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Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:49 pm
by FutureLawyerNY
Hi all!

I have been reading the TLS Forum since my freshman year of college. I am now going into my senior year, and I am eager to get advice. I was accepted early into Teach for America. This summer and the summer before I interned at two different firms in NYC, and there is a good chance I can get a paralegal job at one of the firms after graduating.

I need help deciding what path to take. I have spoken to lawyers this summer, and a lot of them encouraged me to do TFA for the experience. They noted that I already have law firm experience, and that I should do something different. I am also someone who believes in the mission of TFA and would commit to the two years and serve my students to the best of my ability. A lawyer mentioned that the work paralegals get is mind numbing. In the long run, in terms of law school and OCI's, what would look better?

I don't know if this helps, but background on me:
- Phi Beta Kappa
- Very involved on campus (Senator, University Ambassador, Tour Guide, President of Club, Pre-Law Fraternity)
- Honors Program at University
- 3 Legal Internships over the course of my college career

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 5:06 pm
by criminaltheory
Kids need teachers, not law school applicants. If you want to teach kids, get an education degree and commit to being a teacher.

If you want to get a JD, on these facts, become a paralegal.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 5:08 pm
by FutureLawyerNY
Thank you for your input. I know there are critics of the programs. If I decide to go the TFA route, I will do my best to serve the students well.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 5:10 pm
by JohnnieSockran
Why don't you just take the LSAT and go to law school if you already know you want to be a lawyer?

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 5:13 pm
by FutureLawyerNY
I am already graduating a year early (at 20). Everyone encouraged me to gain work experience for a year or two.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 5:46 pm
by 4LTsPointingNorth
Both TFA and paralegal work are traditional paths to law school (and later, to work at law firms). Both will get you there. Do whichever you want to do more.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 6:51 pm
by sparkytrainer
4LTsPointingNorth wrote:Both TFA and paralegal work are traditional paths to law school (and later, to work at law firms). Both will get you there. Do whichever you want to do more.


Agree with this. Just dont go in thinking that TFA will be a good bump for your application as it likely wont. In my t13 class, something like 1/5 of the class was TFA. Do it because you truly love kids and teaching. Don't do it for any other reason.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 8:49 pm
by Broncsfan
Did TFA and ended up teaching for 5 years. Only do it if you want to be a teacher. Was a great experience overall and I still talk with my former students weekly. PM me if you want to talk more.

Edit: I do think it helped with Public Defender interviews but I can't speak to anything else.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 9:28 pm
by cannonballer
Broncsfan wrote:Did TFA and ended up teaching for 5 years. Only do it if you want to be a teacher. Was a great experience overall and I still talk with my former students weekly. PM me if you want to talk more.

Edit: I do think it helped with Public Defender interviews but I can't speak to anything else.


Agree with all of this. I also did TFA and stayed far longer than the 2 year commitment. I’m pretty critical of the model itself, which promotes the idea of “do your two years and move on to greater things.” Don’t do TFA as a boost for law school, or with the idea that you’ll make some amazing change in your first two years. You can also PM me if you want.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:09 am
by QContinuum
FutureLawyerNY wrote:In the long run, in terms of law school and OCI's, what would look better?


Both are incredibly common. You won't "stand out" (either positively or negatively) in law school applications or at OCI either way. (Unless you want to do PI, in which case TFA will likely look better.)

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:00 pm
by Schotes
cannonballer wrote:Agree with this. . In my t13 class, something like 1/5 of the class was TFA. Do it because you truly love kids and teaching. Don't do it for any other reason.


First, 20% of your class was not TFA. Second, 20% being TFA contradicts "Just don't go in thinking that TFA will be a good bump for your application as it likely wont". A lot of former TFA in a law school is excellent evidence that the program gives a nice bump.

TFA is a nice bump because its just about the hardest job a person can do straight out of undergrad. Gunners and the insecure hate the thought of other students with more meaningful work experience.

Most future law students would be better off becoming a paralegal and experiencing a firm from the inside. Don't do TFA unless you have a passion and reasons to believe that you can control a high needs classroom.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:01 pm
by Schotes
OP - GPA and LSAT is what matters. Working before law school is good, but that experience is more about having a full time job and maturing.

Prior to law school getting into a training program at a bank or other corporations that law firms serve is probably more desirable than paralegal when it comes to OCI/getting a law job.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:05 pm
by sparkytrainer
Schotes wrote:
cannonballer wrote:Agree with this. . In my t13 class, something like 1/5 of the class was TFA. Do it because you truly love kids and teaching. Don't do it for any other reason.


First, 20% of your class was not TFA. Second, 20% being TFA contradicts "Just don't go in thinking that TFA will be a good bump for your application as it likely wont". A lot of former TFA in a law school is excellent evidence that the program gives a nice bump.

TFA is a nice bump because its just about the hardest job a person can do straight out of undergrad. Gunners and the insecure hate the thought of other students with more meaningful work experience.

Most future law students would be better off becoming a paralegal and experiencing a firm from the inside. Don't do TFA unless you have a passion and reasons to believe that you can control a high needs classroom.


Actually yeah, my class was 18% TFA. You can see the published numbers yourself. And all of them I have spoken with said they didn't get any bump from it. But please, continue to say I'm lying when you can just go see the numbers for yourself.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:18 pm
by SFSpartan
Schotes wrote:
cannonballer wrote:Agree with this. . In my t13 class, something like 1/5 of the class was TFA. Do it because you truly love kids and teaching. Don't do it for any other reason.


First, 20% of your class was not TFA. Second, 20% being TFA contradicts "Just don't go in thinking that TFA will be a good bump for your application as it likely wont". A lot of former TFA in a law school is excellent evidence that the program gives a nice bump.

TFA is a nice bump because its just about the hardest job a person can do straight out of undergrad. Gunners and the insecure hate the thought of other students with more meaningful work experience.

Most future law students would be better off becoming a paralegal and experiencing a firm from the inside. Don't do TFA unless you have a passion and reasons to believe that you can control a high needs classroom.


I don't think anyone is trying to argue that doing TFA isn't meaningful work experience. However, TFA is a relatively common thing for prospective law school students to do. So, it's not like a prospective applicant would get a bigger bump from TFA as compared to, say, working as a paralegal at an Amlaw 100 firm.

If OP is really interested in education/being a teacher, then OP should do TFA. If not, OP should just be a paralegal.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 2:46 pm
by Schotes
SFSpartan wrote:
Schotes wrote:
cannonballer wrote:Agree with this. . In my t13 class, something like 1/5 of the class was TFA. Do it because you truly love kids and teaching. Don't do it for any other reason.


First, 20% of your class was not TFA. Second, 20% being TFA contradicts "Just don't go in thinking that TFA will be a good bump for your application as it likely wont". A lot of former TFA in a law school is excellent evidence that the program gives a nice bump.

TFA is a nice bump because its just about the hardest job a person can do straight out of undergrad. Gunners and the insecure hate the thought of other students with more meaningful work experience.

Most future law students would be better off becoming a paralegal and experiencing a firm from the inside. Don't do TFA unless you have a passion and reasons to believe that you can control a high needs classroom.


I don't think anyone is trying to argue that doing TFA isn't meaningful work experience. However, TFA is a relatively common thing for prospective law school students to do. So, it's not like a prospective applicant would get a bigger bump from TFA as compared to, say, working as a paralegal at an Amlaw 100 firm.

If OP is really interested in education/being a teacher, then OP should do TFA. If not, OP should just be a paralegal.


Working TFA is harder job with considerably more responsibility than being a paralegal. I am not a TFA alum, but I hire TFA alums.

The high number of TFA at top schools demonstrates a high positive correlation between doing TFA and admittance to those schools. The number of TFA fades below the T13. Arguing that a school if full of TFA so it's not special is bizarre.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 2:47 pm
by Schotes
sparkytrainer wrote:
Actually yeah, my class was 18% TFA. You can see the published numbers yourself. And all of them I have spoken with said they didn't get any bump from it. But please, continue to say I'm lying when you can just go see the numbers for yourself.


Hopefully you are not planning on a career in litigation.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 2:56 pm
by SFSpartan
Schotes wrote:
SFSpartan wrote:
Schotes wrote:
cannonballer wrote:Agree with this. . In my t13 class, something like 1/5 of the class was TFA. Do it because you truly love kids and teaching. Don't do it for any other reason.


First, 20% of your class was not TFA. Second, 20% being TFA contradicts "Just don't go in thinking that TFA will be a good bump for your application as it likely wont". A lot of former TFA in a law school is excellent evidence that the program gives a nice bump.

TFA is a nice bump because its just about the hardest job a person can do straight out of undergrad. Gunners and the insecure hate the thought of other students with more meaningful work experience.

Most future law students would be better off becoming a paralegal and experiencing a firm from the inside. Don't do TFA unless you have a passion and reasons to believe that you can control a high needs classroom.


I don't think anyone is trying to argue that doing TFA isn't meaningful work experience. However, TFA is a relatively common thing for prospective law school students to do. So, it's not like a prospective applicant would get a bigger bump from TFA as compared to, say, working as a paralegal at an Amlaw 100 firm.

If OP is really interested in education/being a teacher, then OP should do TFA. If not, OP should just be a paralegal.


Working TFA is harder job with considerably more responsibility than being a paralegal. I am not a TFA alum, but I hire TFA alums.

The high number of TFA at top schools demonstrates a high positive correlation between doing TFA and admittance to those schools. The number of TFA fades below the T13. Arguing that a school if full of TFA so it's not special is bizarre.


Stop putting words in my mouth. I never said that doing TFA wasn't more difficult than being a paralegal, or that TFA wasn't special. I do think that TFA is more difficult than being a paralegal and that applicants that have done TFA probably get some admissions bump from it. However, I don't think that TFA is going to give your average applicant such a large bump that they would get into schools they don't otherwise have the numbers for.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 3:47 pm
by cannonballer
Schotes wrote:
cannonballer wrote:Agree with this. . In my t13 class, something like 1/5 of the class was TFA. Do it because you truly love kids and teaching. Don't do it for any other reason.


First, 20% of your class was not TFA. Second, 20% being TFA contradicts "Just don't go in thinking that TFA will be a good bump for your application as it likely wont". A lot of former TFA in a law school is excellent evidence that the program gives a nice bump.

TFA is a nice bump because its just about the hardest job a person can do straight out of undergrad. Gunners and the insecure hate the thought of other students with more meaningful work experience.

Most future law students would be better off becoming a paralegal and experiencing a firm from the inside. Don't do TFA unless you have a passion and reasons to believe that you can control a high needs classroom.


Dude you didn’t even quote the right person, I’m not the one who said that.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 5:02 pm
by nixy
Schotes wrote:
SFSpartan wrote:
Schotes wrote:
cannonballer wrote:Agree with this. . In my t13 class, something like 1/5 of the class was TFA. Do it because you truly love kids and teaching. Don't do it for any other reason.


First, 20% of your class was not TFA. Second, 20% being TFA contradicts "Just don't go in thinking that TFA will be a good bump for your application as it likely wont". A lot of former TFA in a law school is excellent evidence that the program gives a nice bump.

TFA is a nice bump because its just about the hardest job a person can do straight out of undergrad. Gunners and the insecure hate the thought of other students with more meaningful work experience.

Most future law students would be better off becoming a paralegal and experiencing a firm from the inside. Don't do TFA unless you have a passion and reasons to believe that you can control a high needs classroom.


I don't think anyone is trying to argue that doing TFA isn't meaningful work experience. However, TFA is a relatively common thing for prospective law school students to do. So, it's not like a prospective applicant would get a bigger bump from TFA as compared to, say, working as a paralegal at an Amlaw 100 firm.

If OP is really interested in education/being a teacher, then OP should do TFA. If not, OP should just be a paralegal.


Working TFA is harder job with considerably more responsibility than being a paralegal. I am not a TFA alum, but I hire TFA alums.

The high number of TFA at top schools demonstrates a high positive correlation between doing TFA and admittance to those schools. The number of TFA fades below the T13. Arguing that a school if full of TFA so it's not special is bizarre.

The correlation is between the requirements to get into TFA and to get into T14s. Both select for high grades and other kinds of accomplishments. TFA itself isn’t the cause.

And I didn’t go to a T14 and there were plenty of TFA alums there, too. It’s not really a bump.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 6:35 pm
by whats an updog
will not make any real difference for applications so do what you want to do. your GPA/LSAT are essentially all that matter

my two cents is that TFA would probably be way more interesting than being a paralegal, and anyway, don't you need some sort of special certification to be a paralegal in addition to having a 4-year degree? i.e., pass a test or something? not saying that's a particularly difficult hurdle, but why put yourself through that if you're going to be a lawyer later.

Re: Teach for America vs Paralegal

Posted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 7:31 pm
by 4LTsPointingNorth
whats an updog wrote:will not make any real difference for applications so do what you want to do. your GPA/LSAT are essentially all that matter

my two cents is that TFA would probably be way more interesting than being a paralegal, and anyway, don't you need some sort of special certification to be a paralegal in addition to having a 4-year degree? i.e., pass a test or something? not saying that's a particularly difficult hurdle, but why put yourself through that if you're going to be a lawyer later.


Many AmLaw 100 firms hire "legal assistants." These are recent college grads who usually have good undergrad GPAs. They are expected to stay for a year or two then go to law school, switch careers, or become long-term paralegals somewhere else that pays more. No certification required.

For those LAs who end up going to a law school that those firms recruit from, firms will often offer automatic callback interviews and relax their 1L GPA cut-offs for candidates who had good performance reviews as a legal assistant there.

So if OP's only goal is to eventually become a BigLaw lawyer, then the BigLaw paralegal path is the most natural gateway. If OP has genuine interest in teaching or in pursuing public interest, rather than law firm work, then TFA is a more targeted choice.