Paralegal Career Path
How To Become a ParalegalA paralegal helps lawyers prepare for hearings, trials, and corporate meetings. If you can multitask and have a willingness to learn, you might consider a career as a paralegal. In this article, we cover the steps required to become a paralegal.
Earn a degree.
Except in a few states, paralegals aren't regulated at the state level. They're not regulated at the federal level either. What that means is that employers can set their own hiring standards. Most employers seek paralegals who have at least an associate degree, although most prefer those who have a bachelor's or even a master's degree. You can earn an associate degree in paralegal studies, while the bachelor's degree should be in legal studies or a related field. The master's degree program could be in legal studies.
What type of degree should you pursue to become a Paralegal?
79% of people working as a Paralegal earned a Bachelor's Degree
What skills do you need to be a Paralegal?
- Paralegal Certificate
- Microsoft Office Suite
- Excellent Communication
- Attention To Detail
- Excellent Organizational
Choose a specialty.
When you're considering your path as a paralegal, you should note that there are different options available. Most master's degree programs in legal studies allow you to specialize in a specific area of law. Some of these specialties include:
- Estate planning: These paralegals work with tax auditors, families, and trustees in handling estates.
- Government: These paralegals work with law enforcement, politicians, or regulatory agencies.
- Labor law: These paralegals work on issues between employees and employers on issues such as discrimination and poor working conditions.
- Litigation: These paralegals work with trial attorneys during the entire trial from investigations through discovery.
Obtain a paralegal certification.
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) recommends that paralegals earn certification, which is available through several professional organizations. A few of the more popular certification programs include the following:
- Certified Paralegal (CP): Available through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the CP designation is for those who pass a comprehensive exam based on federal law.
- Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP): Also offered through NALA, the ACP designation covers certain areas of law. This advanced program takes about 20 hours to complete.
- Professional Paralegal (PP): The National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS) offers the PP, which is for those who want identification as exceptional in all areas of law. To sit for the exam, you need at least five years of experience and a bachelor's degree.
Gain experience through an internship.
Several academic programs might offer internship opportunities, so it's important to take advantage of them. These experiences allow you to apply your theoretical knowledge to practical settings and demonstrate your understanding of the industry. Upon completion of the internship and your undergraduate or graduate program, you might be given the option of working for the company full time.
Expand your network.
Networking is an excellent way to meet others in the industry, especially when you're looking for a paralegal job. Attend conferences and seminars where you might be able to connect with other paralegals. Get their contact information and send an email to follow up with them about something you learned. Don't forget to use former professors or people you worked with at internships. You never know when they might hear about job openings.
Total Pay Trajectory
Paralegal Career Path
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