PARALEGAL: Step-by- Step Guide To Becoming A Paralegal

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Image credit: MTI College

Choosing a career may seem like one of the most important choices you’ll ever have to make. Actually, it is one of the most important choices you’ll ever make. The need to question your own judgment is natural. If you’re interested in working in a legal setting, being a paralegal is one of the quickest ways to get your foot in the door. However, the time spent on education and training remains an expense. Your time is valuable, so you need assurance that this is worthwhile. Get the inside scoop on what it’s really like to work as a paralegal, including their salary, certification, and services, and a clear guide on how to become one.

Who Is a Paralegal?

While not actually being an attorney, a paralegal’s in-depth familiarity with the law and legal processes makes them an invaluable asset to any legal team. The duties of a paralegal span much beyond simple document review and filing. A lot of them are associate members of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and they help with lawyers like lawyers and lawyers like lawyers (CILEx).

One of a paralegal’s duties is to assist attorneys with their job, and they often opt to focus on a particular practice area.

What Does a Paralegal Do?

Even when you’ve done some investigating on your own, compiling all of your findings in one spot is always preferable. A paralegal’s job description: In essence, they conduct essential legal groundwork for their attorneys to ensure everything runs properly.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists some of the tasks performed by paralegals as including helping attorneys during trials, managing case files, taking notes during proceedings, conducting legal research, writing legal briefs, and even interviewing clients and witnesses

“Most paralegal employment requires paralegals to work on contracts, real estate, civil cases, and other legal issues,” says Kirk Olson, an attorney, and lecturer at Rasmussen College. It’s possible that various branches of law will need to be involved in a single case. In the case of a divorce, for example, a paralegal is frequently called upon to get and evaluate a wide range of documents, including those pertaining to property, finances, businesses, and estates, as well as child custody arrangements.

Professional paralegals typically possess these qualities: attention to detail, efficiency, and organization. They need to be flexible, as responsibilities might change drastically depending on factors like the size of the company or the expertise of the attorneys in charge.

What Is the Average Paralegal Salary?

A paralegal’s job may not be without its share of glitz and glamour, but that’s true of most professions. After all, you don’t get paid for doing anything. Do you think that the salary of a paralegal is adequate to meet your financial obligations? What you choose to do is entirely up to you.

According to the BLS, the median annual paralegal salary was $56,230 in 2021. That’s ten thousand dollars and forty-seven hundred more than the median salary in the United States, which is $45,760.

Paralegal Services

No of their size or area of focus, law firms all over the world are responsible for daily management of a wide range of legal responsibilities, such as internal legal process management and client service. It is the responsibility of law firms to guarantee that the particular demands that each client’s case presents are met in a timely and efficient manner. However, when things get rough due to caseload, many law firms find that outsourcing paralegal services to a reputable supplier are an ideal alternative.

What Services Can a Paralegal Provide?

The following are the services a paralegal can provide

#1. Managing Files

The world may be becoming increasingly paperless, but attorneys still must devote considerable time to administrative responsibilities. To provide legal assistance, paralegals will analyze and organize client files, do relevant legal research, process transaction paperwork, and create legal documents and briefs.

Possible tasks include assisting with displays, charts, and data collection. Lawyers who don’t have to worry about maintaining their files will be able to spend more time with each client, which is beneficial for both parties.

#2. Lowering Costs

Time is money, and lawyers would be wise to rely on freelance paralegals. By contracting with outside firms for paralegal assistance, lawyers can minimize overhead costs and potentially pass the savings on to clients in the form of lower fees and a larger client base, leading to higher profits in the long run.

In most cases, hiring an independent paralegal is written off as an expense because we consider them a vendor, which means you won’t be able to provide them with the same benefits that you would a regular employee, such as health insurance and vacation time. There can be no losers in this situation.

#3. Supporting Pro Bono Work

If an attorney is successful enough financially, doing pro bono work is a rewarding way to give back to the community. A company’s ability to provide these community-enriching solutions is aided by paralegal support services that keep prices low despite increasing the workload.

#4. Legalizing Paperwork

If you need a Notary Public but don’t have one on staff, you may be able to hire a mobile notary service.

#5. Cater to Research and Findings

Recognize that one of the most important steps in imagining a positive outcome for your client is gathering relevant information about the issue. A paralegal’s role in conducting who, what, where, when, and how research is often crucial.

#6. Proxy Appearances

In some jurisdictions, a qualified paralegal working under the supervision of an attorney might visit with clients, assist with paperwork, answer phones, and otherwise streamline client services.

Steps for Becoming a Paralegal

So, you have made up your mind to pursue a career as a paralegal. The question is, what should we do now? To ensure your success in your chosen profession, we suggest the following measures:

#1. Attend a Paralegal Degree or Certification Program

A paralegal’s educational background is usually required for employment. Universities and colleges offer four-year paralegal degrees, while community colleges offer two. The National Federation of Paralegals Association reports that paralegals are increasingly being expected to have a bachelor’s degree by employers and so advises that anyone interested in becoming a paralegal should pursue a bachelor’s degree.

We can pursue both paralegal studies and legal studies at the bachelor’s degree level. Several professional groups highly recommended the American Bar Association (ABA) seal of approval, including the NALA and NFP (ABA). Our Paralegal Degree Center has all the details you need on the several paralegal studies options out there.

#2. Earn Your Paralegal Certification

While there are no mandatory certification requirements to enter the area of paralegal work, certification can greatly improve your chances of being hired. Formal training can help you end your career with more money.

In addition, certain businesses may choose to use certified professionals. The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Association for Legal Professionals, and National Association of Legal Assistants offer paralegal certification.

#3. Choose a Specialty

Since the law is so broad, attorneys and paralegals must typically specialize to advance. Once you’ve established yourself as an expert in your chosen area of law, you’ll have an easier time climbing the corporate ladder and landing future employment opportunities. Paralegals may focus on litigation, criminal law, corporate law, family law, immigration law, real estate law, and estate planning.

#4. Get Hired

Internships in law firms are a common requirement in paralegal degree programs. Real-world work experience is gained through internships, and in certain situations, interns are even offered full-time positions upon graduation. Paralegals can work in banks, insurance agencies, private practices, trade groups, real estate firms, and in-house legal departments.

Even with the government, there are plenty of job openings to be had. Paralegals are in high demand at state and federal agencies, consumer groups, public defense and prosecutor offices.

#5. Get Paralegal Job Training While Working

As they gain experience, paralegals have the chance to move up the ranks, potentially even into management. You can expect to learn on the job once you land your first employment, in addition to what you study during your internship in the school. Take some time to reflect on the portions of your paralegal work that you liked and didn’t like.

How Many Years of Schooling Does It Take To Be a Paralegal?

Paralegal training often takes a few years, though it may take less or more. Earning a paralegal associate’s degree typically takes two years of study (or four semesters), whereas a paralegal bachelor’s degree requires four years of study (or eight semesters). Paralegal master’s programs typically require an additional two years to finish. However, your time spent in paralegal school will ultimately rely on your course load, as well as your personal and professional commitments.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Paralegal Certificate?

They can earn a certificate as a paralegal in as little as a few months of study. We can complete certificate programs in paralegal studies in as little as six weeks at a number of different educational institutions. Consider enrolling in one of these widespread paralegal certification programs.

  • The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) is a group that can get you certified in one of two ways.
  • Three different certifications are available from the National Association of Legal Secretaries.
  • The National Association of Legal Assistants has two different certifications available to its members.
  • There is only one paralegal certification program available, and the American Alliance of Paralegals offers it.

What to Expect From the Paralegal Certification Program

This course is meant to complement prior learning in a different discipline. In addition to the general education requirements of an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, a Paralegal Certificate program can provide you with the legal fundamentals you need to get started as a paralegal.

This sort of paralegal school curriculum includes “Legal Research,” “Legal Writing,” and “Law Office Management.” The curriculum aims to foster ethical dialogue, multidisciplinary understanding, and an interest in cutting-edge technology.

Paralegal vs Lawyer

A lawyer has finished legal study and is licensed to practice law, but a paralegal cannot practice law alone. Paralegals assist attorneys by conducting research, filing paperwork, and writing up case summaries and other legal papers.

While lawyers’ fundamental roles and obligations are more or less the same everywhere, paralegals’ roles and responsibilities vary widely.

There is a clear distinction between the two types of training. Paralegals are required to take courses in their field, but they are not required to earn a law degree. However, lawyers must complete both a law degree program and the Bar examination before they can practice.

Paralegal vs. Lawyer: Salary and Career Outlook

When deciding between different types of legal careers, it’s also necessary to think about paralegal salary expectations and the availability of jobs in the field. How comparable are these two options, then?

The median annual wage for lawyers in 2020 was $126,930, more than double the median annual salary for a paralegal ($52,920). This disparity in pay is significant, but it is only one factor.

Although a lawyer salary is more than paralegal, a lawyer doesn’t have a clearer path to employment in the legal field. Though the BLS expects employment of lawyers to expand by 4% between 2018 and 2029 (which is on track with the national average for all occupations), they also note that competition for jobs remains high because there are presently more law school graduates than positions available.

FAQs

How healthy is the market for paralegals?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a faster-than-average 17 percent increase in demand for paralegals and legal assistants between 2012 and 2022.

What are Paralegals like?

Our user base suggests that paralegals are more likely than the general population to enjoy solving mysteries. The meticulous work of these experts lends credence to this conclusion.

Are Paralegals happy?

Unfortunately, being a paralegal is one of the least-satisfying professions out there. In terms of job satisfaction, they are in the bottom 12 percent. It’s possible that paralegals’ surprisingly low happiness index is connected to the unique occupational niche they occupy.

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