Wondering what requirements you would need to fulfill in order to become a paralegal? You’re at the right place.
But first, what exactly is a paralegal?
Paralegals are legal workers that provide support services to attorneys. Their job duties usually include filing petitions, scheduling meetings, interviews with witnesses, etc.
According to BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), the demand for paralegals is expected to see a rise of 14% by 2030, which is much higher than any other profession.
If you’re interested in entering the legal industry, this career is deemed ideal and might be your best choice. Let us read further about what are the requirements of becoming a paralegal and much more.
To start your process of becoming a Paralegal, you will need to first complete a paralegal training program, get a paralegal certification, and have formal experience. While this can work well for Paralegals, they also can receive training on the job.
Here are the three main ways of completing your paralegal program:-
Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies
The most reliable and traditional way is to get an associate’s degree from a technical university. This usually takes up to 2 years to complete. Requirements may differ in different Paralegal Schools, but mostly a high school diploma is expected to enroll in this program.
Diploma in Paralegal Studies
Online Paralegal Certification Program (Recommended)
Completing an online paralegal training program is the most recommended since it offers several advantages. An online course takes only 4-5 months to complete, unlike traditional degree programs that take years to complete. Additionally, online programs are significantly cheaper and allow you to learn at your own pace and time schedule and from the comfort of your own home.
After completing your respective educational course, you will need to sit for your certification exam. This certification exam is offered by NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants). After you clear the exam and obtain your certification, you can be addressed as a “Certified Paralegal”, which will ultimately benefit you when you start applying for jobs.
Paralegal State-Level Requirements
Each state across the country usually has the same requirements expected from a paralegal.
Let us take a look at some of the states and their requirements:-
- Florida- Florida does not require any special educational Paralegal Qualifications, however, they do prefer Certified Paralegals.
- California- California mandates aspiring paralegal candidates to get a Paralegal Certificate from a school that is accredited by the ABA.
- Texas- There is a Paralegal Division within the state bar of Texas which states that certification for paralegals is voluntary and that you can get it through the Texas Board of Legal Specializations.
- Utah- For Utah, it is mandatory to pass the Licensed Paralegal Practitioner Examination for any desired practice areas for licensed paralegal practitioners within three years prior to application.
Also see: Paralegal Specializations
How to Become a Paralegal
Becoming a paralegal may sound intimidating at first, however, it is not hard.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to become a paralegal–
Complete your Paralegal Training
The very first step is to enroll in a paralegal training program to equip yourself with the right set of knowledge and paralegal skills.
Although there are other options, choosing an online training program is the most recommended since it is self-paced, faster to complete, and affordable.
Sit for your Certification Exam
Right after you complete your paralegal training, you have to sit and clear the Paralegal Certification Exam that is offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).
Related: Paralegal vs Legal Assistant
After passing the NALA CP Exam, you can check for the state requirements for paralegals.
Get an Externship
Externships are very useful for Paralegals as they teach you the right practical skills and knowledge you would require in an actual workplace. An externship also helps you network with renowned people in the industry.
Apply for Jobs
When you’re done with the above-mentioned steps, you can finally apply for jobs in any firm or organization of your choice. You can also ask for a job where you’ve completed your externship.
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