Paralegals perform functions and tasks that help lawyers serve their clients better. They are not fully lawyers but they act as aids and assist lawyers in their practice.
As a lawyer, irrespective of where you work, whether in a private law firm or government, paralegals help you improve your practice.
The request or demand for assistance is fast growing, and interested people are inquiring about How to Become a Certified Paralegal.
You should know that there is no single way to become a paralegal, which is why this article explains the necessary requirements that will help you plan and prepare for a career as a lawyer.
Article Road Map
- How to Become a Certified Paralegal
- 1. Meet The Legal Education Requirements
- 2. Determine The Specialty
- 3. Complete Legal Department Certification (recommended)
- 4. Meet State-Level Paralegal Requirements
- 5. Get Experience With Lawyers And Find A Job.
- What Does A Paralegal Do?
- Skills Required For Paralegals
- How Does A Paralegal Manage Time?
- What Are The Benefits Of Being A Paralegal?
- Why Is Time Management Important For A Paralegal?
- What Are The Limitations Of A Paralegal?
- What Are The Disadvantages Of Being A Paralegal?
- Is Paralegal Work Stressful?
- Can Paralegals Appear In Court?
- Can A Paralegal Communicate With An Opposing Party?
How to Become a Certified Paralegal
Here are some ways or steps on how to become a certified paralegal.
1. Meet The Legal Education Requirements
Paralegals are generally not licensed nationally. This is to say that no federal regulations state the standards at which paralegals should be held.
Also, paralegals are not regulated directly at the state level but, of course, except for a few states. In some states, some professional organizations provide certification for paralegals.
In the absence of these regulations by the federal and state regulators, every employer has its own standard for employing assistants or paralegals.
You will need to have at least a formal education to become a paralegal. With this, you can consider earning in any of the following ways:
Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies
This degree requires just two years to complete, and admission requirements differ with respect to the school involved but usually include a high school diploma.
As we know a bachelor’s degree takes up to four years to finish. Employers are very much interested in you earning a bachelor’s degree before you are considered.
This is a result of an agreement with the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), so it must be followed.
Master’s Degree in Law.
The higher your degree, the more likely you will be employed as a Paralegal. You may need to consider pursuing a master’s degree after earning your bachelor’s degree.
Some of the courses you may want to take while running the master’s degree include negotiation, intellectual property law, employment law, legal writing, and trial advocacy. With this, you can take up different roles as a paralegal.
If you are transitioning from another field or you have a unique lifestyle, you can enroll in any online Master of Legal Studies program that gives you the freedom to study while you work.
You May Like: Legal Administrative Assistant Job Description (2022).
2. Determine The Specialty
When considering being a paralegal, there is some specialization to choose from. As stated above, you have varieties of options to choose from.
If you intend to pursue a master’s degree, it will be easy for you to make your choice from the concentrations of legal studies offered by programs across the country, which in turn permits you to take on a specific area of law. The concentration you take can lead you to different careers. For instance;
- Litigation paralegals work hand in hand with trial attorneys at different levels of the trial ranging from investigation to defense and finally discovery.
- Government paralegals work with politicians or law enforcement agencies, and regulators.
- Estate planning paralegals interact with tax auditors, trustees, and families when dealing with estates.
- Labor law paralegals handle issues between employers and employees, like discrimination or poor working conditions.
While pursuing this course, if you want a government career, you will need to pursue jobs in real estate, hospitals, social work, human resources, or other areas in the private sector.
3. Complete Legal Department Certification (recommended)
NFPA always recommends that you take a certification exam to become certified as a paralegal. You can take this exam in addition to your education. This certification is made available through some professional organizations.
Your options for assistant certification include the following;
- Certified Paralegal Certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).
- In addition, the Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) certification is also obtained from NALA.
- Professional Paralegal Certification from NALS, the National Association for Paralegals.
Note that you do not need a certificate to be termed a paralegal though pursuing a certification gives you an edge and is encouraged as it can improve your job prospects.
This is because of the fact that some employers see a certificate as your level of commitment and competence in your chosen field. Also, it is highly recommended by NALA for professional standards for assistants.
These certificates are not a legal prerequisite but will inform the public and your employer that you have formal legal training and are very much informed about things you may face as a paralegal.
4. Meet State-Level Paralegal Requirements
You may also consider a state-level paralegal if you are looking at becoming a paramedic. Some of these certificates are voluntary and given by local paramedic associations.
Some countries, like Texas, California, and Utah, have some specific certification requirements, which is why it is important that you confirm the paralegal requirements for the state in which you intend to work.
Some steps are involved in becoming a paralegal in California. According to the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations, interested candidates must possess a certificate from an approved school.
They must also finish some semester hours in paralegal studies from a California state-accredited school.
There are no mandatory education requirements for paralegals in Florida. However, this does not dispute the fact that some law firms may prefer new employees who have passed the Certified Paralegal exam.
The paralegal certification in Texas is voluntary and comes through the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Their Paralegal Division is within the state.
The Utah court requires you to meet the educational and professional certification requirements. In addition, as a candidate, you are expected to complete 1,500 hours of substantive law practice within the three years prior to application. You are also expected to pass a professional ethics exam.
5. Get Experience With Lawyers And Find A Job.
You can study a reasonable amount of books and engage in study programs to equip yourself even more and get more experience.
This study will help students engage in a practical setting and demonstrate their understanding of the law and their ability to function as lawyers in the real world.
After graduation, you will likely be qualified to serve as an assistant or a paralegal in a law firm, having some experience.
What Does A Paralegal Do?
To be a paralegal, you need an understanding of the law, as a paralegal’s job is complex and can be quite extensive.
Most lawyers depend or rely on their paralegals for the success of a case. As we know, a team effort between the attorney and his paralegal will increase the chances of winning.
Paralegal responsibilities include;
- Preparing a lawyer for a hearing or trial by investigating the facts of the case
- Conducting a background investigation
- Collection and organization of documents directly related to the case
- Examining previous legal cases to establish precedent
- Drafting motions, plea agreements, and report writing
- Conducting interviews with witnesses or clients
- Preparation of contracts, mortgages, wills, and other civil documents
- Acts as an intermediary between attorney and client by maintaining communication and helping to prepare the client
It is important you know that some duties and responsibilities go beyond the duties of the paralegals and are reserved for those in higher authority.
Skills Required For Paralegals
Paralegals have a way of using a combination of hard and soft skills to get their job done. As they continue developing these skills, they benefit their career even more. Below are some of the skills required by the paralegal.
- Organizational skills
- Legal research
- Reading Comprehension
- Active listening
- Judgment and decision making
- Legal writing
- Critical thinking
- The emotional intelligence
- Comprehensive problem solving
- Complex thinking.
How Does A Paralegal Manage Time?
1. Being strategic about time management
2. Turn to technology
3. Eliminate distractions.
What Are The Benefits Of Being A Paralegal?
1. Diverse Places to Work
2. Increase In Pay
3. Lifelong Career with Advancement Opportunities
4. Networking Opportunities
Why Is Time Management Important For A Paralegal?
Legal issues require precision. Managing one’s time effectively might be the single most important thing that a paralegal can do each and every day.
What Are The Limitations Of A Paralegal?
Paralegals may not represent clients in court, take depositions, or sign pleadings.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Being A Paralegal?
1. Lack of a Career Path
2. High Stress and Pressure
3. Long hours of working
4. Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL).
Is Paralegal Work Stressful?
Paralegals do difficult, challenging work.
But that doesn’t mean it needs to become devitalizing.
Can Paralegals Appear In Court?
A paralegal can also do research for their attorney and appear in court.
Can A Paralegal Communicate With An Opposing Party?
Paralegals can handle large range of work delegated to them by an attorney.
One of the most paramount duties of a paralegal is communicating with opposing counsel.
How to Become a Certified Paralegal has been thoroughly explained in this article. If you intend to become a paralegal and you need information on how to go about it, kindly read through this article.
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