Career Change: The Paralegal Path
Nov 14, 2016, 05:12 AM
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Marian alumna Melody Schlegel shares the journey that brought her to a new career as a paralegal.
By Melody Schlegel | November 14, 2016
Just deciding to make the leap into a new career in paralegal studies was scary. While I seriously disliked my job as a logistics supervisor and knew it wasn’t a good long-term career for me, it still felt like a huge risk to quit that secure job with good benefits to switch to a lower salary with fewer benefits, all to pursue a new career that I was “pretty sure” I was going to enjoy. The position did, however, enable me to enroll in Marian’s Adult Programs
while continuing to work full-time.
I was nearing completion of my Bachelor’s of Business Administration
(BBA) when I met with my academic advisor, Lynn Wybiral, who suggested I take the new introduction to paralegal class as one of my elective courses. She knew my dream job was to become a reference librarian and encouraged me to consider a career as a paralegal. Paralegals and reference librarians share similar skills sets; however, the demand for paralegals is much higher than the demand for reference librarians. As it turned out, the decision to take that class was pivotal, and I liked it so much that I decided to double up and continue on through the Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies
degree program while finishing my BBA.
Marian’s paralegal studies program did a great job preparing me for a new career. Because of the experience I gained while in the program, when I interviewed for an internship, I was able to present a portfolio of my writing samples. Partway through, the interview for an internship changed into one for employment, which was incredible and terrifying all at once. I gained a lot from that experience, and while I was there I had plenty of opportunities to expand on what I had previously learned.
In addition to all the daily connections made through work, I also discovered just how valuable the networking connections gained through Marian’s paralegal studies program are. My advice is to always be cordial with everyone you come in contact with through your daily work, even if they happen to be working for “the other side” at the time. People move around in the local legal community, even changing between plaintiff and defense work, so the opposing counsel you interact with in your current role may someday end up being the one interviewing you for a future position.
My biggest concern was if I would really love the work. Finding a career I would love was the whole reason I was back in school and pursuing a degree. As it turned out, I love my new career as a paralegal, and going through Marian’s Paralegal Studies program was one of my best life decisions. Within two years, I moved to a corporate in-house defense counsel office for a fortune 100 insurance company and now enjoy a comfortable salary, great benefits, and continuing opportunities for merit raises and bonus. I am happy in my work and I have plenty of free time to spend with my family and friends. My career path has taken some strange turns over the past decade, but it turned out awesome anyway; I wouldn’t change a thing.