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Paralegal Student Competencies: How are you Stacking Up?

How well are paralegal students learning the core competencies in their classes?  Not quite as well as one might have hoped.  Over the past few years, we’ve had paralegals nationwide complete thousands of practical test questions in several key legal specialty areas including, but not limited to, the following: 

  1. Legal Research;
  2. Communications Skills;
  3. Contracts;
  4. Criminal Law;
  5. Torts; and
  6. Ethics

Upon completion, each test taker receives an e-mail with their quiz results so they can see how they did individually.  A common inquiry from our clients has been about how they stacked up against others taking the same assessments.  We decided it was time to compile the data for each quiz and share the findings.  Here are the somewhat alarming findings:

Quiz Name:                                                             Nationwide Average Score:

Core Competencies


Legal Research


Communications Skills







One of the things that’s clear from the data is that for those thinking about sitting for a certification examination, there is clearly a need to brush up on the areas of tested.   The data also matches up with nationwide surveys of recent graduates that reveal that only 4 in 10 students feel prepared for their respective careers upon graduation (see our blog on career readiness HERE).  For a host of reasons, many paralegal students are not grasping critical paraprofessional concepts inside the classroom. 

Professional competence and confidence is critical to securing competitive entry level career positions.  They are equally important in long term career advancement.  Without it, paralegal graduates will be faced with two harsh realities in their initial job search: 

(1) A prospective employer will see nothing but a large learning curve in the graduate and, as such, be unwilling to hire the candidate; or

(2) The recent graduate, with a lack of confidence combined with an inability to uniquely market themselves with advanced competencies, will eventually settle on an employment position that has very limited advancement potential leaving them severely underemployed in the long term. 

This is not a problem unique solely to the legal market.  Career data points to this epidemic across virtually all professions.  College programs have become more and more accelerated.  Vocational training is increasingly being done by adjunct professors who are difficult if not impossible to reach outside of lectures.  Colleges are cutting back on student support services such as tutoring or career development. 

It is up to students individually to go the extra mile outside of the classroom in order to excel professionally.  Paralegal students can control their own destiny through professional empowerment.  Merely going to classes for a few short months and “getting through” like the vast majority is not enough in the ruthlessly competitive legal employment world!  Go the extra mile outside the classroom today and reap the professional benefits tomorrow!

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