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FEATURE                                                                                            1. 800.973.1177

                            From Paralegal to Attorney: One Woman’s Legal Journey
                            [By Mahsa Khalilifar]
                            For Tracie Goodwin, being a paralegal wasn’t quite enough.

                            “After being a paralegal for about five years, I began looking for more of a challenge,” she says. “I decided to become an
                            attorney mainly because I wanted more control over the work I did, and I wanted more of a challenge.”

Goodwin was born in Houston, Texas, but             “I have been working at the same law firm           Now practicing at Sagaser, Jones & Helsley,
moved to Fresno, California, when she               since I graduated from college. The firm I          Goodwin insists, though, that law school is
was 8. She had been working as a legal             work at was very supportive of my going to          not for everyone.
secretary for eight years when she decided          law school,” she says. “After my first year of
to enter the paralegal arena.                       law school, I passed the ‘baby bar,’ and I was      “Make certain you weigh the pros and cons
                                                    promoted to a law clerk. I worked as a law          of being a paralegal as opposed to being an
“My boss had been giving me progressively
                                                    clerk until I found out I passed the bar this       attorney before you make your decision,” she
more challenging projects, which I found
                                                    last May. The firm I work at offered me a job       advises. “While being an attorney can give
more interesting than legal secretary work.
                                                    as an associate, which I accepted.”                 you more control over the cases you work on
The autonomy and the responsibility that
                                                                                                        and allow you to use your creativity, it also
came with being a paralegal appealed to             She decided to take law classes at Concord          requires more hours, more responsibility,
me,” she explains. “Once I decided to get a         Law School, an online law school. Although          and more accountability for your work.”
paralegal certificate, I had to find a paralegal    she went through a family tragedy — her
program that worked with my schedule.”              father’s passing during her last year before        She also notes that her job definitely weighs
                                                    law school finals — she managed to graduate         more heavily on her day-to-day activities.
Working about 50 hours per week and
                                                    in July of 2006.
married with children, Goodwin needed to
                                                                                                        “When I was a paralegal I didn’t have to
find a flexible program. A two-year paralegal       “I was very overwhelmed, and every day I
                                                                                                        worry about committing malpractice. Being
program at the city college and a one-year          had to talk myself out of dropping out of
                                                                                                        an attorney, at least in private practice, is
program at the local law school were being          law school,” she admits. “I just tried to take
                                                                                                        more stressful than being a paralegal,”
offered. After considering both, she found          everything one day at a time.”
                                                                                                        she says. “When you’re deciding whether
that neither worked well with her hectic
                                                                                                        to become an attorney, you should look
schedule. A bit later, she found a 2-week,         Goodwin also saw opportunities for more
                                                                                                        at the type of lifestyle you want to have.
two-day-per-weekend course offered at               financial gain working as an attorney.
                                                                                                        While being a paralegal is challenging, you
California State University, Fresno, that
                                                                                                        generally don’t have to take your work home
worked for her. She received her bachelor’s         “I also wanted to earn more money. I
                                                                                                        with you — even if it’s just thinking about it.”
degree in liberal arts with a credential            was doing very similar work to what
emphasis after a “grueling 2 weeks.”               our associates were doing but making
                                                                                                        Now a grandmother, Goodwin loves spending
                                                    considerably less,” she says. “Also, when you
                                                                                                        time with her granddaughter, two cats, two
Although Goodwin’s initial hopes of being           are a paralegal, you only see a small portion
                                                                                                        rabbits, and “number of tortoises.” She
a teacher didn’t pan out, she continued her         of a case, and you are limited to doing what
                                                                                                        credits her husband with being her number-
career in the legal field and has not looked        you are directed to do by the attorneys. I
                                                                                                        one fan.
back. After working as a paralegal for              wanted the challenge of being able to work
five years, she received the opportunity to         up a case totally on my own, implementing
progress further professionally.                    my own ideas.”

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FEATURE                                                                                   1. 800.973.1177

“My husband has been really wonderful,” she        2.   The terms are year-long;                   7.    Tuition is $8,900 per year.
says. “He was very supportive and wouldn’t              coursework must be completed in
let me give up.”                                        terms of 48-52 weeks as stipulated         8.    Applicants may request information
                                                        by the State Bar of California rules.            at the Concord site. An admissions
Goodwin doesn’t regret her decision to                                                                   person will contact them for an
switch careers, and she hopes others will          3.   Students report that they study 25-              interview and provide access to the
consider the job change if it is right for them.        30 hours per week.                               online exam and application. For
                                                                                                         more information, please go to info.
“Being an attorney feels like a 24-hour            4.   The first two years of the J.D.        
job sometimes. However, I think it’s a very             program, the curriculum is
good profession to go into, and I think it is           comprised of required courses.          On the net
particularly a good profession for women,”
Goodwin, a mother of three, says. “You have a      5.   Students have the opportunity to        Concord Law School
lot more options with a law degree than with            take electives in their 3L and 4L
a paralegal certificate.”                               years. Electives include a series
                                                        of health law courses, patent           California State University, Fresno
If you are a paralegal and are interested in            law courses, cyberlaw courses,
applying to Concord Law School, you must                advocacy courses, and business
hold an undergraduate degree or higher and              law courses — business planning         Sagaser, Jones & Helsley
must pass the Concord Online Admissions                 and contract drafting. In the fourth
Test. You must also provide Concord with                year, there is also an externship
official transcripts from relevant colleges             program, the Legal Education
and universities. After the first year of law           Experience Program (LEEP),
school, the State Bar of California requires            where the student works in a legal
you to pass the First-Year Law Students’                setting under the supervision of an
Examination before continuing studies.                  attorney.

Concord Law School’s program-specific              6.   Admission requirements are a
requirements are below:                                 bachelor’s degree and generally
                                                        a 3.0 GPA or better. Applicants
    .    The Concord J.D. program is a four-           also must take Concord’s online
          year, part-time program.                      admission test, although Concord
                                                        does not require the LSAT.


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