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Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Small town paralegal in the city. Once ran a law office, now being run by one. Med mal defense litigation. I think it's growing on me.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Trying to Decide

I have always planned on going to graduate school, but the implementation of that plan has been put off for some time. The first stall came when I was unable to get in-state graduate tuition at my alma mater, University of Maine. I moved home to Alabama, waited a semester, and then began working toward an M.S. in Education at Troy University. One semester in, I realized that despite years of planning, teaching was not my true calling. That summer was the summer I fell in love with becoming a paralegal.

Starting that August, I spent the next 15 months taking online classes through Washington Online Learning Institute. In November 2008, I became certificated with a Master Paralegal Certificate. In 2009, I sat for the NALA certification exam and became a Certified Paralegal (CP).

But still I craved more. More education. More knowledge. More intellectual challenges. However, I had to put those desires on hold while I worked full time tried to start an adult life and adult career. Lack of time and an unwillingness to take on a huge amount of debt for my continuing education kept me from proceeding. For the longest time I also felt conflicted. If I loved the law so much, did I want to go to law school? Since I truly enjoy the substantive part of my job, does that mean I should be a lawyer? My hesitant answer to these questions was usually "no," but without being sure, I could not form any true educational goals.

When I moved to Memphis, I literally moved in directly across the street from the law school. The University of Memphis main campus is but minutes away, too. School has been staring me in the face and daring me to proceed. Still, I have remained undecided. I wanted to go back, but if not for law school, then what?

I regret to say that I have not come much further. I thought I was settled on an MBA. Memphis has several programs that would work with my schedule and allow me to avoid massive student loan debt. An MBA makes some sense, since I would love to learn more about business, and it one of the few slightly applicable degrees to my career field. But is it really applicable? After all, I'm a paralegal. I do not supervise or manage anything. Unless I move into the non-legal corporate world, it is very unlikely that I will ever manage big projects or need to have more than common business sense.

So I examined every graduate degree available through University of Memphis, and Communications popped out. With a background in English and literature, I feel drawn to the courses listed under this program. Some of them sound intellectually enticing. If I were to pursue a master degree in this area, I think I would enjoy it. But is it applicable to my career?

Neither of my two options is very applicable to what I do right now, so I've tried to think long-term. I may be an entry-level paralegal now, but where will I be in five years? Administrator? Office manager? Will the med mal case load slow down and result in my move to an in-house position? Of course, the truth is that there is no way to tell what will happen over time.

So here I sit, still undecided with a self-imposed application deadline of January 2011 looming over me. That's enough time to force myself to decide, right? If neither of my options is directly applicable to my current career, I need to figure out whether I should choose the one that I know I will enjoy or the one that might open more doors for me in the future. And all the while, the Law School sits across the street...


  1. You went to Washington Online Learning Institute? Great school. I went there a few years ago and also got the Master Certification. I thought it was an excellent program. I learned so much that my bosses gave me an immediate $5000 raise on the spot when I got my certificate. Now I am working in trusts and estates law and I really did learn a lot at WOLI to help with this. Anyway, I just stumbled across your blog and it is very interesting! I will keep reading it. Good luck with your future!

  2. I just stumbled upon your blog, so first off, hello! I am really enjoying reading through your posts, and I can relate to a lot of things you have posted here.

    I just graduated from the Senior Paralegal Certificate program with WOLI. I wanted to take the Masters course, but it just wasn't in the cards financially. I'm taking a break before I gear up to take the NALA exam, and I'd be interested to hear your opinions about the school, and how well it prepared you for the exam and your career as a paralegal.

    You are at a crossroads in your career, and I wish you the best. I hope the right way to go makes itself clear for you. Good luck, and great blog!

  3. I just came across your blog and thought I might comment. Have you considered the Masters of Science in Legal Administration through the University of Denver? It is a program where you take law classes combined with business classes. It is the only program like it in the country. In addition, it can be taken as a distance course. Best of luck in whatever you decide to do.