What Degree Do You Need to Be a Paralegal?

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What Degree Do You Need to Be a Paralegal?

For people who are detail-oriented and interested in the law, becoming a paralegal is an excellent career choice. Paralegals are essential components of every law firm’s workforce. They perform research and produce reports and other official declarations to assist lawyers in their preparation of cases. A paralegal’s day-to-day activities vary based on the size of the firm and the type of law practiced, but their general goal is to assist attorneys in preparing for trials, hearings, meetings, and other events. Paralegals assist attorneys by executing tasks that allow them to better serve their clients. Paralegals can assist lawyers in improving their practice, whether they work for a private law firm or for the government. The demand for paralegals is expanding. Paralegals are expected to grow at a rate of 12% per year through 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is substantially faster than the national average. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to becoming a paralegal. We’ll go through the following paralegal requirements to assist you to prepare for a paralegal career:

What Does It Take to Become a Paralegal?

The following are some of the most frequent steps to becoming a paralegal. After you’ve grasped the specific requirements, you can begin preparing for a job as a paralegal.

Step 1: Complete the Paralegal Education Prerequisites

Because paralegals are not regulated at the national level, there are no federal regulations establishing the standards to which they should be held. With the exception of a few states, paralegals are not specifically regulated at the state level. While paralegal certification isn’t required in all 50 states, it is available through a variety of professional organizations. In the absence of state and federal legislation, employers decide the hiring standards for paralegals. To work as a paralegal, you must have at least some formal educationConsider acquiring one of the credentials listed below:

  • An associate’s degree in paralegal studies. In most cases, an associate degree can be completed in two years. The minimum requirements for admission vary by school, although most will require a high school diploma.
  • You must have a bachelor’s degree in law or a related field. “A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to accomplish.” According to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, employers are increasingly emphasizing at least a bachelor’s degree (NFPA).
  • A master’s degree in legal studies. You should consider earning a master’s degree if you already have a bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree in legal studies may include topics such as negotiation, intellectual property law, employment law, legal writing, and trial advocacy (MLS). Graduates of these programs may be qualified to work as paralegals or other legal professionals in a number of roles.
Those seeking a job change or who have certain lifestyle requirements should consider enrolling in an online Master of Legal Studies program, which allows you to work while earning your degree. You may opt to study programs approved by the American Bar Association while you plan your graduate degree path (ABA). The American Bar Association’s guidelines may be useful as you examine your top program options and consider common paralegal prerequisites.

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Step 2: Choose a Specialty

When it comes to becoming a paralegal, there are a variety of specializations to explore. If you want to get a master’s degree, you can choose from a variety of legal studies concentrations provided by institutions all across the country, allowing you to focus on a particular area of law. Various concentrations can lead to a variety of occupations. Consider the following example:

  • Paralegals in the government assist regulatory bodies, law enforcement, and politicians.
  • Litigation paralegals work with trial attorneys throughout various phases of a trial, from investigations to pleadings and discovery.
  • In handling estates, estate planning and probate paralegals contact with families, tax auditors, and trustees; labor law paralegals work on issues involving employers and employees, such as discrimination or poor working conditions.

If you don’t want to work for the government, you can look for opportunities in the private sector, such as real estate, hospitals, social work, human resources, and other professions. Paralegals can naturally be found working for law firms or corporations.

Step 3: Pass a Paralegal Certification Exam (Recommended)

To earn paralegal certification, the NFPA advises that you complete a qualifying examination in addition to your schooling. There are a variety of professional organizations that offer paralegal credentials. You have a variety of paralegal certification alternatives, including but not limited to:
  • The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers the Certified Paralegal certification, as well as the Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) certification.
  • The National Association of Legal Professionals (NALS) Professional Paralegal Certification.
Remember that being a paralegal does not necessitate certification. Pursuing one is, however, encouraged. According to the American Bar Association, certification can help you get a better job. Because certification displays your ability and devotion to your chosen area to some employers, it’s a good idea to get one. NALA recommends professional standards for paralegals in addition to certification. When evaluating a paralegal’s preparation, some companies use NALA’s list of requirements as a criterion. These credentials aren’t required by law; they’re just meant to show that you’ve completed formal legal education and have had extensive exposure to the challenges you’ll face as a paralegal, both to the attorney and to the general public. Each certification has its own set of requirements for continuing education and renewal, so it’s crucial to understand them and pick a certification that best fits your needs.

Step 4: Comply With State Paralegal Requirements (Optional)

State-level certifications, the majority of which are optional and awarded by local paralegal groups, are another option for those interested in becoming a paralegal.
California, Florida, Texas, and Utah, for example, have state-specific certification requirements. As a result, it’s vital to double-check paralegal requirements in the state where you plan to work.
  • State of California: There are a few steps to becoming a paralegal in California. Candidates must hold a paralegal certificate from an ABA-approved institution and complete certain semester hours in paralegal studies from a school accredited by the state of California, according to the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations.
  • Florida: Although there are no minimum education or experience requirements for paralegals in Florida, certain law firms may prefer new workers who have passed the Certified Paralegal (CP) exam.
  • Texas: The State Bar of Texas maintains a paralegal division, and certification through the Texas Board of Legal Specialization is voluntary.
  • Utah: Candidates for the post of licensed paralegal practitioner must accomplish 1,500 hours of substantive law-related experience within three years, candidates for the position of licensed paralegal practitioner must have 1,500 hours of substantive law-related experience within the previous three years, pass a professional ethics exam, and pass the Licensed Paralegal Practitioner Examination for each of their intended practice areas. Of course, you should double-check the most recent facts for your chosen state.

Step 5: Get Experience as a Paralegal and Look for Work

A variety of recognized degree programs can help students locate internships. This internship allows students to put their theoretical knowledge into practice, proving their mastery of legal principles and their ability to work as paralegals in the real world. Internships can also help students network and even land full-time jobs after graduation. Paralegals may find work in a variety of settings after graduation, including banks, insurance companies, trade organizations, private law firms, and legal departments of large corporations. Paralegals can work for state and federal government agencies, public defenders’ offices, district attorneys’ offices, and consumer advocacy groups in the public sector. Paralegals may desire to continue their education or obtain new qualifications in the future in order to compete for more advanced employment or be given greater responsibilities.


What
Is the
Role of a Paralegal?

* Investigating the facts of the case to prepare an attorney for a hearing or trial
* Conducting background research
* Collecting and organizing documents directly relevant to the case
* Researching prior legal cases to establish precedent
* Drafting motions, plea agreements, and writing reports
* Conducting interviews with witnesses or clients * Preparing contracts, mortgages, wills, and other civil documents
* Serving as a liaison between the attorney and the client by keeping communication and assisting with the client’s preparation.

Despite the fact that paralegals are legal experts, some tasks are beyond their scope of responsibility and must be delegated to the attorneys who supervise their work. Paralegals are often not allowed to “practice law.” To put it another way, they are not allowed to carry out jobs that require a legal license. A paralegal’s responsibilities do not include giving legal advice, deciding whether cases are accepted or denied, or representing clients at a hearing or trial.

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Paralegals Must Have the following Abilities: 

To complete their profession, paralegals employ a blend of hard and soft talents. Continually honing these abilities could help you advance in your job. Be sure to educate yourself with in-demand paralegal abilities whether you’re seeking a master’s degree in legal studies or a certification.

Here are a few talents that paralegals frequently employ:
  • Legal writing
  • Critical thinking
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Complex problem-solving
  • Public speaking
  • Organization skills
  • Legal research
  • Reading comprehension
  • Active listening
  • Judgment and decision-making

Salary & Benefits Are Competitive

So, what does a paralegal earn? According to a survey on paralegal salaries conducted by the National Association of Legal Assistants and Paralegals (NALA) in 2020, the average annual paralegal income was around $68,240. According to the poll, average compensation climbed 1% in 2018 and 11% in 2016. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) gives a much lower figure, estimating that the average income for paralegals will be around $52,920 in 2020, with the top 10% earning more than $85,160. The NALA survey results are based on 1,607 replies, whereas the BLS uses far bigger data sets derived from nationwide long-term population information from the US Census Bureau and other state and federal agencies. 

Within the available compensation ranges, it’s crucial to remember that how much a paralegal earns is determined by a variety of criteria, including their history, job performance, kind of business, and area of law. A six-figure compensation is achievable for an experienced paralegal working in a highly specialized or technical subject. Medical, dental, life, and disability insurance, paid time off, and company-matched 401(k) or IRA accounts are all included in most paralegal roles. Many employers also pay for workshops and seminars or refund fees.


State-By-State
Average Annual Salary

A paralegal career gives you the chance to do interesting, meaningful work in a professional setting. With an associate’s degree or even a paralegal certificate, the standard educational requirements can be finished in as little as two years, and the starting income is modest with lots of possibility for advancement. Salaries for paralegals can vary greatly depending on location; those in large cities are likely to earn more, while those in places where paralegals are in high demand will also earn more.

Conclusion

Working as a paralegal is a fantastic career choice. With a two-year degree, you may begin the sector and earn a comfortable salary with possibilities for advancement as you gain experience. Because there are no set educational requirements for paralegals, you have the choice of earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. What matters most is that you choose a field of study that will provide you with the skills and information you’ll need to succeed in the legal industry.

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Indu has been educator since last 10 years. She can find all kind of scholarship opportunities in the USA and beyond. She also teach college courses online to help students become better. She is one of the very rare scholarship administrator and her work is amazing.