A person cannot become a paralegal overnight. The reality is that he/she must have an appropriate educational background for the job. In addition, many firms and corporate legal departments will want to see some type of additional experience on an applicant’s resume. Finally, it is critical for every potential paralegal to be able to show to an employer skills and abilities required of all paralegal professionals.
The academics behind a paralegal’s background can take a few different forms, including:
- An associate degree;
- A bachelor’s degree;
- A master’s degree; and/or,
- The completion of a certificate program in paralegal work.
Depending on the school or university that a person attends, he should be able to earn either an associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal work. Associate degrees are typically earned via community colleges and take about two years or four semesters to complete. In contrast, a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies usually come from four-year colleges and can be obtained in about four years or 8 semesters of work.
A master’s degree in the field represents an advanced level of education. A master’s program in paralegal work will take about two years or four semesters to acquire. Granted, while a master’s degree requires additional years of education, the advanced degree often translates into higher salaries.
Note that certification programs by national or state paralegal organizations are also available. However, certification is voluntary nation-wide. Certification is typically given if the student passes an examination.
Education is but one check mark on the professional’s “paralegal to-do list.” A separate box includes general office experience. Many employers will want to know that a paralegal candidate can not only survive in the classroom, but within a firm or corporate setting as well.
Moreover, some thought should be given to law firms that specialize in certain fields, like:
- Personal injury;
- Financial transactions;
- Medical malpractice; or
For these firms, hiring personnel would most likely see some type of experience on a candidate’s resume that indicates exposure to the specific field of specialty.
Skill and Abilities
Keep in mind there are some tasks that all paralegals will be called upon to perform. Some of these involve:
- Legal research;
- Organization of legal files;
- Communication with attorneys;
- Communication with clients; and,
- Navigating court documents and legal filings.
Given this list, it’s always helpful for any potential paralegal to have some type of experience on his/her resume that demonstrates he/she can successfully perform these tasks.
Being a paralegal can be an extremely rewarding and exciting job/career. However, please know that, like anything else, it will take some time and expense to get there. The above represents the most important elements that a person should consider when contemplating a future in paralegal work. For more information on the topic, simply contact us today. Further, please visit our career portal to learn of the paralegal opportunities we are currently staffing for.