Becoming a Paralegal

Becoming a Paralegal

A paralegal, or legal assistant, is a person who is educated and trained to perform legal duties delegated by an attorney, but who does not have the credentials to be considered a lawyer.

What Responsibilities Does a Paralegal Have?
Paralegals are part of the support staff of law firms and are sometimes executive assistants to one attorney. Paralegals make life easier for attorneys by freeing up their time so that the attorney can focus on other things without being burdened with so many tasks. Duties of a paralegal include:

-Investigating case facts
-Conducting research on laws and regulations
-Gathering and organizing data
-Filling out documents and writing reports
-Collecting formal statements and affidavits
-Assisting attorneys during trial

Paralegals help lawyers carry out a large variety of tasks. Exact workloads depend on the specific law firm or attorney. To become a paralegal, the person will need either a certificate or degree. There is a large demand for paralegal professionals, so many community colleges and universities offer paralegal programs and courses.

Getting a Paralegal Degree or Certification
There are many paths for becoming a paralegal. A person can choose to obtain a certificate, associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree. A person can also obtain a master’s degree, however, most law firms do not require a graduate degree. No matter the educational path chosen, a paralegal certificate or degree can be obtained online. The advantage of online programs is that they are flexible and can usually be completed faster than a traditional program. The coursework will include these topics and more:

-College English and algebra
-The justice system
-Criminal law
-Litigation
-Bankruptcy law
-Dispute resolution
-Intellectual property

Life as a Paralegal
Paralegal careers are very rewarding. It’s an exciting career that allows a person to work alongside an attorney without having to complete several years of law school. They can also work within a variety of legal fields including family law, real estate law, criminal law, and civil law. The median income for paralegals is nearly $49,000 with the highest paid making over $65,000. While some states prohibit paralegals from practicing independently, it is possible for paralegals to earn a living helping consumers with some legal matters including bankruptcy, immigration, family law, and landlord-tenant disputes.

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