What Do Paralegals Do?
Paralegals provide important support services in the entire legal process. They are primarily responsible for evaluating the facts and evidence of cases, conducting research on relevant laws and regulations, and maintaining manual and electronic paperwork. They facilitate lawyers and attorneys by gathering relevant evidence, preparing required legal documents, and writing reports prior to trials. They assist lawyers during trials by taking notes and reviewing transcripts. Paralegals are typically responsible for dealing with third parties like witnesses, clients, and vendors. They act as intermediaries and are responsible for scheduling meeting and interviews.
How To Become A Paralegal
There is no one way of becoming a paralegal. Most professionals earn an associate degree in paralegal studies. There are some universities that offer a bachelor or master's degree. Those who hold a bachelor degree in another discipline, but want to make a career shift to the legal sector, may decide to pursue a paralegal certificate. You may want to consider earning your paralegal certification online. These types of programs allow you to keep your current job and may help you save money. Although these online programs make no sacrifice as far as the quality of education and curriculum are concerned, they prove to be cost effective and let you study according to your own schedule. Although the cost and duration of these certificate programs varies depending on the institute at which you decide to enroll, most of them may be completed in just a few months. Paralegal certificates online are a good option for those who already hold a degree in paralegal degree, but want to learn more about the field, remain updated, and enhance their employment prospects.
What Will You Study?
Besides providing technical knowledge, paralegal programs are intended to enhance verbal and written communication skills, typing skills, and grammar. You will also be provided industry specific knowledge which is essential for working effectively in a legal environment. This includes legal language and use of specialized software and equipment. Examples of types of courses which you may expect to find in a paralegal program include:
Technology and the Paralegal
Real Estate Law
This is a general guide only, and the names and type of courses may vary across institutes.
Although not a requirement, it may be a good idea to become certified by a professional body like the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). It indicates to prospective employers that you are committed to the field and meet national standards. In order to be eligible to take the exam, you must hold a degree from an institute that is recognized by American Bar Association and have some relevant work experience.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012, paralegals earned a median annual wage of $46,990. The job outlook is fairly good, with a faster than average growth rate of 17 percent during 2012 to 2022. Paralegals usually work in industries like legal service, local governments, federal executive branch, state governments, and other companies and enterprises.