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What are the steps to becoming a paralegal?

I'm Liv, I want to become a paralegal and then go to law school to get my degree, pass the bar, and become a lawyer. #lawyer #law #law-school #attorney


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John’s Answer

Olivia there are no universal requirements for a paralegal, but there are several possible educational paths a potential paralegal might take. Educational options include certificate programs and degree programs. The American Bar Association (ABA) approves educational programs for paralegals. However, only a little over a quarter of the available associate and bachelor's degree programs are ABA-approved. An associate's or bachelor's degree is required, depending on the employer. Some employers may also require on-the-job training or professional certification. Students in associate's and bachelor's degree programs take a basic core of general education courses in English, math, science, and social studies as well as the required courses for paralegal work. There are some master's degree programs available, but this level of education is not required by most employers. The path requiring the least amount of time is a certificate, which can take as little as seven months to complete. Most certificate programs are for people who have an associate's or bachelor's degree in another area. A few require applicants to have a specified number of college credit hours plus experience in the area of law. Certificate programs only include courses pertinent to paralegal work and do not include general education courses.

Paralegals may find employment with law firms, banks, insurance and real estate companies, corporations, and court offices. Contract freelance work is also an option. Paralegals are often given responsibilities previously held by lawyers. A paralegal is a lawyer's assistant who helps a lawyer prepare for a meeting or a trial. This preparation may include researching facts or laws and writing reports used during the case. However, they are not allowed to present a case in court, offer legal advice, or set legal fees. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expected a 12% growth in paralegal and legal assistant jobs from 2018-2028, which is faster than the national average of 5% for all occupations. The BLS expected the most growth for paralegals in areas such as finance, insurance, healthcare, and consulting. More demand from corporate employers was also expected. The average salary for a Paralegal in the United States is between $51,500 and $69,500 as of August 27, 2020. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on the actual Paralegal position you are looking for.

Olivia I hope this was Helpful

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S’s Answer

There are certifications you can obtain from a community college or 4 year program that you can use to become a certified paralegal. Quite a few of my colleagues were previously paralegals and have now become attorneys. I'd even argue that former paralegals make great law students because they go into law school with a fundamental understanding of the legal world that others may not have.

You might want to see if you can shadow a paralegal at a local law firm for a week or so to get an idea of what their day-to-day life might be like!

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Michele’s Answer

Well I will attempt to answer this since my career path years ago was to be a lawyer. I would research paralegal jobs and see what they are looking for qualifications, I believe you can get certifications, even focus your degree in that area or legal area. Working as a paralegal might give you some good insight as to what it will be like to be a lawyer. I worked for a law firm when I got my masters and I learned a lot about the profession and interesting enough, many lawyers tried to talk me out of this profession. My main reason of not continuing with law school was because I don't do well on standardized tests and worried after 3 years of law school and school loans, that I could not pass the bar. Good luck to you

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Thomas’s Answer

John's answer is a good one - very complete. I just have one add - if the ultimate goal is to become a lawyer, it may be worth considering going directly to law school, if that is an option for you. While the experience as a paralegal is valuable, it is not necessary to become a lawyer. If loans will be necessary to attend regardless, by going directly your payback will begin earlier and your earning capacity could theoretically increase by starting the process earlier.

That said, both paths are more than reasonable, of course.


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Lily’s Answer

You may be a paralegal straight out of college. The question I would ask is whether you are going to be a paralegal to explore what it's like to be a lawyer or whether you have other reasons, such as saving up for law school. The cost of law school is increasing and it is a lot of money to try to save up if you are planning to save up for law school. Once you attend law school, depending on your area of practice and whether you decide to go into a large firm, you will be able to pay off the student loans. So, financially speaking, it may be better for you to go directly to law school if you know that's what you would like to pursue.

I do know if folks who were paralegals and as a result, decided they didn't want to go to law school so if you're unsure, it may be good to do it for a year or two to be sure.

If you are interested in being a paralegal, there is no required undergraduate major. However, if you were a Political Science major, Legal Studies/Prelaw or English, the writing and logical reasoning skills transfer well to the job. There are paralegal certification programs out there, but it is not a prerequisite for the job.

Hi Lily, this is great advice - I think the Student might be unclear about the difference between a paralegal and a lawyer. However, would you be able to also provide some knowledge from your experience about the precise steps to become a paralegal? I think that is what the student is looking for. i.e. what education is needed, what major you might recommend, and anything else they may need to know in order to go step-by-step to become a paralegal. Thanks so much! Alexandra Carpenter

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Mansi’s Answer

The steps are simple.
1. Complete a Formal Paralegal Education Program Consisting of At Least 18 Semester Hours of Paralegal-Specific Courses.
2. Gain Professional Legal Experience.
3. Earn Paralegal Professional Certification.
4. Consider Different Areas of Law and Find a Job.

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