How to Become a Paralegal
Do investigative and legal shows fascinate you? Are you a team player, someone who takes his or her work seriously and is happy to contribute? Do you enjoy completing tasks that may require critical thinking and research?
If you said yes to the questions above, then consider career training as a paralegal
What is a Paralegal?
Paralegals are an integral part of the legal team.
A paralegal’s duties generally include:
- Conducting research
- Organizing and maintaining documents and records
- Gathering evidence
- Writing reports
- Helping during trials1
A truly “great” paralegal is detail-oriented, skilled in oral and written communication, has advanced computer skills, loves doing research, and possesses good interpersonal skills.
How to Become a Paralegal
Currently there are no universal requirements for becoming a professional paralegal. One way to receive paralegal training is by obtaining an associate’s degree from an accredited college that offers a program in paralegal studies. Paralegal associate degree programs typically take around two years to complete. Another way to become a paralegal is to earn a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree in legal studies or paralegal studies.
Whether pursuing your associate’s or bachelor’s degree, and whether in a legal or paralegal studies program, you would take courses in legal research and writing, as well as courses on the legal applications of computers. Other courses may focus on specific areas of interest, such as corporate law or international law.
Some paralegals may have a bachelor’s degree in a different subject that is useful to attorneys, such as tax preparation, tax or criminal justice. These paralegals are hired by law firms because of their knowledge and experience in this specialized field. Then they are trained by the law firm to perform all the duties of a paralegal.
How to Become a Paralegal Without a Degree
What if you live in an area without a paralegal training program offered nearby? Some paralegals have built their careers by first taking another job in the legal field, such as that of a court clerk or legal secretary.
Your Career as a Paralegal
Whatever path they take, most paralegals work a full 40-hour work week.3 At times, they may need to put in overtime, depending on the caseload. Every day, they interact with a number of professionals as a part of a team, but they also must work well independently to conduct research and prepare documents.
Median annual wages for paralegals totaled around $48,000, according to most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data.4
If career training as a paralegal sounds like you, start by doing what you’d likely do on the job: investigate and research all options.
Please keep in mind employment and income cannot be guaranteed by any educational institution for students or graduates. Additionally, salary data cited in this article below is based on median data provided by the United States Department of Labor, does not reflect starting or entry level salaries, and can vary widely based on geographic location.