By completing the requirements to become a paralegal, you can embark on a high-demand career with plenty of challenges for those seeking a job that changes all the time. There are different levels of paralegal training, so understanding what is required for each type of program can help you decide which one fits your schedule and career needs best.
What Is A Paralegal, Exactly?
A paralegal is an assistant to an attorney and has been trained in various tasks relating to the legal system. Paralegals can come from a variety of education and experience backgrounds, and there is little regulation nationwide regarding an exact career path to becoming a paralegal. Within the industry, some avenues are considered more advantageous than others.
Anyone interested in becoming a paralegal can embark on several different paths to achieve the end result. You can enroll in a paralegal program at the local junior college or vocational school, or you could take online paralegal classes. Many paralegal programs award a two-year certificate at the end of the program. However, some states may have their own minimal requirements for paralegals. Also, the paralegal with just an associate's degree may find that many law firms and agencies require more education for employment.
Increasingly, colleges and universities around the country are offering four-year programs that train paralegals for a career. A degree in paralegal studies is becoming a new minimum standard for many law firms, and it also commands a higher salary than a paralegal with an associate's degree. There are even post-graduate programs in some universities that focus on legal studies for non-law school candidates.
While there is no mandatory requirement to become certified, a paralegal should look closely at the certification process by the prime paralegal associations in the country. The National Association of Legal Assistants and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations offer certification standards for membership. The applicant must pass a comprehensive test and earn a passing grade. There are several certification designations for paralegals, many of which are impressive to prospective employers and may increase the chance of employment.
What does a paralegal do? While it is clear that a paralegal assists lawyers with cases, their day-to-day duties may vary depending on the law office.
Many law students and law school graduates take jobs as "law clerks." The term actually has three different meanings, depending on where the law clerk is working.