawyer, you can grow in your profession and pursue a broad range of specialties. If you start your own firm, you will not be limited by the direction others wish you to pursue.
A successful lawyer has a lot of perks. Secretarial support and the help of paralegals are all benefits enjoyed by leading lawyers. Lawyers typically work out of private offices and enjoy a diverse assortment of tasks throughout the day.
Cons of Law School
The main drawback to law school for many people is the tremendous cost. If your LSAT scores are high enough, you may be able to get aid. However, most people end up graduating from law school with a lot of debt.
The other drawback is all of the testing you will have to do. First, you will need high enough LSAT scores to qualify for a law school program. Once you graduate, you will have to pass the bar exam in order to become a lawyer. It is entirely possible for a student to go all the way through law school and fail to pass the bar exam, which means that a career as a lawyer is impossible, in spite of the money spent on paralegal schools.
So which career path should you pursue? Only you can answer that question. If you desire to have unlimited income potential and feel you have the knowledge and resources to pass the rigorous testing required for law school, then pursue that option. If, however, you wish to take the safe route, a career as a paralegal may be the best option. You now know the benefits and risks of each career, so you can make a more informed decision.