Nichole Dickinson’s route to success is both impressive and a testament to hard work, dedication and perseverance. Now a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney in Sacramento, Dickinson began her legal career as a paralegal, having graduated from MTI College’s Paralegal Studies program in 2012.
“I had a feeling when I was doing my undergrad that I wanted to work in the legal field, but my undergrad was in psychology,” Dickinson says. “I didn’t feel like I was in any way prepared to work in the legal field.” She learned about MTI College to train as a paralegal as a precursor to becoming a lawyer. Dickinson began night school courses at Lincoln Law School while working days as a paralegal.
“I was very happy working as a paralegal, but I just wanted to further my education,” she says. Dickinson was the salutatorian of her graduating class at Lincoln in 2016. She took the bar exam that year and passed it on her first try. Although practicing law is her primary occupation, Dickinson is also an instructor.
“I teach Legal Writing and Administrative Law at MTI, and I also teach Legal Writing at Lincoln Law School,” Dickinson says. She is married to an attorney who can appreciate her schedule. “He also has a very busy schedule,” she adds, “and we have a dachshund who understands when I work late.” To stay motivated, Dickinson says, “I enjoy on a daily basis just being able to help people resolve problems and help people in situations that they don’t want to be in.”
Dickinson credits MTI for her success in law school. “I’m so glad I decided to make the commitment to do the program. It really helped me find a job and be confident in my skills and what I’m able to do.” The legal foundation she received from MTI gave her a head start in law school. “I went into law school knowing how to do legal writing, research and understand how to read cases and interpret them.”
“My favorite thing about MTI was the fact that the instructors were also practitioners, so you got real-life experience from them and just pro tips in general,” she says. That, she says, has helped her in her teaching. “Being a practitioner, I can make concepts relatable because I can explain how it plays out in real life. This is how it happens when you end up showing up at court or go to the deposition. This is why this is necessary,” she says. “It allows me to translate very tangential book concepts and make them real-life applicable.”
Since Nichole Dickinson has been both paralegal and an attorney, she has a good perspective on the demands of both jobs. She understands what is most stressful. “The most stressful thing, honestly, is knowing that a client’s rights and a client’s ultimate outcome in their case is so heavily dependent on the paralegal,” she says. “A lot of the time the attorney’s gone and the paralegal is the first point of contact, and they’re the sympathetic ear to people. It can be stressful because you want the best outcome possible.”
“At times, I look at it as the paralegal’s job is harder than the attorney’s job, and I can say that from both sides,” Dickinson remarks. “The attorney is the face, and the paralegal is the engine doing all the work, making sure everything is running smoothly.”
As stressful as a paralegal’s work can be, Dickinson believes it’s so worthwhile. Her advice to prospective students is to not hesitate and “be brave and do it.” According to O*NET OnLine, the demand for paralegals is expected to grow 15 percent faster than other professions. “There are so many different kinds of law you can practice and so many different types of jobs that are available for paralegals that are outside of just working in a traditional law firm,” she says. Paralegals can work for a judge, at a library, for the state government or as a licensed document preparer. “Every personality type could find their fit in the legal profession,” Dickinson says.
If Nichole Dickinson’s story inspires you to enter the legal field, consider MTI College’s Paralegal Studies program. It prepares you with the education you need to gain an entry-level paralegal job. As a paralegal working under a supervising attorney, you will play a vital role in your company. You will be able to perform many duties the attorney does. That, plus your perseverance and dedication, help you plead your case for that important first job.