A paralegal is, in effect, an assistant to a lawyer. A paralegal’s main duty is to assist a lawyer in providing their services to their clients. However, a he/she does not actually provide any legal advice. Paralegals are increasingly playing a big part in the effectiveness of the legal profession because they increase the efficiency of the work carried out in a law office.
When should you decide for Paralegal Career?
A paralegal career might be a better choice for candidates who have not really been able to build a career as a lawyer. Those who wish to work in the legal industry without going the way of the necessary but heavy study to be a lawyer, as is happening in the law school to get a law degree.
How to Become a Paralegal.
To be true, a paralegals do not require any specific degree. However, an aspiring candidate with degree certificate often gets better opportunities of getting a better job, especially at the bigger law firms with higher salary. The main relevant qualifications a paralegal requires are the courses specifically designed for that career.
If you are still in high school, you can ask your guidance counselor what best paralegal schools he recommends. Request catalogs from those schools. Check to see which ones are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). The ones that are ABA approved are the ones that you should attend. Employers often prefer candidates who have been certified with accredited courses.
You will also need to decide whether you just want to obtain a paralegal certificate or get a 2 or 4-year college degree specially designed for it. This will depend upon your career goals. If you want to work for a larger company, then you should get a Bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from a 4-year college.
Available Paralegal Courses.
Although not a ‘MUST’ but, as I mentioned above, most of the bigger law firms insist on it. Paralegals don’t need to complete a degree on law… but completing a certification course may help for better career opportunities.
Another thing to keep in mind that the larger legal firms are likely to want a man that he has a degree. This can be seen as a mandatory field in their Recruitment forms for paralegals. There are 3 types of professional paralegal courses available, which are…
1. Associate’s degree.
It can be Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, which you need to attend full time to complete the course. If you want to work with big law firms, you should attend these 2 and 4-year courses.
2. Certification Course.
If you have Bachelor’s degree in another subject and wish to build your career as Paralegal, these courses are best for you. It normally takes 6-12 months to complete the course.
3. Voluntary Paralegal Certifications.
There are a few institutes offer voluntary certification courses. It takes 3-6 months for these courses.
Best Paralegal Schools.
Visit website of each of the schools that you are considering. Read reviews available online. Make sure that this school is known for being able to arrange internships for their students. Also, check that they have a campus that you would not mind spending 4 years.
Please note: We are no way connected or affiliated with the sites/institutes listed here.
10 Best Paralegal Schools in USA (ABA Approved).
- Georgetown University – Washington DC.
- University of California.
- San Diego University.
- University of Tulsa.
- Loyola University Chicago.
- Duquesne University.
- University of Cincinnati.
- Hofstra University.
- Louisiana State University.
- Illinois State University.
Also read: How to become a Legal Secretary.
Online Paralegal Courses.
You should also look at online paralegal courses. There are plenty of them to choose from and this is a very convenient option for many people.
Of course, you will still need to take some time to check these schools out.
10 Best Online Paralegal Schools.
- Kaplan University.
- Rasmussen College.
- Penn Foster College.
- DeVry University.
- Virginia College.
- Liberty University Online.
- Hodges University.
- Anthem College Online.
- WestWood College.
- Brookline College.
10 Affordable Online Paralegal Schools.
- Penn Foster College.
- Darton College.
- Drury University.
- Georgia Military College.
- Herkimer County Community College.
- Front Range Community College.
- Rio Salado College.
- Mohave Community College.
- American Public University System.
- Eastern Kentucky University.
If you already have a Bachelor’s degree, then you will want to take a short-term program. You will usually find these through a university’s continuing education program. You will need to choose in what area of law you would like to specialize. Some of the possibilities include corporate law, patent & copyright law, criminal law and real estate law.
While taking your paralegal courses you will also need to become proficient in doing research online and in using legal software programs. This will serve you well since a lot of your work will be done on the computer.
How to Become a Paralegal: Job Preparation.
Paralegal Job Description.
If you want to become a paralegal (sometimes this is called a Legal Assistant), you should know that this is a challenging job. The paralegal job description includes helping the attorney that you work for conduct research, write reports and do other work in preparation for his hearings and trials. Here are the main job roles and responsibilities…
- A paralegal aids a lawyer in preparing for a case.
- Researches material for in preparation for a case.
- Interviews clients and witnesses on behalf of a lawyer.
- Researches statutes, case law.
- Help record excerpts of interviews.
Paralegal Job Requirements.
1. Legal Assistants’ Certification.
After you have finished your studies, you should plan to get your certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). This certification takes place after you get your degree and it will definitely help your career.
2. Market Knowledge.
Update yourself of the latest legal news and developments. This makes your job much more easier.
If you want to become a paralegal, you must be extremely confident, as you will be dealing with managers, lawyers, witnesses, clients, and members of the prosecution.
4. Communication Skills.
You must be a good a communicator, like any other job-assistant roles. Clean communications and confident personality is what can make you shine in your profession.
5. Paper Works.
Whenever you choose to work for a big law firm, you will have to complete a lot of paperwork before a certain deadline. Your job duties may include works like filing for legal name changes, handling divorces and doing other such paperwork.
Preparing for Paralegal Jobs.
1. Where to Apply?
Once you are ready to start working, you can find a job at a legal office, government agency, corporate legal department, consumer group, insurance company, bank, or legal aid society.
2. Working Hours.
You should know that you could expect to work 90 hours per week sometimes. This is usually during trial preparation. Your job hour is like any normal office jobs of 9am to 5 pm. Sometimes you may need to work overtime. Do not worry … you will be financially compensated for the work overtime. This is especially true while handling complex cases.
3. Freelance Paralegal.
You can also work for yourself, helping lawyers on a part time basis and providing notary public services. If you choose this career path, you will be able to work from home helping several small attorney offices in completing their paperwork whenever they need your help.
4. Legal Assistant Job.
A lawyer may also use a paralegal whenever a case is complicated. You will not be able to give legal advice or represent someone in court though.
5. Know your Job Profile.
The paralegal industry is still relatively in its infancy. Many law firms or lawyers are not sure of the exact role a paralegal should have within a firm. It is therefore highly advised that you know what your role will be when you apply for a job. Otherwise, you might be disappointed with the responsibilities entailed for the role.
Finding information About Paralegal Job Vacancies.
- Most of the popular Internet job sites have a thorough segment on different careers in the legal industry. You should look for jobs that are under legal assistants or for jobs.
- Some newspapers carry classifieds that advertise jobs. Again, you should look through the legal section to find appropriate jobs.
- Look through your local newspapers or websites of local newspapers. They often have a classifieds service advertising jobs in the local area including those for legal assistants.
- You can collect contact details of law firms and send your updated Resume. Most of the times they contact you back with an interview schedule.
Average Salary of a Paralegal.
There is likely to be a growing trend of lawyers. Law firms are employing paralegals to delegate certain tasks in order to improve efficiency of the client service. This is definitely a growth market as far employment is concerned.
A paralegal can expect to earn a median salary of just over $36,000. This figure increases to a median of almost $45,000 after around 4-5 years of experience. With over 8 years’ experience can expect to earn over $60,000 per year. Of course, anyone entering the paralegal career can become a fully-fledged lawyer through determination and taking an appropriate legal course. However, it requires gaining experience and knowledge.