If you’re here, you might know what a paralegal is and want to know more about how to become one and how long the whole process takes.
We’re here to answer that for you.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the paralegal profession is experiencing rapid growth, with job opportunities expected to increase by 14% by 2031.
Paralegals are responsible for both clerical and administrative tasks within law firms.
Given the high demand for paralegals, you may be wondering how to enter this industry. The first step towards becoming a paralegal is enrolling in an appropriate course. These programs typically take between 4 and 24 months to complete.
In this article, you will gain insight into various course programs available to aspiring paralegals.
Paralegal Training- How Long Do Programs Last?
Becoming a paralegal does not necessarily involve following a single pathway, as there are several options available for those who are interested in pursuing a career in this field. Even though having a degree is not always a requirement for paralegals, a high school diploma is often sufficient to start with.
There are three main paths to becoming a paralegal, which includes:
- Getting an Associate’s Paralegal Degree from a technical university
- Diploma from community college
- Online certification courses or programs (Recommended)
There are also bachelor’s degree programs you can take to become a paralegal, but it’s also crucial to note that they aren’t pocket friendly and take the maximum time to complete, i.e., 4 years.
Let’s read further to know about it in detail.
How Long Does an Associate Degree Take for Paralegals?
An associate’s degree from a technical college or a university can take up to 2 years to complete, and the cost for the same is between $10,000 to $30,000.
It is considered one of the safest options as it provides detailed knowledge and skills about legal matters, and it also allows you to work on your personality development.
These programs further equip you with a university degree which can give you credibility when you start applying for jobs moving forward.
However, there are also many disadvantages attached to getting an associate’s degree in paralegal studies. The main disadvantage is the duration of course completion i.e. 2 years, and the fact that it is very expensive. This ends up adding to the burden of students who have to take up education loans to repay their fees.
How Long Does a Paralegal Diploma Take?
Diploma courses are also available for paralegals, and it usually takes around 1 year to complete. Diploma courses are better than associate’s degrees in terms of costs and duration.
Diploma courses also allow you to take on fewer classes, plus they cost around $8000 to $10,000, which makes them more affordable than an associate’s degree. It’s important to also note that a diploma course might require you to complete an undergraduate degree first. But if you already have an undergraduate degree, you can expect better job opportunities once you graduate.
How Long Do Online Paralegal Certificate Programs Take?
Choosing an online paralegal program is the most recommended method of completing your paralegal training. This is due to the many advantages that online programs offer as compared to their alternatives.
These programs allow you to learn at your own pace and time schedule so that you don’t miss any lectures. Additionally, they are the cheapest, an online program costs around $1500, which doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket.
Plus, most accredited online programs also offer externship opportunities once you complete your course. All of these advantages can be availed from the comfort of your own home, making online training programs an ideal choice for students and aspiring paralegals.
Next Steps After Training
Right after you complete your paralegal training program, you will need to sit for your paralegal certification exam, which will help you get certified as a paralegal and expand your job opportunities.
Such certification exams are:-
Certified Paralegal (CP)
When you complete your paralegal course program, you can prepare for the Certified Paralegal Exam offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). After passing the exam, you can get your CP certification.
Paralegal Professional (L-PARA)
As soon as you’re done with your Paralegal course, you can also enroll for a Paralegal Professional (L-PARA) exam by the National Workforce Career Association.
Here’s more on how to become a paralegal.
How long does it take to become a paralegal?
To become a paralegal in 2023, it can take anywhere between 6 to 12 months.
If you go for the traditional path of getting a degree, it will take about 2 years to start your career.
Here is a timeline or step-by-step guide on how long it takes to become a certified paralegal:-
Obtaining A High-School Diploma Or GED
The very first step is to obtain your high school diploma or GED, which can be easily completed within 4 years.
Enrolling In A Paralegal Program
The second step is to enroll in an appropriate paralegal training program to complete your education. Previously it used to take approximately 2 years to complete a paralegal course, but due to the recent boom of online courses, it takes only 4-5 months.
Read More: Top Paralegal Schools
Getting Certified & Entering The Workforce
As a last step, you can start approaching the right employers after you get certified as a paralegal. This can take you around 2-4 months.
What Does a Paralegal Do?
The daily tasks of a Paralegal can vary according to many factors, such as the type of industry, the size of the firm, and the niche.
Some of the common duties that Paralegals usually deliver are:-
- Conducting research on laws, legal articles, and regulations
- Organizing information related to cases
- Maintaining and handling data related to cases
- Writing and submitting reports for the trial
- Participating in Investigation
- Drafting correspondence and documents such as contracts and mortgages
- Obtaining formal statements and affidavits
Have you ever thought about what do paralegals do? A typical day for a paralegal starts with taking formal statements from witnesses. After that, they may move on to conducting some research for the case. Before ending their day, they are also supposed to gather all the information in a specific database.
Also see: Paralegal Specializations
Know more: 10 Interview Tips for Paralegals
Becoming a Paralegal: Good Career Choice?
Becoming a paralegal can be a good career choice for someone who has an interest in the legal field and enjoys research and analysis. Paralegals have an important role in supporting lawyers and law firms, and the demand for paralegals is expected to grow in the coming years.
Additionally, becoming a paralegal typically requires less education and training than becoming a lawyer, which can be a more affordable and accessible option for some people.
However, it is important to research the job market and career prospects in your area, as well as the specific paralegal requirements, before deciding if it is the right career choice for you.
Read: Types of Law Paralegals
Essential Skills Required to Become a Paralegal
There are some important expected paralegal skills that you should have. let’s take a look at some of them:
- Communication skills –
Most of the time, Paralegals need to attend meetings, prepare documents, and present research. Hence, communication skills are an essential requirement for paralegals in both capacities, written and oral.
- Basic computer skills-
A Paralegal is often required to use their technical skills for a variety of tasks such as litigation support, maintaining records, legal research, and creating other documents.
- Interpersonal skills–
Paralegals play a crucial role in developing relationships with clients and coordinating with legal assistants, attorneys, and court clerks. Hence they need to have good interpersonal skills to handle such responsibilities efficiently. (Read More: Paralegal vs Legal Assistant)
- Organizational skills-
A Paralegal is actively involved in maintaining various case files altogether, in addition to multitasking, and hence organization skill is always important for this role.
- Research skills-
Researching skills are one of the most important aspects needed by a Paralegal. They are often required to conduct extensive research on a variety of cases.
Also read: Myths About Being a Paralegal
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- Paralegal Tips To Fast Track Your Career
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- Day in the Life of a Paralegal
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