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How long does it take to become a Paralegal ?

It is entirely dependent on the educational path you choose. Certificate programs, degree programs, and work skill training programs are all available. Attending a community college or a university can lead to a degree, which can take anywhere from 18 months to four years to complete.Before we answer the question “How does it take to become a paralegal ?” Let’s explore what it means to become a paralegal.

However, a paralegal degree is not required to work in the sector. Many students, particularly those with advanced degrees, can enroll in a certificate program that can be finished in as little as 6 to 14 weeks, and in some cases as little as 6 weeks to 12 months. 

Paralegals assist attorneys by executing tasks that allow them to better serve their clients. Paralegals can assist lawyers in improving their practice, whether they work for a private law firm or for the government. 

The demand for paralegals is expanding. Paralegals are expected to grow at a rate of 10% per year through 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is substantially faster than the national average. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to become a paralegal. We’ll go through the following paralegal requirements to assist you prepare for a paralegal career:

What Does It Take to Become a Paralegal? 

You’ll find some common processes to becoming a paralegal listed below. You can start preparing for a career as a paralegal after you grasp the unique criteria. Let’s get this party started. 

Requirements for paralegal education must be met. 

There are no federal regulations specifying the standards to which paralegals should be held because they are not regulated at the national level. Paralegals are not explicitly regulated at the state level, with the exception of a few states. While paralegal certification is not needed in all 50 states, it is offered by a number of professional organizations. 

Employers set the hiring standards for paralegals in the absence of state and federal legislation. To become a paralegal, you must have some formal schooling at the very least. Consider obtaining one of the following credentials: 

A paralegal studies associate’s degree. 

An associate degree is typically completed in two years. The minimal admittance criteria vary by school, although most will require a high school graduation. 

A bachelor’s degree in law or a similar subject is required. 

A bachelor’s degree takes four years to finish on average. Employers are increasingly emphasizing at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). 

A legal studies master’s degree. 

If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you should think about pursuing a master’s degree. Negotiation, intellectual property law, employment law, legal writing, and trial advocacy may all be covered in a master’s degree in legal studies (MLS). These programs may equip graduates to work as a paralegal or other legal professional in a variety of capacities. 

Those seeking a job change or who have certain lifestyle requirements should consider enrolling in an online Master of Legal Studies program, which allows you to work while earning your degree.

Select a Specialty 

When it comes to becoming a paralegal, there are a variety of specializations to explore. If you want to get a master’s degree, you can choose from a variety of legal studies provided by institutions all across the country, allowing you to focus on a particular area of law. Various concentrations can lead to a variety of occupations. Consider the following example: 

  • Throughout the course of a trial, from investigations to pleadings and discovery, litigation paralegals assist trial attorneys. 
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  • Paralegals in the government work with regulatory bodies, law enforcement, and politicians. 

 

  • In processing estates, estate planning and probate paralegals contact with families, tax auditors, and trustees. 

 

  • Labor law paralegals assist employers and employees with concerns such as discrimination and poor working conditions. 

 

  • If you don’t want to work for the government, you can look for opportunities in the private sector, such as real estate, hospitals, social work, human resources, and other professions. Paralegals can naturally be found working for law firms or corporations.

Certification as a paralegal is required. 

To earn paralegal certification, the NFPA advises that you complete a qualifying examination in addition to your schooling. There are a variety of professional organizations that offer paralegal credentials. 

Remember that being a paralegal does not necessitate certification. Pursuing one is, however, encouraged. According to the American Bar Association, certification can help you get a better job. Because certification displays your ability and devotion to your chosen area to some employers, it’s a good idea to get one. 

NALA recommends professional standards for paralegals in addition to certification. When evaluating a paralegal’s preparation, some companies use NALA’s list of requirements as a criterion. These credentials aren’t required by law; they’re just meant to show that you’ve completed a formal legal education and have had extensive exposure to the challenges you’ll face as a paralegal, both to the attorney and to the general public. 

Each certification has its own set of requirements for continuing education and renewal, so it’s crucial to understand them and pick a certification that best fits your needs. 

Comply with State-Specific Paralegal Requirements 

State-level certifications, the majority of which are optional and awarded by local paralegal groups, are another option for those interested in becoming a paralegal. 

California, Florida, Texas, and Utah, for example, have state-specific certification requirements. 

Of course, you should double-check the most recent facts for your chosen state. Check out our paralegal credentials page for a complete list of paralegal certificates by state.

Find a job as a paralegal through gaining experience. 

A variety of recognized degree programs can help students locate internships. This internship allows students to put their theoretical knowledge into practice, proving their mastery of legal principles and their ability to work as a paralegal in the real world. Internships can also help students network and even land full-time jobs after graduation. 

Paralegals may find work in a variety of settings after graduation, including banks, insurance companies, trade organizations, private law firms, and legal departments of large corporations. Paralegals can work for state and federal government agencies, public defenders’ offices, district attorneys’ offices, and consumer advocacy groups in the public sector. 

Paralegals may desire to continue their education or obtain new qualifications in the future in order to compete for more advanced employment or be given greater responsibilities. 

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What is the average time it takes to become a paralegal? 

Depending on where you are in your career and what degree you want to pursue, becoming a paralegal might take anywhere from two to seven years. A two-year associate degree, a four-year bachelor’s degree, and a two-year master’s degree are typical completion times. You’ll also need to account for the time it takes to study for and pass paralegal qualifications, if you choose to pursue them.

What Is the Role of a Paralegal? 

So, what exactly is a paralegal’s job? The work that paralegals conduct is complicated and can be fairly vast, necessitating a deep knowledge of the law. Attorneys rely on their paralegals, and a case’s success is frequently the result of a collaborative effort between the attorney and their support personnel. 

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The following are examples of paralegal responsibilities: 

  • Investigating the facts of the case in order to prepare an attorney for a hearing or trial. 
  • Researching the background 
  • Obtaining and categorizing documents that are directly related to the case 
  • Prior legal cases are being researched in order to establish precedent. 
  • Motions, plea deals, and reports are all things that they do. 
  • Obtaining information from witnesses or clients through interviews 
  • Contracts, mortgages, wills, and other civil agreements are among the documents that need to be prepared. 
  • Maintaining communication with the client and assisting in the preparation of the client as a liaison between the attorney and the client. 

Despite the fact that paralegals are legal experts, some tasks are beyond their scope of responsibility and must be delegated to the attorneys who supervise their work. Paralegals are generally not allowed to practice law. To put it another way, they are not allowed to carry out jobs that require a legal license. A paralegal’s responsibilities do not include giving legal advice, deciding whether cases are accepted or denied, or representing clients at a hearing or trial.

Paralegals must have the following abilities. 

To complete their profession, paralegals employ a blend of hard and soft talents. Continually honing these abilities could help you advance in your job. Be sure to educate yourself with in-demand paralegal abilities whether you’re seeking a master’s degree in legal studies or a certification. 

Paralegal Certificate Program

The purpose of this program is to supplement studies in a different profession. A paralegal Certificate program can provide you the legal foundations a paralegal needs to know while expanding on the foundation of general education courses you’ve already completed if you already have an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in any field. 

You’ll take classes like Introduction to Legal Research, Legal Writing, and Law Office Management in this type of paralegal school. This program’s goals include ethical communication, transdisciplinary awareness, and developing technologies. 

What to Expect with an Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies 

With basic studies in English writing, math, and the humanities, a paralegal Associate’s degree program will provide you with a necessary foundation for work as a paralegal (and other vocations). However, the majority of your studies will be devoted to legal-related skill and knowledge areas, as well as paralegal responsibilities. 

Courses like Torts, Contracts, and Family Law focus on complicated legal topics, while others like Computer Applications and Business Systems Concepts, Legal Writing, and Legal Research help you develop the essential skills paralegals require. 

A paralegal degree will equip you with the necessary abilities to thrive in the field, but there are many things you won’t learn until you start working. We asked paralegals to discuss the things they wish they’d known before starting their jobs to gain some more perspective.

How much does a paralegal make on average? 

While not every component of a paralegal’s job is glamorous, that is true of most careers. There’s a reason you’re paid to work, after all. Is your wage, however, sufficient to support you and your responsibilities? It’s entirely up to you to make that decision. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual paralegal pay in 2018 was $50,940. That’s $12,300 more than the national average for all occupations, which is $38,640. This is good news for a profession that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree or requires working in hazardous situations. 

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How to Make an Impression as a Paralegal 

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It’s a good indicator if you’re mentally checking off some of those skill boxes. While detail-oriented experts with good writing and computer abilities are essential in this field, there are additional methods to distinguish them. 

Queenan advises getting trained in customer relations, etiquette, and communication skills because projecting a professional image to clients is crucial. Pay special attention to any speech blunders—no one wants their legal counsel to come across as sloppy. You want to present yourself, your clients, and, ultimately, your practice in the best light possible. This includes the ability to communicate professionally. 

When looking for work as a paralegal, Olson recommends asking for examples of completed case files to see what completed and professional work looks like for that business. Be assertive as well. Insist on having things explained or rectified if something does not appear to be correct.

Are you qualified to work as a paralegal? 

Paralegals are crucial to a law firm’s success. Every document submitted, interview conducted, each ounce of research gathered is significant. 

If you want to work in the exciting legal world you see on TV, the paralegal profession could be the right fit for you. It will not only help you pay your expenses, but it will also challenge you intellectually and give you vital professional experience that will help you achieve your long-term career goals. 

Many of your lingering questions regarding becoming a paralegal should be answered by these expert insights. Take a deeper look at the paralegal schools that can help you get there if you think this is the career for you. More information about how to start your legal career can be found on the Rasmussen University paralegal certificate and associate’s degree page.

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Paralegal 

Still have questions about what it takes to work as a paralegal? Take a look at the answers to some of the most often asked questions. 

What are the requirements for becoming a paralegal? 

Paralegals often hold an associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies or a similar discipline, as previously stated. Depending on your job ambitions, you might want to explore a master’s degree in legal studies. You can also pursue credentials at the national or state level. 

What is the average time it takes to become a paralegal? 

Depending on where you are in your career and what degree you want to pursue, becoming a paralegal might take anywhere from two to seven years. A two-year associate degree, a four-year bachelor’s degree, and a two-year master’s degree are typical completion times. You’ll also need to account for the time it takes to study for and pass paralegal qualifications, if you choose to pursue them. 

What steps do I need to take to become a paralegal online? 

You might want to look at online or hybrid paralegal degree programs. Online paralegal programs and online master’s in legal studies programs are two options. Legal certificates are also available, some of which can be completed entirely online and in less time than a full degree program. 

With a bachelor’s degree, how can I work as a paralegal? 

Whether you have or plan to obtain a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies or not, you can work as a paralegal. But bear in mind your background and career objectives! If you don’t have enough legal expertise, a master’s in legal studies can help you develop your career. Legal certifications may be considered if you have sufficient knowledge. You can also look for internship opportunities if you need additional hands-on experience.

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