Remember when I promised to tell you the story of how my parents spent 7 years trying to break Chris and I up? Well, one part of that story is how after I graduated from Michigan State, and had no idea what to do with my B.A. in Liberal Arts, English Major degree, my parents sent me to Paralegal school in Philadelphia for five months.
You see, when my sister had graduated from I.U. in 1986, her Business School advisor recommended that she get a Paralegal degree, because at the time it was considered to be one of the ten most-needed jobs. And sure enough, after she got her degree, she was immediately hired by one of the biggest law firms in Los Angeles.
And that’s how my parents ended up taking out a $13, 000 Federal parent loan, also known as the PLUS loan, for Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students, to pay for my five month semester at the Institute for Paralegal Training in Philadelphia. $8500 for tuition, and $4500 to share a one-bedroom apartment in a high-rise building off the Ben Franklin Parkway for five months. Pricey.
That’s right-I have a degree in Litigation Management, and technically, could be working as a Paralegal right now, helping some Attorney get ready to present a big case in court. My parents were sure that after I graduated, I would also get a job with a big important law firm, preferably far, far, away from Chris, and realize how wrong I had been to “waste my time” with him all those years, when there were professional men driving BMWs and wearing three-piece suits who were obviously a better match for me based on my “upbringing”.
Oh, and the deal was that once I got that important, high-paying job, I would pay back the PLUS loan. Only, I didn’t get a job. We spent almost the entire last month of school crafting our resumes, learning how to write cover letters, and using these gigantic hard-bound books organized by State to look up the names of law firms we were interested in working for. It was 1990, and we did have to learn to use computers, but it was all data-processing: Mail Merge, WordPerfect, C: prompts. As far as I know the school didn’t even have Internet Access, so it was all looking things up in big books.
I sent a resume and cover letter to literally EVERY SINGLE LAW FIRM in Lansing and East Lansing, plus to about fifty more in the Detroit area. You know how many interviews I got? NONE. You know how many phone calls I got? NONE. You know how many secretaries I talked to by phone asking if they had my resume? A HUNDRED. Top ten most-needed job? NO.
Once the deferment period on the loan ran out, I had to start making the payments, it was something like $120 a month, and I was working for $6.50 an hour as an entry-level clerk at the Credit Union. Eventually my parents took pity on me, and agreed to pay off the loan. And to let Chris and I get married, meaning pay for the wedding. I kept working at the Credit Union, working my way up through the Loan Department, until I quit to stay home with Ryan and Nathan. I’ve always wondered though, what it would have been like to work as a Paralegal, wear suits and heels and carry a briefcase, sit at the lawyer’s table during a trial and hand him documents out of color-coded files. I don’t even know if the degree is still valid, I assume a lot has changed about the job in those 17 years since I got the degree. You know, like being able to look up those law firm addresses ON THE INTERNET.