Law School Dreamer Interview with “J.D. Lifeline” Author, Zenovia N. Evans, J.D.

August 1, 2010 at 11:57 pm (Applying to Law School)

After reading “J.D. Lifeline,” authored by recent law school graduate (and former paralegal!), Zenovia N. Evans, J.D., I made contact with Zenovia, which later manifested itself to an informal interview, the contents of which are below:

What inspired you to write the J.D. Lifeline series?

The same things that upset current students and recent graduates – the lack of real, updated information regarding the law school experience. The sad part is that there are millions of legal professionals that have taken the journey before me, but no one wants to share their wisdom. I could never understand that thought process. The legal community itself is just that, a “community.” Accordingly, we must work together to breed stronger professionals and build a better profession.

Did you find that your past work experience as a paralegal helped boost your chances of admissions?

Yes, because I wasn’t afraid of law school or attorneys for that matter (lol). My previous experience as a paralegal emphasized my practical skill set, understanding of the legal system, and respect for the industry. It further depicted my desire to complete the program since I had already experienced the things that typically deter students (i.e., long office hours, legalese, irate clients, and office politics).

As a paralegal journeying through the law school application process, I worry about finding the right balance of demonstrating that my past work experience is what has led me to law school and going overboard, so as to seem as though I know it all, and law school is just a way of making it “official.”  What are some tips you can provide for paralegals addressing their past work experience in their personal statements?

For this situation, I suggest emphasizing the reality of what you have seen and endured in the workplace and how those experiences shaped your desired career path. For example, even in a paralegal capacity, it is freaking cool to participate in a $50 million real estate closing or help an attorney obtain a truly deserved victory for a client. Legal professionals, including law school administrators, know that legal victories are not won by attorneys alone; the legal staff is an important part of the team. Personally, I viewed my legal support positions as highly paid internships. There is no other way to get so close to the action without literally being an attorney.

It is my understanding that most entering law students have had very little introduction and dealings with the law and the legal profession, did you find that having worked in the realm as a paralegal you had a “leg-up” on your classmates when it came to understanding the concepts learned in law school?

I think that I did and that the advantage continues even today. Although law school teaches you how to resolve certain legal issues, the application of that knowledge comes easier to students with previous legal experience who have seen the way problems are practically resolved within a legal office (i.e., knowing who does what and why, how to assess the personalities of your support team, knowing who will take a hit for the team, etc.).

Broadly, how has being a paralegal prior to becoming an attorney impacted your journey?

It impacted my journey by taking the fear out of the experience. I am now comfortable in any office environment and have an understanding of office hierarchy (from both perspectives). Essentially, I am able to concentrate on solving problems because I have already figured out the trivial things such as working with staff and effectively utilizing my computer software.

In your discussion of alternative admissions programs you mention part-time matriculation, how has the new U.S. News and World Report part-time rankings affected the ability of applicants with slightly lower numbers than what would typically be acceptable for full-time admission, use part-time admission as a means of an alternative admission program?

I don’t have enough information to answer that question. However, I believe part-time admission programs should be effectively used as alternative admission programs if it best fits the student’s personal and professional plan regardless of their academic standing. A goal is simply that, a goal. It doesn’t matter what barriers stand in your way (such as low LSAT scores), you either want to achieve it or do something else meaningful, albeit less satisfying, with your time.

How difficult is it for part-time law students to juggle school and work?  As an undergraduate, I took a full course load (15 credits) while working full-time, and quickly learned that to do this, I had to be a master of time management.  Can I expect a similar challenge if I chose to go to law school part-time and work part-time or full-time?

Law school is extremely demanding and can be difficult to juggle with work although it can be done. Time management and discipline are essential skills. The difference between juggling the two in law school versus undergraduate school is the effect that the law curriculum itself will personally have on you and the limited availability you will have to develop and maintain personal relationships.

How does past paralegal experience play into the post-graduation job search?  I assume most law students have had some opportunity to work in a legal setting through internships during law school; does this level the playing field?

Previous legal experience as a paralegal may not greatly impact the post-graduation job search as much as your paralegal skills will. However, one advantage does come to mind. Paralegals have had an opportunity to build relationships with firms and other attorneys who have worked with them in the past. On the surface, this advantage is not clearly distinguishable from other law students with similar legal experience. But, your previous firm and attorneys will have a different level of respect for you having watched you make the transition from support staff to peer. This does go a long way in terms of recommendations and job referrals.

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