These professionals comprise the support team for a lawyer. Paralegals help lawyers by conducting research for cases, maintaining a catalog of documents, and are also responsible for drafting documents used in legal proceedings, from memos to white papers. Experienced paralegals are also able to sit with lawyers and help them devise a strategy for legal proceedings.
If you are considering a career as a paralegal, here are a few important facts to consider.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the job growth in this industry to be 18 percent, which is faster than the national average. This means that there will be more opportunities that will open in this field for professionals with experience in the legal field. Many large corporations are looking to hire paralegals to help them in their in-house legal departments.
As a paralegal, your job duties are broader than those of a lawyer. This is important because you will be entrusted with doing more in the workplace, and, as a result, will gain more practical experience. Some law firms that may be recovering from the recession are choosing to rebuild themselves using the expertise of paralegals over lawyers. You could use this experience to apply for more senior positions, and apply for admission into law school to become a lawyer.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Paralegal?
Paralegals usually have to enroll in a degree program, and earn an associate or bachelor's degree in paralegal studies. These programs typically last between two and four years. Paralegals who wish to continue their education may do so by enrolling in a master's degree program in paralegal studies. Another option to become a paralegal is by completing a certificate in paralegal studies. This type of program is for individuals who have earned another degree, but wish to be a paralegal without having to earn another bachelor's degree. This program helps people with various educational and progessional backgrounds to enter the industry.
Before You Apply
While there are thousands of colleges across the United States that offer formal paralegal training programs, not all of them have the approval of the American Bar Association. It is important to find a school which has ABA approval. At the end of your paralegal program, you will be required to take relevant licensing exams to be authorized to practice your profession; having an ABA approved degree is a requirement for eligibility. There are a variety of reasons to the question 'why become a paralegal?' If you are looking for a wider array of responsibility and a career in the legal field, this is a recommended career for you. You could enter the legal progression with significantly less investment of time and money than if you enrolled in law school.
If you wish to become a lawyer, you will need to earn a four year undergraduate degree before applying for law school. Law school usually takes three years to complete, and then you may have to spend more time in gaining work experience. The payoffs for a lawyer are higher than those of a paralegal, but they come with a higher cost and time commitment as well.