Paralegals are legal professionals who assist lawyers with their caseloads. They conduct research, manage document trails, interview witnesses, and compile data in order to reduce the stress on lawyers. A paralegal is not a replacement for an attorney – rather, it is a job with less responsibility but more specialized tasks. The paralegal profession has exploded in popularity over the last few decades. In fact, there are more than 200 degree programs designed specifically for aspiring paralegals. But what does it take to become one? Read on to learn about the education, certification, and experience required to succeed as a paralegal.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Paralegal?
The answer to this question depends on what type of paralegal you are interested in becoming, and what type of work you want to do. Generally speaking, a paralegal is someone who works with lawyers, providing assistance with legal work and casework.
Why Become A Paralegal?
1. Paralegals Perform Research
A paralegal works with a lawyer to gather information and facts, then they will compile this information to help make decisions. A paralegal will also interview people, and collect documents that may be helpful in court cases. They will also perform legal research to find relevant case law and statutes. The research that a paralegal performs is particularly important when dealing with complex legal situations.
2. Paralegals Assist Lawyers In Court Cases
A lawyer may not have the time to deal with all of the legal work that comes up for him or her. A paralegal will handle this work for them, filling out paperwork, organizing documents, and researching relevant case law. This type of work is commonly referred to as administrative or clerical work. It is essential for a lawyer to have an entire team of professionals working in his or her office at all times, so their workload can be reduced as much as possible; however, this is not always possible. A paralegal can often take on the tasks that a lawyer would otherwise have to do themselves, freeing up the lawyer’s time to focus on more complex legal work.
3. Paralegals Handle Legal Research
A paralegal will perform legal research in order to find relevant case law and statutes. This type of research is particularly important when dealing with complex legal situations, as well as for any legal work that involves a lot of research. For example, if a paralegal is representing someone accused of speeding or reckless driving, they will have to conduct extensive research regarding the specific laws in place regarding those types of offenses and their penalties. If the paralegal does not know the law or what it means, they will not be able to correctly represent their client; however, if they are properly educated in all aspects of criminal law and traffic laws, they can help their client in court without making any mistakes. sible.
4. Paralegals Handle Complex Cases
Paralegals are often assigned to handle complex cases, which include civil and criminal court cases. A paralegal will often be assigned to these types of cases because they are less time consuming, and they require less specialized knowledge than a lawyer would have. In addition, paralegals can be trained to handle these types of cases before they are assigned them by the lawyer.
5. Paralegals Are Not Accountants Or Lawyers
A paralegal is not a replacement for an attorney – rather, it is a job with less responsibility but more specialized tasks. The paralegal profession has exploded in popularity over the last few decades, with more than 200 degree programs designed specifically for aspiring paralegals. The job is also changing in that it involves more research and less direct contact with clients and potential clients; therefore, many lawyers see this as an opportunity to add peopleible, especially with the volume of work that many lawyers deal with.
How To Become A Paralegal
Go to school
Becoming a paralegal requires you to earn a bachelor’s in paralegal studies. You can also explore earning a certificate or associate’s degree in paralegal studies, but these programs usually take less time than a bachelor’s program. Paralegal programs cover a wide range of topics, from legal research and litigation, to ethics and professionalism, to legal writing and law office management. You can also explore specialized areas like health care, real estate, family law, and securities law. Keep in mind that you will need to take the LSAT or GMAT if you plan to earn a JD and become an attorney.
Research careers and requirements
Before you even start exploring how to become a paralegal, it’s important to research the types of careers you could have as a paralegal and the requirements for each. This way, you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into and what’s expected of you as a paralegal. You can start by looking at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list of paralegal careers. You can also visit your state bar association’s website and take a look at the requirements for becoming a licensed paralegal in your state.
Meet with a paralegal advisor
Once you’ve come up with a few career paths that seem like a good fit for you, it’s time to meet with a paralegal advisor or career counselor. This is your chance to sit down with a professional and really get a feel for what it’s like to be a paralegal. This meeting is also an excellent opportunity for you to ask any questions you have about the paralegal profession. Your paralegal advisor can help you to narrow down the careers that would be best for you, and can also help you to navigate the path to becoming a paralegal.
Gain work experience as a legal assistant
Becoming a paralegal requires you to gain work experience as a legal assistant. This is a crucial step, as it’s the only way you’ll know for sure if becoming a paralegal is for you. Becoming a legal assistant is an excellent way to gain experience without having any college experience. You can simply apply at local law firms and ask to be hired as a legal assistant. Once you’re hired, your duties as a legal assistant will consist of a wide range of tasks. You might be filing documents, taking notes during meetings, or assisting attorneys with research and case preparation.
Take the paralegal licensing exam
Once you’ve spent some time as a legal assistant, you can take the licensing exam to become a certified paralegal. Each state has its own requirements for licensing, so make sure you are up to date with your state’s regulations. Most states give the exam once a year, usually in the spring. You can usually find the testing dates on your state’s bar association website.
Become a licensed attorney instead
There are different ways to become a licensed attorney, but one of the most common ways is to attend law school. Becoming a lawyer requires a lot of time, money, and dedication, but it is a truly rewarding career. If you’re interested in becoming a lawyer but the paralegal career path intrigues you, you can do both! Many law schools allow students to pursue both a JD and a certificate in paralegal studies.
Requirements To Become A Paralegal
1. Good Communication and Language Skills
The paralegal must be able to communicate clearly and concisely in English. The ability to write a good report is also critical.
2. Strong Computer Skills
To become a paralegal, you must have strong computer skills. This includes knowledge of word processing, spreadsheets, databases, etc. You should also know how to use the Internet and email as well as have a working knowledge of the law.
3. Knowledge of Law
This includes a working knowledge of legal terminology as well as the law itself and the court system itself. There are several different types of law- criminal, civil, and administrative- that you will encounter when becoming a paralegal so it is important that you know what each one is about because each type has different requirements for becoming certified in it (see below).
4. A Basic Understanding Of Legal Research And Writing Techniques
Paralegals must be able to understand legal documents such as wills and contracts while they are researching them. They also must be able to write legal documents such as reports, memos, and letters.
5. Ability To Work With Others
Paralegals work closely with other attorneys and law firms, so you must have the ability to work in a team environment.
The best way to become a paralegal is to enroll in a program that prepares you for the state licensing exam. Although you can take some online programs, these are not recommended if you hope to pass the state exam. If you’re serious about becoming a paralegal, you need to select a program that offers classroom instruction. You can then work toward becoming a licensed paralegal by completing the program, studying for the exam, and passing it on your first attempt.