Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, aid lawyers in their work. Paralegal
study is becoming popular as job opportunities are on the rise. The road to
becoming a paralegal has never been easier with numerous colleges and university
programs offering paralegal studies, including online paralegal degree programs.
Description and Responsibilities of Graduates of Paralegal Schools
Obtaining a paralegal degree prepares you for the intricacies involved in a
paralegal career. The professional duties and responsibilities of paralegals
vary according to their employer and work setting. The 3 main areas in which
graduates of paralegal schools find jobs are: law firms, corporations, and
Paralegal Degree Holders Working at
Some paralegal degree holders may opt to work for law firms. Those who do so
usually assist lawyers in court cases such as trials, hearings and closings and
are expected to:
and verify the accuracy of case facts
laws and judicial decisions pertaining to cases
Prepare and collate
written reports based on the researched information
documents to be filed with the courts, such as draft pleadings and motions
assistance to lawyers during trials
documents like contracts, mortgages, and separation agreements
Graduates of paralegal schools who join law firms need to be extremely sharp and
responsive to lawyers' requests for information.
Paralegal Degree Holders Working in
A large number of people who undertake paralegal studies go on to work for
corporations in which they perform tasks such as the preparation of:
They might also be asked to keep up-to-date with government regulations to
ensure that the organization is in compliance with the law.
Paralegal Degree Holders Working in
Some paralegal degree holders secure careers in the numerous government agencies
which comprise the public sector. The job entails:
Analysis of legal
collection and analysis of evidence for lawyers involved in agency hearings
legal information for internal use as well as for the public
Those engaged in community work will also provide legal assistance for
underprivileged individuals and families.
for Graduates of Paralegal Schools and Paralegal Degree Holders
About 70% of graduates work for law firms and 30% find jobs at corporate legal
departments and government agencies. Paralegal degree graduates may choose to
focus on a particular area of law such as:
Paralegals can also specialize in an area of law as they garner more experience
and familiarize themselves with the growing complexities of their preferred
legal specialty. Specialization is quite common in larger law firms whereas
paralegals working in small firms need to have a general knowledge of law so
that they can perform a range of duties.
Training & Certification
Paralegal study can be pursued in a few ways, including enrolling in paralegal
schools or through an
degree. An associate's degree can be
obtained via a 2-year community college program in paralegal studies whereas a
more comprehensive bachelor's degree would take 4 years.
those who require a flexible schedule, an online paralegal degree would be a
good option. Always ensure that any institution offering an online paralegal
degree program is appropriately credentialed and if the degree conferred is
widely accepted by prospective employers. Besides finding out more about the
online paralegal degree program's instructors and tuition fees, it is important
to ascertain the duration of the course. This typically takes between six to ten
months to complete.
certification program would be the preferable route for those with a basic
college degree seeking to pursue a paralegal degree. Generally, paralegal
certification programs are intensive and span a few months. Successful
candidates who pass the examination administered by The National Association of
Legal Assistants become “Certified Legal Assistants”. In addition, paralegals
keen on specializing can sit for advanced certification examinations. For those
with a bachelor's degree and 2 years experience, passing the Paralegal Advanced
Competency Exam, conducted by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations,
will earn them the designation of Registered Paralegal (RP).
Programs at paralegal schools ensure that students are literate in the use of
computers for legal applications. Most paralegal schools also require that
students undertake an internship to gain practical experience by applying their
legal knowledge in the work place. Employers look favorably on graduates of
paralegal schools with internship experience.
School and Paralegal Degree Accreditation
should research the accreditation of paralegal schools prior to application to
ensure the institution's paralegal study program meets the minimum requirements
stipulated by the state or regional body. In addition, students considering a
paralegal degree should verify if the program complies with the standards set
forth by the American Bar Association (ABA). The ABA has approved 260 programs
which offer paralegal studies. Although such approval is not required for all
paralegal study programs, your employment prospects may improve if you choose to
pursue a paralegal degree from one of the accredited programs.
School Graduates Earning Potential and Employment
earned by paralegals vary according to employment sector. The highest earning
paralegals typically work for large legal corporations, with some earning as
much as $80,000 annually. The median annual salary of paralegals was $39,130 in
2004. Paralegals employed by the US federal government earned $53,000 per annum
whilst those working for state governments earned $34,000 annually.
Employment prospects look hopeful as the need for graduates of paralegal schools
rises. More employers are hiring paralegals instead of lawyers to do basic legal
work. As organizations in the corporate sector seek to improve their in-house
legal, graduates of paralegal schools can look forward to a larger pool of jobs
from which to choose. The number of jobs in law firms and the government sector
are also set to increase.