How to specialize as a paralegal?
Specialization as a paralegal is one of the most important career choices if they wish to advance in a particular field and also increase their earning potential.
A paralegal education equips students with the necessary skills to work effectively in a law firm, where they can gain practical experience under the supervision of experienced lawyers. Internships play a crucial role in helping students develop a clear understanding of job expectations in the field of paralegal work.
See more: What is a Paralegal
What is the specialization of a paralegal?
During your specialization as a paralegal, you will have the opportunity to choose electives that focus on commonly practiced areas of law. These may include estate planning, bankruptcy, criminal law, taxation, family law, and personal injury.
While these categories provide a glimpse into the types of courses offered in paralegal degree programs, it’s important to note that acquiring a comprehensive education prior to graduation can be challenging due to the specific course requirements necessary to earn a paralegal degree.
Specializing in a specific area of law through a bachelor’s degree program in paralegal studies can be highly beneficial. With the additional time available in a bachelor’s program, you have the opportunity to enroll in a variety of classes related to your specific area of interest.
As a paralegal, specializing in a specific area of law allows you to provide more substantial support to lawyers by handling the pressure of a variety of cases. With your familiarity in the chosen field, you can assist with tasks such as document preparation and briefs, requiring minimal guidance from the lawyer.
As you gain experience in providing comprehensive support, you can expect to earn a higher salary due to your specialized expertise.
How can I specialize in an area of law as a paralegal?
To excel in the paralegal role, it is advisable to focus on a specific area of law and pursue additional education. You can begin by working in a high-demand paralegal specialty or emphasize an area of law that is of interest to you.
While specializing in more than one area is possible, typically you will utilize only one field as a paralegal specialist. However, some areas of law complement each other, and having expertise in multiple specializations can lead to career advancement and higher pay.
Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in legal studies or pursuing a master’s degree is one way to specialize as a paralegal. Starting with an associate’s degree in paralegal studies provides an entry point into the field, allowing you to gain practical experience.
Also read: Paralegal Degree
If you seek further education, a bachelor’s degree offers comprehensive knowledge and the opportunity to focus on a specific area of law, making you a valuable asset to legal employers.
Even though paralegals cannot practice law independently, they play a crucial role in assisting lawyers and attorneys with complex tasks.
Should I get officially certified as a paralegal?
To specialize in a specific area of law, obtaining certification as a paralegal is highly recommended. Becoming a Certified Paralegal (CP) demonstrates your credibility and expertise to potential employers.
Being a CP will enhance your professional reputation and increase your chances of securing specialized roles within the legal field.
The certification exam for paralegals is typically administered by various paralegal associations and is widely recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA). As a paralegal, you have the option to join the ABA by paying an annual fee, which grants you access to valuable resources, services, and networking opportunities.
Read: Paralegal Certification
Membership with the ABA can assist you in becoming a specialized paralegal and facilitate employment opportunities by allowing you to maintain a searchable profile on their website. It is a beneficial professional affiliation that can enhance your career prospects and provide you with ongoing support in the legal field.
The paralegal associations that certify paralegals in the U.S. include:
- The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- NALS, the Association for legal professionals
- American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc.
Obtaining the certified paralegal credential from NALA is advantageous when it comes to career advancement, however, you can consider any of the listed paralegal associations that can help your career.
These certifications prove that you are passionate about your career and aim to obtain advanced knowledge in a specialized field. Aligning both certification and specialization makes you stand apart from the crowd and a favorable candidate in the eyes of employers.
Know more: How Long Does it Take to Become a Paralegal
What Kind of Jobs Can I Get If I Become a Paralegal Specialist?
The paralegal profession offers a wide range of opportunities beyond traditional law firms. Non-legal sectors actively seek paralegals for their expertise, as they possess skills and knowledge that enable them to perform tasks similar to those of a lawyer.
Also see: Paralegal Skills
Specialists in the field can find lucrative employment in areas such as insurance, real estate, mediation, investigation, contract writing, project management, and even specialized roles like nurse paralegal.
Some areas of paralegal specialists may also include:-
- Nurse Paralegal-
A nurse paralegal holds both a registered nurse (RN) license and relevant experience in the healthcare field. These professionals are often sought after to provide their expert opinions and insights on legal matters within the healthcare industry.
They may work for insurance companies, offering their expertise in evaluating health insurance claims. Additionally, nurse paralegals can play a crucial role in assisting with malpractice lawsuits, utilizing their unique knowledge and experience to contribute to the legal process.
- Estate Planning Paralegal-
Estate planning is a legal practice that involves helping individuals create important documents such as wills, trusts, and other instruments that facilitate the transfer of assets and wealth after their death.
As a paralegal, you may be involved in assisting clients with these tasks, working closely with attorneys to draft and prepare the necessary documents. Additionally, in some cases, paralegals may be asked to provide support in handling administrative duties that executors and heirs face when dealing with the affairs of a deceased loved one.
This can include tasks such as organizing and managing estate documents, communicating with beneficiaries, and facilitating the distribution of assets according to the wishes outlined in the estate plan.
- Government Paralegal-
A government paralegal plays a similar role to a paralegal working in a private legal setting but with a focus on serving the public. In this role, you would work on behalf of the government, assisting public defenders, prosecutors, and attorneys who are employed by local, state, or federal agencies.
Your responsibilities may include conducting legal research, preparing legal documents, organizing case files, and providing general support to attorneys in their work. Government paralegals often handle cases related to criminal law, administrative law, regulatory compliance, and other areas of public interest.
- Litigation Paralegal-
As a litigation paralegal, your role involves assisting lawyers in legal research, discovery, filing motions, and gathering evidence. You can specialize in various subcategories of litigation, such as civil, criminal, intellectual property, employment, or personal injury.
See more on: Litigation Paralegal
Specializing in a specific area allows you to develop specialized knowledge and skills, making you a valuable asset in handling cases within that area.
Also see: How to Become a Paralegal
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