How to become a paralegal is important for you to understand the specific functions and responsibilities of a paralegal professional. You probably already know that you would need a specialized education in order to emerge as a successful professional. There are many colleges across the country that offer such courses. We have provided depth analysis about all the available law school as well.
Now, you might ask to become a professional with a bachelor’s degree, and how long does it take to become a professional paralegal. We will answer all of your queries shortly; all you need to do is stay tuned.
How To Become A Paralegal – Procedure
Paralegals investigate the facts of a case, gather information from a variety of sources, perform forensic inquiries, write reports and legal papers, prepare pleadings and motions to be filed with the court, and support attorneys during trials. Legal assistants can prepare civil documents, such as wills, contracts, mortgages, and separation agreements, outside the courtroom preparation process; interview the witness; maintain client communication.
Depending on the company the paralegal works with, customer interaction can be large or limited. Paralegals, however, are prohibited from conducting activities that are deemed to be “practicing law.” Giving legal advice, defending clients, reviewing a client’s lawsuit, and deciding a client’s fee are all restricted paralegal activities and must be done by a practicing lawyer.
Paralegal Certificate – Certification & Patents
Paralegals typically need some formal education in order to find a job. Community colleges usually deliver two-year paralegal programs while four-year programs can only be found in colleges and universities.
Although some organizations are recruiting applicants with a two-year degree or certification, the National Federation of Paralegals Association states that employers are gradually requiring paralegals to hold a four-year degree, and advises that all potential paralegals strive towards earning a bachelor’s degree.
Bachelor’s degree programs are also popular in paralegal and legal studies. Most professional organizations, including the NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants) and the NFP (National Federation of Paralegals), suggest that an American Bar Association (ABA) approved program to be used.
How to become a Paralegal without a Degree – Process of Getting Hired
These programs usually allow students to complete a legal placement internship. An internship offers hands-on training and can in some cases contribute to a post-graduate job offer.
Paralegals can find employment at a number of organizations including banks, real estate firms, private law firms, insurance companies, professional trade associations, and corporate legal departments.
Public sector opportunities also exist. State and federal departments, the offices of public defenders or attorneys, and the systems of community legal services all employ paralegal professionals.
How to become a Paralegal with no experience – Learning Process
Experienced paralegals may consider many career advancement opportunities, including being promoted to management positions. You’ll definitely gain some experience during your school internship, but you can also expect to learn on-the-job once you take your first job.
Take this opportunity to find out what aspects of the profession you like and what aspects you don’t care for so you can be more concentrated on your next job quest and look for a paralegal position that suits you best.
Paralegal Certificate Online – Importance of Certification
While not compulsory in most states, paralegal qualification can provide some advantage during the process of jobs. Legal assistants have a range of Certification choices. Both offer certification programs through the National Paralegals Union, the National Association of Legal Assistants, and the American Alliance of Paralegals. Prospective legal assistants should have good analytical abilities, be mindful of the value of attention to detail, and be able to keep up-to-date with technology.
Different Types of Paralegal Education
If you are an aspiring paralegal, you may choose from the following three types of education programs:
- paralegal certificates, paralegal diplomas and
- paralegal degrees.
- Paralegal certificates –
- These are short, self-contained education programs that offer enrolled students the opportunity to develop adequate skills and knowledge regarding the profession, however, these courses do not lead to a degree or diploma.
- In this regard, one must note that the certificates are useful for those students who already possess a degree. Or else, it can also be helpful for people who are working in the legal field and are willing to enhance their training.
- Paralegal diplomas: These courses are provided by certain colleges and institutions in the United States. Most of these courses run for a period of one to two years and can be attended by those students who have already completed their high school. However, they must also meet some other eligibility criteria to be considered qualified enough to be granted admission to this particular course.
- A paralegal diploma focuses on conducting only classes based on legal coursework and all other general education topics are excluded. You can select from a wide range of regular, evening, and part-time classes depending on the time available for you. One of the best features of this particular field of education is that even working professionals can continue their education without the need of attending regular time classes.
- Paralegal Degrees: A paralegal degree generally takes about four years for completion. These courses consist of general education coursework along with coursework in the legal field of studies. Graduates of these programs go on to earn bachelor’s degrees.
Types of Paralegal Careers
Paralegals help attorneys prepare for trials, hearings, and client meetings. Paralegals often provide assistance to the legal and finance departments in large corporations as well as non-profit and governmental organizations in addition to working for law firms. Descriptions of potential paralegal careers are given below.
- Bankruptcy Paralegal: A paralegal bankruptcy navigates a debtor (someone owes money) into a federally approved procedure that allows him or her to be released from the debt by reaching an agreement with creditors and the court. Bankruptcy may require several steps, including attending solicitor meetings with all sides to take notes and documents, writing proposals, motions and schedules, performing real-estate searches to locate known properties, scheduling surveys, interviewing specific people, and planning with hearings. Some bankruptcy cases may often be extremely complex.
- Corporate Paralegal: Corporate paralegals help lawyers organize and plan corporate transactions and business matters. They ensure that businesses have completed and filed the required paperwork (for example, reports with the Secretary of State) and comply with all relevant federal and state laws. A corporate law paralegal needs to have a thorough understanding of mergers and acquisitions, investments, employment law, contract law, banking, finance, and securities.
- Criminal Law Paralegal: A paralegal criminal law assists criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors in their work. They may perform similar duties to other legal agencies (filing papers, performing research, questioning witnesses and suspects, communicating with clients, etc.). However, their work will specifically support case-building for or against accused criminals. Paralegals in criminal law can also be referred to as paralegals in criminal defense, paralegals in criminal prosecution, or simply criminal paralegals. For more information on paralegals in criminal law see our Guide to Criminal Law Profession.
- Immigration Paralegal: Immigrant attorneys work with immigration lawyers, who are skilled in helping clients negotiate immigration laws in order to receive visas, become naturalized citizens or legal residents, and address other immigration issues. They can also assist lawyers who help US citizens complete the children’s adoption process from abroad. They work for companies, law firms, or government agencies. Immigration paralegals typically support attorneys and guide clients through the process of becoming a naturalized citizen, a legal resident, or assisting a U.S. citizen through the immigration process to adopt a child from outside the country. They usually assist lawyers in researching the facts of each case, writing reports, and supporting lawyers in the process of trials.
- Legal Assistant: Another general term for a paralegal is a legal assistant. Legal assistants and paralegals also support prosecutors in the planning and prosecution of courts. Nonetheless, only individuals who have received certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) as a Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) can use the title of “legal assistant.”.”
- Legal Secretary: The term Legal Secretary was once synonymous with the term paralegal, but the occupations became differentiated over time. Although lawyers conduct tasks such as legal analysis and the drafting of legal papers, legal secretaries provide administrative support to lawyers and paralegals. They typically concentrate on everyday tasks such as answering calls, setting appointments, arranging meetings, and managing automated reminders. Legal secretaries provide administrative help under the supervision of the lawyers or senior paralegals they deal with.
- Litigation Paralegal: The work of paralegal litigation begins with the discovery and an investigation into the facts of a case. Paralegals may assist in the case file by depositing witnesses and collecting and cataloging facts. Pleadings, which can be written and filed by the paralegal litigation, may also occur during this time as lawyers attempt to maneuver their clients to the most favorable positions. The paralegal may also be active in the pre-trial and court process by gathering exhibits and evidence, performing analysis, and assisting the defendant in building the case for the plaintiff, which could include interviewing witnesses, assessing jurors, and serving as liaison to both parties to the proceedings. The paralegal litigation also assists in the resolution of the case and, if appropriate, an appeal that involves arranging and reviewing data, coordinating with the required parties, and serving as liaison with court officials.
- Personal Injury Paralegal: Personal injury can take several forms, making it necessary for paralegals to possess a wide range of skills. Major duties include interviewing clients, taking notes, and creating detailed records, conducting legal research, liaising with stakeholders, and ensuring that proper documents are filed with the court in a timely manner. A paralegal personal injury will work with medical personnel and records so experience with the administrative processes used in the medical field would be beneficial. Cases involving personal injury often proceed to court. Hence, the ability to prepare court documents is beneficial. If the case does not go to trial, a settlement negotiation may be assisted by the paralegal which also involves analysis and research.
How to become a Paralegal with a Bachelor’s Degree – Summary
Now that you are curious about how to enter the career of the paralegal profession, here we have discussed the various steps that you may follow as per your preference.
In this regard, you must be asking with a bachelor’s degree and how long does it take to become a professional. Well, all your questions are to be answered right away.
Formal Paralegal Education Program: When you opt for a formal paralegal program, you require to complete at least 18 semester hours of specific courses.
According to ABA (American Bar Association), the paralegal profession is open to individuals of different job experiences and educational backgrounds. This also refers to paralegal education programs: entry criteria, program length, and curriculum design/characteristics differ considerably from institution to institution.
Some of the main types of ABA-approved paralegal programs are as follows:
- Two-year community college programs
- Four-year university or college programs
- Business school programs
According to the AAFPE , all paralegals should complete some form of education, provided through a program explicitly designed to provide paralegal education.
The curriculum will provide no fewer than 18 semester paralegal class credit hours, and must be from an educational program consisting of:
- Any institution that is a member of AAfPE
- ABA-approved institution
- A post-secondary program that required you to complete 60 semester hours
The NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants) recommends that paralegal professionals must undergo a formal education program that is either:
- Approved by the ABA, or
- Provided by an accredited institution, or
- Consists of 60 semester-hours at least.
On the other hand, the NALA also recognizes the following criteria to be considered as an adequate preparation to become a paralegal profession:
- Bachelor’s degree in any discipline together with a 6 months in-house paralegal training program.
- Or else, 3 years of experience under the supervision of an attorney. This shall also include six months of in-house paralegal training.
- Or else, 2 years of in-house training.
Earn the following Paralegal Certifications
While some sort of formal registration, certification, or licensing for paralegals is important to be considered an eligible member of the American legal community. None of the states has so far enacted any such legal requirement.
Of course, it is a given that a lack of a proper legal structure has helped many candidates to be a part of the profession without any formal legal background. However, the profession does demand some of the voluntary credentials to be considered eligible to practice the profession.
Here are some of the voluntary courses that you may want to undergo. If you are interested to build a career in the paralegal space:
Under NFPA (National Federation of Paralegal Associations):
- CORE Registered Paralegal (CRP)
- Paralegal CORE Competency Exam (PCCE)
- Paralegal Advanced Competency Examination (PACE)
- PACE Registered Paralegal credential (RP)
Under the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- Certified Paralegal (CP)
- Certified Paralegal/Certified Legal Assistant (CP/CLA)
Under NALS – The Association for Legal Professionals
- Professional Paralegal (PP)
American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI):
- American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP)
Depending on the state where you leave, there may be several state-specific examinations that are run in cooperative efforts of the bar associations and organizations.
You might want to check out those opportunities if you are a resident of any of the following states: Florida, Texas, Ohio, and North Carolina.
Growing Demand for Paralegal Professionals
The paralegal field of work is one of those blessed professions that has been experiencing high demand in certain areas. Here are some of the fields where the demand for an expert paralegal professional can be seen more than ever.
- Litigation: Paralegals with expertise in litigation are always in demand, especially those with backgrounds in insurance, defense, personal injury, medical malpractice, labor law, and commercial litigation.
- Corporate Law: Paralegals who specialize in mergers, securities, joint ventures, and acquisitions are currently in high demand.
- Healthcare: The more expansion the healthcare industry undergoes, the more demand it shows for appropriate paralegal professionals. In this regard, work opportunities come from medical providers and even government agencies.
- Real Estate: A surge in the American commercial real estate market means that more and more people require paralegal services. Now, if you are a paralegal professional and are confused about how to seek work in this particular industry, let us assure you that you can start with assisting attorneys with the transfer and sale of commercial properties. Real estate paralegals have a huge market potential ahead.
- Intellectual Property: With more numbers of tech-based companies forming up in Silicon Valley, the greater demand is witnessed for intellectual property protections.
- A paralegal professional specialized in this particular field can help these companies safeguard their intellectual property.
- Compliance: There has been a surge in demand for professionals who have expertise in compliance. If you are an expert in this field, you can expect to get high-paying working opportunities across both corporate settings and law firms.
- Contract Administration: You probably have heard that the corporate legal departments are in constant demand for paralegals who work together with attorneys to initiate and manage the companies’ contracts with their partners, vendors, customers, and employees. This is your chance to step into a career that offers unlimited growth potential.
Skills required to become a paralegal professional
In order to become a successful paralegal profession, the AAFPE mentioned that the students must have a vivid knowledge about the country’s past, its business environment, and the existent political system. Among the other skills that one must possess in order to be successful in this particular profession are mentioned below:
- Critical thinking skills: Any legal career needs the candidate to have the ability to think critically. If they wish to become successful in their profession, it is indeed necessary that these paralegal individuals have enough judgemental prowess. Their analytical IQ is important to figure out the various ways they can help their clients win a particular situation. You must be able to solve problems quickly, as time is the most important resource for a paralegal professional.
- Communication skills: No matter if you are a fresher or an experienced paralegal professional, you need to stay on top of your game and for that, you need extensive communication skills. Be it oral, written, non-verbal, or interpersonal, you will need adequate communication skills to survive the over competitiveness of the changing legal scene around the country.
- Computer skills: In the modern era, there aren’t many professions that don’t demand computer skills. In this profession, these days, people must keep track of the loads of documents that they require to present or collect from certain individuals. Now, if you possess some extraordinary computer skills, it is a given that people will hire you over any other person. Data is the new oil and today, the person who can manage information seamlessly is the one to win deals.
- An understanding of ethics: Ethics is important, especially in this profession. You cannot expect to go around and win the trust of your clients if you don’t ever follow your ethical values. Every profession has some ethical rules and regulations. In order to maintain professional success over the long term, you should pay more attention to safeguarding your ethics.
- Organizational skills: There aren’t any fields of work where a person can become successful without a thoroughly organized approach. In this profession, every day you will be required to meet people and collect documents. Now, it is easy to mix and match all your resources, which in turn leads to a total mishap. However, a person with extensive organizational skills will ensure that all his things are well-managed.
Therefore, it could be understood that “paralegal” as a career is highly lucrative and is the best choice for those who wish to leave a mark in the country’s legal sector. A paralegal also have a ransom paralegal salary.
We believe that now you have all your doubts cleared regarding pursuing a career. We have tried to answer all the possible questions related to the course. If you want any further help regarding entry to this particular career, please feel free to reach out to us without any delay.
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