How To Become A Paralegal In Texas – How many times have you seen posts on LinkedIn and social media that say, “I went and got my paralegal certification, but I can’t get a paralegal job with no experience. How do I get my first legal job?”?
This year I’m on a mission to interview some paralegals who entered the paralegal profession without even a paralegal certificate and find out how they did it and the lessons they learned. I can pass it on to others.
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In this blog I interview Jessie Foss. Jessie is a certified paralegal in Texas. She is a litigation associate at Heigood, Orr & Pearson (no relation to me). She worked for the firm for almost 18 years, but it was a journey to get there, and that journey began without paralegal certification. Let’s interview Jessie and see what lessons we can learn from her experience.
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Well, I met my husband in 1996. I was 18 and got my GED. I had no plans to go to college and didn’t know what I wanted to do, and he knew someone who was a member of the church he attended. She was a personal injury attorney and they were looking for a receptionist for their small law firm.
I worked for Pizza Inn. I also operate the phone. The company needed someone to handle multi-line phones and I knew I could do it. And so I met with this lawyer who then asked me to come to an interview for a receptionist position and to do clerical work. So in 1997 I interviewed for that job and they gave it to me and that’s where I started.
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Okay, so you have this receptionist position, and I guess you’re good at the front desk or something, right? Did they just promote you out of the blue or what happened there?
Yes, I did well as a receptionist. I was given a new assignment because I proved that I do a good job. And during the work process I was very curious and wanted to learn more deeply, so I proactively asked questions and absorbed information from lawyers.
I was able to determine what things mean, how things work and how processes are managed. This allows me to learn more about the legal profession so I can progress and learn more.
If you already have your foot in the door, like a receptionist, file clerk, or paralegal, but you’ve taken on any role to get your foot in the door and hope it leads to a paralegal position And I’d like you to take notes on what Jessie shared. She is curious, asks questions, investigates. Only her. So if you take that receptionist position to get your foot in the door to become a paralegal, and you’re just sitting at that front desk waiting for someone to walk up to you and say, “Hey, you’re hired. promoted to a paralegal position,” you will have to wait a long time. That’s a really important lesson.
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Okay, so you’re in this company. Then you are assigned subjects, you are promoted to the position of office manager. So who are you from now, about eight, nine years into your career?
And at that moment I wanted to learn more. I want to do experimental work. The company I work for, we have cases ready for trial, but we never go to trial. I have decided that I want to obtain a paralegal certificate through a program offered by the University of North Texas. I managed to convince one of my colleagues to take that course with me and to take the course with me because she also wanted to learn more and advance her career.
Having a friend helped a lot. That’s great. It is very useful. We helped each other a lot in terms of supporting each other and, you know, doing homework and assignments and learning from each other, which helped us both get through it. way to be more confident and know that we’re going to get certified.
What did you learn in that certificate program? What did you learn that really helped you prepare for court?
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To be honest, I didn’t learn much from it because I’ve done it before. When I took the course, I learned a lot about it. What I learned was how to look up statutes and cases.
I’ve never had any experience with that. The company I work for doesn’t do much legal research. So we went on a field trip and had to go to the law library and look up statutes, codes and case law. That was interesting and something new that I learned through that course.
Okay, so you get your law certificate because you want to try and you have to go to another company, right? Because you did a trial job, so you left that company?
Yes, I spoke with several recruiters to help me prepare for the interview. At that point, I hadn’t interviewed for a legal position in 9 years, so I didn’t have much experience in how to introduce myself, how to write a resume, or how to interview.
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The recruiters were very helpful. I bought the book and did some more research online about how to interview, how to be confident, how to showcase your skills and why you are the best person for the position.
They sent me for an interview and the funny thing is I almost didn’t go to this interview because I had to drive from home to get there. That would be a pretty good trip. I live in a fairly busy city and that commute was not something I looked forward to. But the recruiter encouraged me and told me to just go for the interview and treat it as a mock interview.
It’s just practice, you never know what will happen. So I accepted the interview and that day I was offered the job, which was surprising, I accepted and started working.
You got that spot! What do you think made you get the offer that day? For example, how did you conduct yourself at the interview, or what do you think it was about you that made the lawyer want to hire you?
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The interview was short and he really focused on my experience. I was certified as a paralegal and one question he asked me was did you learn anything new while getting certified?
I responded to him similar to the way I responded to you that I didn’t learn much from it because I had previous experience in the company and the actual experience I had was exactly what he was saying. He needed someone to step in and take over his litigation.
Okay, in other words, I believe he would probably hire you even without that paralegal certification. I understand you are a certified paralegal in Texas and you did that in 2018. I assume that was when you were with the same firm.
Is it a difficult test to take? Have you decided to do it? It can be expensive to get certified.
Tisha Delgado │paralegal Q&a │ Wordrake
This is an expensive certification and the exam is not easy. Basically, you’re doing the same thing a lawyer would do when taking the bar exam. It’s very intense. And there’s a lot of research involved.
You have to study some rules and some rules you have to remember. But I want to get that certificate and learn more. And in that decision I decided that since I was going to do this for myself and it would benefit the company, I would go to my supervising attorney and ask if they would pay for the period.exam and all CLE or not.
I had to have CLE hours before I could take the exam or register for the exam. And they were very willing to support me. They paid for my exams, travel expenses and the supplies I needed. I needed a separate laptop for that test. So they were very supportive and supportive of me getting that certification.
OH. I like to see that. So, readers, step back a little because I have to remind you first. What did you see?
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