Last updated: August 02. 2014 11:01AM - 459 Views
By Lee R. Schroeder Contributing Columnist

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As Northwest Ohio elementary, middle school and high school students return to the classroom in the coming weeks, many students will decide their future career fields. Some students may consider the legal profession.

Many people seek legal-related careers without becoming attorneys. Independent from law enforcement, some of those positions include becoming a legal assistant (formerly “secretary”), a clerk or a paralegal.

Paralegals are to attorneys what nurses are to doctors. Paralegals organize files and cases, prepare first drafts of documents, analyze situations and can investigate the facts of certain cases.

Paralegals are not required to have any particular education background. However, local universities such as Rhodes State, Ohio State and the University of Northwestern Ohio offer associate degrees or bachelor degrees that can help someone be a more successful paralegal. Although not required, a certification program for paralegals is also available through the Ohio State Bar Association.

For those who desire to become licensed attorneys, there is a rather regimented path to undertake. Before attending law school, a student must have earned a bachelor’s degree. Most law schools accept a Bachelor of Science degree, but a few law schools (most notably Stanford) require a Bachelor of Arts degree. There is no requirement that an undergraduate earn a “pre-law” degree, and many attorneys’ undergraduate degrees are in something else, such as accounting, engineering or art.

Law school applicants must take the Law School Admission Test and then must formally apply to each law school for which admission is sought. Applicants for law school are evaluated similarly to the way that they were evaluated for admission to their respective undergraduate programs. Some law schools require personal interviews. Law schools are frequently “ranked” by magazines, but such rankings typically only have significance in helping a licensed attorney land his or her first job, if that first job is sought at a large, metropolitan law firm.

Law school lasts three years full-time or four years part-time. The first year of law school is composed of a required curriculum. A law student’s courses in the second and third years are almost entirely elective. There are no “majors” in law school. However, certain law schools are known for certain strengths. For example, Ohio State’s law school is known for its expertise in training students to resolve disputes without filing or prosecuting lawsuits.

Law school graduates who desire to be Ohio attorneys must pass a three-day bar exam, which is administered in Columbus twice a year. Most of the bar exam is comprised of essay questions. Bar examinees receive a score, but the test itself is pass-fail.

Unfortunately, attorneys as a group generally have some of the lowest levels of professional satisfaction of any career. To outsiders, the profession can appear to be financially rewarding for people who “only have to talk for a living.” However, the demands of always addressing other people’s problems can cause attorneys a great deal of stress and fatigue, especially for Northwest Ohio’s judges and general practice attorneys who are expected to be expert at almost everything.

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney with Schroeder, Blankemeyer and Schroeder LLP in Ottawa. He limits his practice to business, real estate,estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at lee.schroeder@sbslawoffice.com or at 419-523-5658. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.

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