How to Become a Paralegal
The Need for Paralegals
In modern day America, the culture often perpetuates a legalistic society in which citizens must go through the judicial system of law set up by both the U.S. Constitution and individual state constitutions. Because of this, you might think that one of the most steadily growing fields in the United States is that of legal studies – particularly with a career emphasis in Paralegal studies. Paralegal Studies is the profession which assists attorneys and lawyers with tasks that might include clerical work, case studies, and other tasks required litigation.
According to the bureau of labor statistics (BLS), the Paralegal field continues to grow with an expected 15% increase in Paralegal jobs by 2026. This means that skilled Paralegals might be in high demand and may continue to be for the next several years. If you’re looking for a stable, rewarding career, the Paralegal field could be an excellent choice to consider. There are steps you can take to pursue a Paralegal job, including formal education, such as earning a paralegal degree and obtaining relevant work experience while in school. Continue reading for tips on how to become a Paralegal.
What Do Paralegals Do?
Before you can decide if a Paralegal career is right for you, you need to understand what Paralegals do. As a paralegal, you have the opportunity to participate in the legal process by acting as a lawyer’s assistant. The job entails more than simply performing office tasks; it encompasses preparing arguments, managing cases, interviewing witnesses, drafting legal documents, analyzing evidence, and researching legal codes, among other duties. Work as a paralegal can vary based on the job description, however. While paralegals cannot offer legal advice, they play a very important role both in and outside of the courtroom. * Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public except as provided by law.
Is a Paralegal Career Right for You?
The paralegal field is an excellent choice for those who want to pursue a career in law, but don’t want to spend several years in school and undergo rigorous training. There are certain traits that are common among a number of paralegals, so it would be wise to determine if you fit the mold before pursuing a job in the field. If you want to become a certified paralegal and pursue a career as a paralegal, you should have excellent research skills and work well with limited supervision. You should also be organized and able to work well under pressure. Good people skills are recommended, as paralegals deal with all different types of people. Are you ready to become a certified paralegal? If this sounds like the ideal career choice let us know by filling out the form. One of our career consultants will contact you to go over your options.
Strengths required for this profession include:
- Well-developed research abilities
- Positive communication skills
If you are someone who possesses these traits, a career in Paralegal Studies may be perfect for you!
How Do You Earn an Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies?
Before you can become a successful paralegal, you may need to earn a minimum of an associate’s degree. Coursework will vary from school to school, but most schools offer paralegal classes involving how to conduct legal research, introduction to legal software, and more. You should choose a paralegal program that is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Though future employers may not require that you earned a degree from an ABA-approved paralegal school, formal education from an ABA-approved college can give you an advantage over other applicants.
While many careers in the realm of legal studies require extensive and tedious degrees, those wanting to pursue a career in Paralegal Studies are only required to have an Associate’s Degree. While this can be mean less formal education, a number of students will still continue on to get a Bachelors degree. While students who have selected this career may opt for more education, the majority of Paralegal jobs might only require this two-year degree. The most important thing to consider when earning this degree is whether or not your school is approved by the American Bar Association, as those who have this seal of approval are far more reputable than those who lack it.
How Can You Gain Work Experience as a Paralegal?
After you obtain your Associate’s Degree, the next step is to begin a job or internship to earn experience in this field. While the beginning jobs for this career may require a lot of paperwork and day-to-day activities, you are sure to rise through the ranks and earn more suitable positions in a relatively short amount of time.
Obtain relevant work experience while in school. Get a job or internship in the legal field before you graduate, if possible, to gain relevant work experience. Most employers prefer candidates who have at least one year of experience working in a legal environment. Find an internship or job at a law office performing administrative tasks such as filing, answering phones, or assisting Paralegals. These types of jobs will not only serve to familiarize you with the legal field and get hands-on training, they will also look good on your résumé.
How Can You Find a Paralegal Job in Los Angeles or Orange County?
Once you have obtained the proper education and work experience, you might want to start applying to paralegal jobs. Check job listings in your area, and apply to various law firms and law offices. Paralegals have many options in terms of career path, from assisting entertainment lawyers in the fast-paced worlds of film and music, to joining a firm specializing in family law, patent law, or other law fields. While studying, you’ll have the time to explore your interests, such as legal specialties that you might want to pursue, and consult your adviser to decide what the best course of action is for jump-starting your Paralegal career.
When applying for a job as a paralegal, send your résumé and any other information the prospective employer requests. The paralegal profession is very competitive, so apply to as many jobs as possible and be prepared to have several interviews before landing a job. Another thing you might do is to join a paralegal association, which may allow you to better network with others. Below are a few you can explore.
- National Federation of Paralegals Association
- Los Angeles Paralegal Association
- Orange County Paralegal Association
The final step of your career path in Paralegal Studies is beginning the career itself. After your internship or related work experience, you may choose from a variety of legal specialties or specializations (areas of law) within the field of Paralegal Studies. Some of these options to work as a paralegal may include:
- Law Clerk
- Immigration Paralegal
- Family Law Paralegal
- Litigation Paralegal
- Corporate Law Paralegal
- Litigation Support Analyst
Paralegal Education Programs
Become a paralegal by earning a degree at an ABA-approved paralegal college. Fremont College is one of only 28 ABA-approved Paralegal colleges in California, which means that the program is held to stricter standards than non-ABA approved programs. It takes just 15 months to earn a paralegal degree at Fremont allowing you to begin a new career in just over one year. Learn more about Fremont College of Legal Studies and the ABA-approved Paralegal program or contact us today to enroll. Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public, except as permitted by law.
Once you have decided that Paralegal Studies is the right career for you, you may begin looking at schools from which to obtain your degree. Fremont College has an ABA-approved Paralegal Studies program that will allow you to earn your degree in only 15 months! Contact us today for more information about this program, and to see how we can put you on your path to success with a career in Paralegal Studies.
How Can You Network with other Legal Professionals?
As a newcomer to the paralegal field, it can be beneficial to join a paralegal group. If you decide to attend and join one of these associations be sure to dress for success and become friends with as many people possible. Below is a list of some paralegal associations you might consider joining.
- National Federation of Paralegals
- The National Paralegal Association
- The American Bar Association
- The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- Los Angeles Paralegal Association
- California Alliance of Paralegal Associations
- Orange County Paralegal Association
Related Paralegal Articles
View a list of our related Paralegal articles here.
*In no way does Fremont College promise or guarantee employment or level of income/wages. Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public, except as permitted by law.