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livelaughlove21's avatar

Am I just settling (career-related)?

Asked by livelaughlove21 (15623points) May 2nd, 2014

I was always one of the “smart ones” in school. School was easy for me and I got out of high school with a GPA over 4.0 (thanks to AP and honors courses). I went to college and graduated with a 3.8 GPA, president’s/dean’s list, cum laude, all that good stuff.

I initially planned on being a nurse, but realized about halfway through my program that the nursing field is not for me. I ended up graduating with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Criminal Justice, with plans to become a probation/parole agent. When I graduated, there were no jobs at the agency I wanted to work for, so I decided to look into jobs as a legal assistant to see what they had to offer. I ended up landing a job before I even graduated with a fantastic firm making nearly $10K more annually than I would as a probation/parole agent.

I’ve been at this firm for about four months and I love it. I’m good at what I do here and it’s no hardship getting up for work in the morning. My husband and I are enjoying our dual income, no kids life for now, but plan to try to get pregnant toward the end of the year.

I’ve noticed that, while there are older ladies that are still legal assistants and satisfied with that, the younger employees (runners, file clerks, other legal assistants) all have their hearts set on law school. We’re actually losing 3–4 people in August because they’re going off to become lawyers. I’m not going to say I’m smarter than these people, because that’s ridiculous, but I do have a better academic record than many of them. I’ve always been told that I have a good head on my shoulders and I can do whatever I’d like to do with my life.

I really have no interest in being a lawyer at this point. However, I know that being in my thirties with a couple of kids will make it less likely that I’ll ever go to law school. I’ve also looked into other graduate programs to see if I’d be interested in any of that, and I can’t really find anything. I’m not going to go back to school (and add to my student loan debt) unless I really want to, but I can’t help this nagging feeling that I’m just going to settle into some low-end job instead of actually making something of myself.

Any thoughts on this? It’s easy for me to say, “Well, if I don’t want to go back to school and I like my job, then who cares what anyone else might think?” but I also don’t want to end up some old lady that regrets settling into a job as a legal assistant.

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12 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Are you equating legal assistant with paralegal?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

”...settle into some low-end job…”

Some of the happiest people I know. They have great family lives, understanding that career and money isn’t everything. Some of the most troubled folks I know are career focused.

I forget who said it, but this quote always stuck out to me… went something like this:

“It’s sad reaching the top, only to realize that no one else is there”.

CWOTUS's avatar

If you enjoy what you do and you have enough income to satisfy your needs, then where’s the impetus for “more, more”? I think you need to examine your life, perhaps, and the people around you, maybe? to see if you’re responding to voiced or subtly un-voiced prods to “Do more with your life.”

turtlesandbox's avatar

You aren’t settling if you are happy. You are young and have the rest of your life to make any change you want to. Enjoy what you have now if you don’t have any other desires. Make a change when you know what you want.

livelaughlove21's avatar


Not sure why you’re asking me that, but at this firm, everyone is hired as a Legal Secretary, never a Paralegal even if they have the certification, which a few of them do. However, if you look up “Legal Secretary” you’ll find that they’re basically receptionists. Pretty much all of us call ourselves Legal Assistants because the work we do fits better into that job description. We do legal secretary, legal assistant, and even some paralegal work (research mainly), though.

I’ve considered getting my paralegal certificate, but it wouldn’t make any difference in this job. If I decide to look into moving to a different firm, I may look further into our local ABA approved program.

gailcalled's avatar

My family and I just spent almost three years probating my mother’s will. She used a very expensive NYC lawyer whose prices were through the roof. He let his paralegal, a woman of 30 years’ experience, do most of the work (with his frequent but brief supervision) and she charged, herself, an astonishing hourly fee.

I had not realized, until then, just how lucrative a career it was.

It seems a very good profession, if that still interests you and you don’t want the more onerous law school. Of course, it does mean more schooling and more debt.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

As a legal assistant {paralegal} you are doing way more work than the lawyers for way less money. As a lawyer {beginner} you will probably be putting in 80 to 100 hours a week or more.
Keep in mind that the closest homonym to lawyer is liar. And they do a lot of that.

As a matter of fact, the word lawyer was coined early on {back when they were known as barristers}. One defendant said to another, “Is your Liar coming today?” (the criminals then called them liars because they lied for them to the authoritay.

Well, one thing led to another and before you knew it, the barristers began calling themselves Lawyers to brush away the taint of being Liars.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It can be a fiendish trap when your sense of self -worth hangs on what you do for a living. If you are content with your job, and find the work interesting, you’re ahead of most of us here, and probably most of the folks at the firm which employs you. Your position now is ideal. You have lots of options and the leisure to consider them. The only decision that would alter this irrevocably is parenthood. The thing that parenthood and the army share in common is that both enterprises are fueled by volunteers who haven’t a clue as to what they’re in for. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bad mouthing parenthood. What I am saying is that NOTHING you have yet or ever will decide is more significant, and if you have other plans outside rearing children, then you should see to it that they are well underway before the blessed event. Believe me, your dreams will be altered and shift considerably, and you will not believe how much of your future will be dictated by your children.

Cruiser's avatar

My wife was a legal secretary in the legal department of a large corporation and also LOVED her job. When we made the decision to have kids she made the decision to be a full time mom. After our second was born she soon became restless just being a mom and struggled with not having something meaningful in her life to do besides laundry and change diapers. She started taking yoga and fell in love with it so much so she became a teacher and 14 years later she is a yoga teacher, yoga therapist and Ayurvedic Practitioner with a thriving yoga studio she teaches out of our house.

Raising kids will more than likely be the hardest job you will ever have and you will be faced with big decisions in the months ahead.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I’m not going to go back to school (and add to my student loan debt) unless I really want to, but I can’t help this nagging feeling that I’m just going to settle into some low-end job instead of actually making something of myself.
Once you have birth the first child you would have more than made something of yourself in great measure.

It’s easy for me to say, “Well, if I don’t want to go back to school and I like my job, then who cares what anyone else might think?” but I also don’t want to end up some old lady that regrets settling into a job as a legal assistant.
Even if you did not want to go back to the books to go to law school don’t you still have a BA in Psychology and a minor in Criminal Justice? Later on you may have openings to be a probation officer. You may, if you still wanted to be a lawyer, take online courses, it may even be cheap enough that you can pay from your own pocket and not incur any larger debt. If you are happy now, but have this nagging feeling you should have taken opportunities while they were at hand, do it! I certainly wish I would have, but…...

funkdaddy's avatar

If you’ve found something you enjoy doing then that’s more than a lot of people ever have.

Law isn’t exactly a limiting field in terms of money, upward mobility, or future options. As @gailcalled mentioned, there are opportunities. Other firms, greater responsibility, more direct client interaction, specialization, or becoming a key employee of your firm are all possibilities. A lot of that is up to you.

Education isn’t the only way to exercise ambition, and you don’t need anyone’s permission to learn.

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