How Long Does It Take To Be A Paralegal – How To Become A Paralegal Full Guide
What Is A Paralegal?
Anyone having an associate degree in criminal justice can become a paralegal assistant. And to understand what a paralegal is? We may tell you that a Paralegal assistant is a person assisting an attorney in a law firm. They do all the paperwork, like preparing a case, handling documentation for trial preparation, and assisting attorneys during the trial. A paralegal also does legal research to gather case evidence and may even prepare presentations for clients.
So we can say that “a person trained in subsidiary legal matters but not fully qualified as a lawyer” is a paralegal assistant.
Who is paralegal ?
A paralegal does all the paperwork to assist attorneys. They prepare the case before trial and gather all the information about the case.
A paralegal is responsible for all the paperwork and has all the case information, but they have limitations to their duties. They can’t charge any clients for a case. The only attorney can do that. They can’t represent the case in court on behalf of a client. This is also the duty of a lawyer.
Paralegals are like the right hands of lawyers and know how the law works in papers. They research cases, document it correctly, make drafts, case files, write reports, and assist their attorneys during court trials.
Paralegals will assist attorneys in making other legal documents like making wills, agreements, and contracts outside the courtroom. They will also interview the witness and clients and will make communicate with clients.
Although paralegals hold essential responsibility for making and handling legal documents, they cannot ” practice law,” neither can advise any client on their own.
Charging fees and choosing whether to accept the case is also restricted for paralegal and will only be decided by an attorney.
Steps For Becoming A Paralegal
When you have decided to choose a career as a paralegal, trust us, it’s not tough to be one. With little guidance, we assure you of a promising career ahead.
The following are the list of steps to become a paralegal.
What is a paralegal certificate
Anyone can achieve an associate degree of two years in paralegal, but some institutions offer four years’ bachelor. To attend a paralegal degree or certificate is a must as being a paralegal requires some formal education.
An individual can also achieve a certificate after an associate degree in criminal justice. Certification will take months, and one can save years of studying.
However, government institutions recommend individuals to achieve a bachelor’s degree for better growth and career chances.
The individual can go for a bachelor’s degree in both legal and paralegal studies.
Professional organizations like NALA( national association of legal assistants) and NFP (national federation of paralegals) recommend a degree approved by American Bar Association. A professional degree will offer you an exciting career and a promising future ahead. Good luck!
Don’t Forget Internship
After achieving a degree, sometimes getting a job can be delayed due to numerous reasons. It is better to do an internship somewhere. Whether paid or unpaid, it will always add a valuable experience to your career and will help you later in the job.
Handling legal documents is not as easy as it seems. The practical implication of theoretical knowledge will teach you many secrets of the actual field.
Different banks, insurance companies, real estate firms, legal departments of a corporation, law firms, and trade organizations hire paralegals. After an internship, your chance to get hired increases significantly.
All the major consumer companies, federal and state agencies, public prosecutors offices, and community legal departments hire paralegals. You will handle all their legal processes and documentation. So get yourself hired.
Get Yourself Trained While Working On Job
Training is always essential. It keeps on adding knowledge of the field for betterment. Training makes you better and helps you to learn more about your job. Professionally, training upgrades, both your skills and knowledge.
With a good training session, you can get yourself promoted to higher management positions. Moreover, training polishes you and gives you a better view and understanding of your job. You get to know yourself professionally, and it makes your career choices more accessible. With training, you will get to know your field’s aspects and your area of interest and expertise.
It will enhance your career, and your chances for next job gets better.
Other Helpful Skills And Experience
You can also go for other added certifications. National association of legal assistants and American paralegal associations offers different certifications in the field.
These certifications help you to grow professionally. You get to know minor details of your work, and your excellency in job assure promotions and up-gradation.
Certifications also keep you up to date with technology and fieldwork.
Type Of Paralegal Careers
Paralegals offer their services to legal public and private organizations. They handle all the documentation and legality involved in it. They assist attorneys during trials, meetings, and hearing. There are many career choices according to your preferences. The following are some of them.
Planning transactions and handling business matters at the corporate level is the duty of a paralegal assistant. They ensure that the company has all the necessary paperwork to save them from legal red flags.
They will look for all the “business” matters of the company. They must have all the required knowledge of contracts, mergers, acquisitions, investments, security, and financial matters of business.
Becoming a bankruptcy paralegal can be a complicated job. They act as a third party between someone who owes money and the organization whose money is at stake. Dealing all the legal issues between a creditor and debtors is done by you.
You can hold meetings, handle drafting petitions, and take interviews from both parties. Moreover, a they can also do some research for information to ensure safety from bankruptcy.
3.Criminal Law Paralegal
Criminal law paralegals, also known as criminal defense paralegal, build cases in favor of or against the convicted. They support and help criminal defense prosecutors and lawyers.
Their job description is the same as other types like handling documentation, building a case, interviewing witnesses, and communicating with clients. But they are specific to build a case against or in favor of convicted people. They are also known as Criminal litigation or criminal paralegals.
Immigration paralegals work with attorneys who handle immigration processes. Their work includes assisting an attorney in helping citizens through immigration processes, deportation, handling foreign documents, and handling child adoption from abroad.
They also make sure the citizens entering the US or moving out raise no red flags.
A legal assistant is a certified paralegal. A legal assistant does all the work that a paralegal does, like handling documentation, assisting attorneys during trials, and gathering case information. Still, only individuals who have certification from the national association of legal assistants can use the term “legal assistant ” for them.
A paralegal job has many dimensions. A legal secretary is one of them. A legal secretary provides administrative support to legal attorneys. A paralegal looks for documentation of legal documents and handles the legal issues. At the same time, a legal secretary handles the administration part. They work for attorneys and according to their demand. They will attend calls, arrange meetings, set appointments, and reminders. Holds general duties, whereas a legal secretary looks for day to day tasks and handle routine work.
The litigation assists attorneys during the litigation process. With all other routine work, they look for facts in case of building. They prepare the necessary documentation, interview the witnesses, and look for facts to prepare a case. They also sometimes act as a liaison between the parties and may also work on settlement issues. Litigation work all the pre-trial and during trial processes to assist their attorneys.
Medical and insurance claims are dealt with by personal injury paralegal. A personal injury paralegal must know documentation in the medical field also as it will be helpful during building cases. They will also ensure the timely admission of legal documents to the court. A paralegal will build a case, do proper research, keep a record of everything needed, and act as the liaison between the parties.
Related careers in the United States Court System
If you are interested in working in courts and with lawyers, there are many career options. Although you may need a different type of certification for these courses. And it may take different duration to complete the courses, but it will satisfy your choice to work within the court system. Other than being a paralegal, you can become
Why becoming a paralegal is the right career choice?
Paralegals are an essential part of any legal team. They handle important tasks. Their work can be exciting and fun if they have a keen interest in investigations, documentation, or doing research. A paralegal will also enjoy working with other legal professionals, creating more diversity in their work field.
Every law firm will always need assistance, and paralegals are always welcome. According to the American Bar association, a paralegal is ” a person qualified by education , training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer , law office , corporation, government agency or other entity who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.”
So we can’t deny the importance of the role and position of paralegal. And with experience and certifications, a paralegal can be promoted to higher positions.
The exciting and engaging work environment
A paralegal job can be fun and very interesting for people who want to pursue their careers within court systems. They do not only handle legal documentation but also enjoy the work of a lawyer. A paralegal can do what a lawyer can do except accepting cases and setting fees. Also, they cannot give clients legal advice and can not represent their case in court but trust us. Their work is the backbone of any case that a lawyer will build.
Their job includes some interesting duties as well as interviewing clients and doing an investigation. Anyone with interest will love the job for sure.
Many Options for education
Most schools and universities offer a degree or certification in paralegal studies. Some offer two years of associate degree while others have four years of bachelor’s degree.
A person can also earn certification in paralegal after earning two years associate degree in criminal justice.
But a bachelor’s degree is recommended for promising professional growth.
We recommend you earn a paralegal degree from institutions that provide American Bar association approved certification. It will ensure quality education and an exciting future.
Strong employment outlook
There is no need to build a case or go for trials always. Coming to law firms does not mean that one has matters to be solved in court only. People do need legal documentation in daily life. A paralegal can do all this work as a lawyer but charge less than what attorneys charge per hour.
A need for paralegal will always be there. According to a survey report, paralegal jobs in the US expect a growth rate of 15% until 2026.
Competitive salary and benefits
A survey taken by the national association of legal assistants concluded that paralegals have an average salary of $67,000.
According to BLS, the average salary for a paralegal is $50,000. They also reported the top 10% to earn more than $82,000 a year.
Salary depends on their educational background, work field experience, additional certifications. Who hired the paralegal? Or for which firm they work for and even the geographical allocations.
Jobs also include other benefits like medical insurance, dental insurance, reimbursements of medical bills, paid leaves, and even free training sessions.
You can earn a paralegal certification after two years of the associate degree. And start a promising career as a starting salary is better.
Major cities have more demands for paralegals. Some major US cities have the following average Per annum salary.
- New York: $59,000 Approx
- Florida: $57,000 Approx
- Texas: $ 57,000 Approx
- California: $ 61,000 Approx
- Illinois:$ 57,000 Approx
If you have decided to choose the career of becoming a paralegal, trust us, it is a wise choice. And we wish you all the best and good luck with your future.
American Association for Paralegal Education: A paralegal resource providing conference and education information.
American Bar Association: All about the benefits of ABA membership for paralegals.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm
2. 2018 NALA National Utilization and Compensation Report: https://www.nala.org/sites/default/files/files/users/2018%20Utilization%20%26%20Comp%20Summary%20of%20Findings.pdf
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm#st