You’re most likely on this page because you want more information about having a career in being a paralegal. Of course, the general definition for a paralegal is that they’re people who have a special education and training to work in a legal setting, but they don’t have the same qualifications as a full-pledged lawyer.
Despite all that, paralegals aren’t less important than lawyers since they serve as the backbone of a law firm and help lawyers do their jobs effectively, allowing them to focus more on the big picture of the case they are on.
Paralegals are retained by most law firms as part of their supporting staff or they could also serve as direct assistants to lawyers. By having a paralegal, lawyers can properly focus on their cases and still take care of other responsibilities connected to their clients.
So, when did being a paralegal become a career?
During the 1960s, there was a “War on Poverty” that was occurring. Back then, there were no top-notch legal services provided at a low price for those who were living in poverty. Not long after that, the concept spread through private law firms and companies. They realized that having a supporting staff that has ample qualifications could serve as a liaison for those people who were seeking legal advice but couldn’t afford the services of a lawyer.
Paralegal Degrees & Online Programs
Getting a Paralegal degree
Paralegals are legal assistants that do their job by helping out lawyers with paperwork, research and providing advice to potential clients. The typical workload of a paralegal depends on the law firm or the attorney that they’re working for. Of course, they would have to undergo training and education before being employed, with countless community colleges and big universities offering programs for paralegal education.
There are so many ways to become a paralegal, making it an ideal career path for those who have too much on their plate or those who have to maintain day jobs but want to change careers in the future. A person can obtain an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree and still be a qualified paralegal. Even if there are master’s programs for paralegals, not all law firms require this for their staff. As a matter of fact, having a master’s can technically allow a person to take up the bar exams and become a lawyer.
Being a Certified Paralegal
If an individual doesn’t have the means to obtain a formal paralegal education, they have the option to become certified instead. Certification only takes a few months, but for employment, it’s much better to earn a degree as a formal education provides a more in-depth approach in training a person for his future career.
Obtaining a Paralegal Degree Online
Another option that someone can choose is to obtain his or her degree online. There are countless of online paralegals programs offered by schools or universities that offer a paralegal education that eventually leads to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. There are also online master’s degrees that are available from these same schools.
What are the benefits of earning a degree online and what are some of the courses available?
One of the greatest advantages of earning a degree online if being able to complete requirements anytime and anywhere, so long as a student has access to a computer and Internet access. This is mostly suitable for those who have children or are busy with their jobs during the daytime. Depending on the degree (associate’s or bachelor’s), online programs are usually done within 15 to 48 months. Higher-level degrees typically take more time to finish, but there are career advantages to this compared to only having an associate’s degree.
Some courses offered by online programs may include:
- Criminal law
- Dispute resolution
- Bankruptcy law
- Intellectual property
- Civil litigation
Paralegal Schools & Studies
Finding a Suitable Paralegal School
Because of the current economy and the highly competitive job market, it’s getting more difficult to find a career in the same field that a person has studied in university. If you’re looking into becoming a paralegal, it’s highly advisable for you to find one of the best schools that offer a paralegal education in order for you to have better opportunities.
Not all good schools need to be Ivy League schools. Sometimes, non-Ivy League schools tend to have better programs for paralegal education. The most important thing it that you find a school that has accreditation and ask your school’s office about the job placement percentage of the graduates from the paralegal program. If you think that the percentage is a bit low, you should look into other schools that offer the same program. Countless of schools have their own offices and staff that are dedicated to helping their graduating students jobs before they leave. Also, these same schools also provide assistance when it comes to obtaining internships at reputable law firms and private offices.
At the end of the day, everything depends on your personal preferences. Make sure that your chosen school’s tuition fee falls within your budget. Choosing a school that has a friendly environment can also help your education and reduce any stresses that you might feel while studying.
Obtaining a Correct Education
Paralegals are required to work side-by-side with lawyers for the most part of their jobs. They do crucial research to aid a client’s case and obtain a positive result in court. Once you become a paralegal, expect countless hours with your nose in front of a book or a computer. As an additional job description, you may be asked to keep the books at your place of employment and be responsible for sending bills to clients and processing their payments.
As with other careers, getting the correct form of training is one of the most crucial parts of becoming a paralegal. However, don’t expect paralegals to have “plain” office jobs because it’s far more rigorous and demanding, but very rewarding. You will need a cache of knowledge about various legal dictionaries, proper researching, and knowing about past cases that may have similar elements to any cases that you’ll work on.
Typically, those who want to become paralegals opt to obtain certificates in paralegal studies or a full-length degree in the field. Your decision should be influenced on how much time you have for your degree, the kind of training that you prefer, and any type of specialties that you may want to focus on.