HOW TO BECOME A PARALEGAL: What They Do and Steps to Become One

HOW TO BECOME A PARALEGAL: What They Do and Steps to Become One
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Paralegals are legal professionals that provide support and research assistance to attorneys at law firms. Working as a paralegal might be rewarding for you if you’re thinking about going into the legal profession. You can start the process and potentially increase your chances of landing the job you want by learning about the steps to becoming .

In this article, we discuss what a paralegal does and how to become one, as well as salary information, job prospects, and frequently asked questions.

What is a Paralegal? 

A paralegal is a legal assistant who assists lawyers with administrative and support duties in legal firms. Private law firms and the public sector both employ paralegals. They support lawyers by putting together evidence for hearings and meetings and keeping in touch with clients in a professional manner. While some paralegals work more closely with attorneys on internal paperwork, others support them directly by meeting with clients, conducting interviews, gathering statements, and performing other practical duties. 

What Does A Paralegal Do? 

The duties of a paralegal include: 

  • Document gathering: Paralegals gather data and documents from clients, experts, and other sources on the lawyer’s behalf. 
  • Legal case research: Paralegals invest time in researching current and previous cases to ascertain what a lawyer might anticipate in a related case. Legal documents and reports are written by paralegals for ongoing cases. 
  • Creating pleadings and motions: When a lawyer needs to draft a pleading or motion for a court case, a paralegal may do so and submit it to the judge. 
  • Assisting prosecutors in court: Additionally, by gathering, maintaining, and sharing data, notes, and reports, a paralegal helps the lawyer during trials. 
  • Document preparation: As the lawyer gets ready to start a case, the paralegal puts together supporting paperwork that the lawyer can use as a resource. 
  • Client interviews: A paralegal speaks with the clients and witnesses in a case. 
  • Client interaction: They interact with clients during all phases of the legal process. 
  • Verifying facts To make sure they have accurate information, paralegals fact-check legal filings and documentation. 
  • Case management: Paralegals manage the entire case for attorneys, including the case’s deadlines and timelines.

What Are the 5 Typical Duties of a Paralegal?

#1. Research:

To start preparing for a case, whether it is for a court hearing or a legal transaction, an attorney must have all of the pertinent facts related to it, and this is the paralegal’s duty that frequently takes up the most time. Additionally, paralegals must research rules, prior court decisions, and pertinent laws in addition to learning every detail about particular cases. Furthermore, as a case is being prepared for legal action or other activity, articles that have been published in legal journals and other forums may also be helpful.

#2. Case Preparation:

Paralegals must prepare documents and materials for a case, including evidence, legal information, and other court representatives.

#3. Document Management:

Paralegals are responsible for managing documents, filing paperwork with the courts, and releasing documents to other interested parties. Furthermore, they also manage the filing and record-keeping systems within a law office or other agency.

#4. Courtroom Assistance:

Paralegals are essential for court-related proceedings, managing exhibits, reviewing transcripts, and taking detailed notes. Additionally, they must be alert, detail-oriented, meticulous, and organized to perform these duties.

#5. Communication:

Paralegals must be able to write reports, coordinate with other attorneys, witnesses, legal representatives, and private detectives, and have empathy, organization, and interpersonal skills. Finally, they must also be able to communicate effectively with other parties.

In summary, paralegals have these five job duties that are essential for legal proceedings and transactions and are used in the offices of attorneys, courthouses, government offices, and the insurance industry. Finally, they must possess a range of skills, from written communication to critical thinking, to protect clients and the legal system.

Skills Required To Become A Paralegal

Paralegals who want to succeed should have a few key skills, including:

#1. Organization: 

They must manage copious documents, case files, and reports. Additionally, they can be better prepared for any new cases or tasks that a lawyer gives them if they have good organizational skills.

#2. Strong written and oral communication skills: 

This is necessary to present information to clients and attorneys clearly and concisely, regardless of whether they interact with clients frequently or not. 

#3. Attention to detail: 

An attorney is typically in charge of many files and documents. Therefore, you must be able to pay close attention to details can assist a lawyer in keeping track of them, ensuring that the right parties sign the documents and that the lawyer submits the motions and pleadings.

#4. Analytical abilities: 

Possessing analytical abilities can help you use logical reasoning and analyze data and information as it becomes available. 

#5. Positivity: 

Maintaining positive attitudes while dealing with obstacles encountered in this career can raise spirits in the legal community. 

#6. Time management: 

It’s crucial for paralegals to effectively manage their time and prioritize tasks because they frequently monitor deadlines and make sure that motions and documents are filed with the court on time.

How To Become A Paralegal

#1. Complete a Degree Program:

The first step in becoming a paralegal is to receive an education in the field. There are several options available, from certificate programs to advanced degrees. 

  • A certificate program provides a short route to becoming a one, as it usually takes not more than a year to obtain. 
  • An associate degree work may be especially helpful if you need a background in the legal field. 
  • A bachelor’s degree may help paralegals find senior positions, such as paralegals for prestigious law firms. 
  • A master’s degree in legal studies may help paralegals find senior positions, such as positions at prestigious law firms.

#2. Get A Professional Certification:

Obtaining a certification is a process that can help you access more opportunities in higher roles and better salaries. Common options for professional certification include Certified Paralegal (CP), Professional Paralegal (PP), and American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP). CP certification covers the United States legal system, estate planning, ethics, and different types of law. PP certification covers advanced legal knowledge and skills. Furthermore, the AACP is a specialized certification for eligible paralegals with at least five years of experience.

#3. Choose an area of specialty:

Paralegals can find jobs in private law firms, banks, insurance companies, real estate firms, professional trade organizations, and corporations, as well as in the public sector. Researching specialty practice areas can help narrow the job search.

The following are areas of specialty you can pursue:

  • Business and corporate law
  • Contract administration
  • Real estate
  • Health care
  • Intellectual property
  • Compliance
  • Litigation

#4. Complete an internship at a law firm:

Students should consider completing an internship to gain experience in a law firm, which is valuable to employers seeking candidates for a paralegal position. Note that opportunities for internships can be found at college career centers, professional networks, or online job postings.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Paralegal? 

The survey found that 50% of employers required a post-associate certificate from an ABA-approved program, followed closely by a bachelor’s degree. Meanwhile, in the corporate environment, 20% reported a bachelor’s degree as the educational minimum, while 40% required a post-degree certificate, 10% required an associate degree, and 10% had no educational requirement at all. 

How Long Does It Take To Become a Paralegal? 

The journey to becoming a paralegal depends on the educational path you chose. Therefore, it can take anywhere from a few months of training in a vocational program to over four years of education for a bachelor’s degree. Lastly, note that there is no predetermined path to becoming a paralegal, so it is important to make an informed decision.

A legal assistant, also known as a litigation assistant, can handle both legal and administrative tasks. Meanwhile, a paralegal assists attorneys by concentrating more on legal tasks and research. In comparison, both positions require familiarity with legal jargon and practices.

What Is Required to Be a Paralegal in Tennessee? 

To become a paralegal in Tennessee, you must have a bachelor’s degree in any field and have completed six months of training. Additionally, you also require three years of experience in the legal field working for an attorney, plus at least six months of internal paralegal training. Finally, five years of experience in the legal field, including two years of internal paralegal training, is a requirement.

What Do You Need to Be a Paralegal in Texas? 

To work as a paralegal in Texas, you must have a bachelor’s degree or higher in any subject and at least one year of experience that is supervised by a licensed attorney. Furthermore, you need at least 15 hours of annual continuing legal education. and must have completed a paralegal studies certificate program approved by the ABA.

How to Become a Paralegal in Florida 

In Florida, you need a bachelor’s degree in any field and six months of on-the-job paralegal training to become a paralegal. three years’ worth of legal experience, including internal paralegal training for six months. a two-year internal paralegal training program. Note that the Florida Registered Paralegal (FRP) certification is given by the Florida Bar Association.

How to Become a Paralegal in Ohio 

In Ohio, paralegals are not required to hold a license but are required to have completed a paralegal program with at least 20 semester hours, in addition to a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, to become certified as a paralegal in Ohio, you must have 2,000 hours of supervised experience.

How to Become a Paralegal in Georgia 

In Georgia, you need a bachelor’s degree in any field and six months of on-the-job paralegal training to become a paralegal. Furthermore, three years’ worth of legal experience, internal paralegal training for six months, and a two-year internal paralegal training program are also requirements. 

How to Become a Paralegal in New York

In New York, there are no statewide paralegal certification requirements. However, the majority of paralegal positions in the state call for the completion of an associate degree or a paralegal studies certificate.

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