Thinking about Paralegal College? Part Two

Paralegal College – Thinking of paralegal college? We discuss college and options available to you.

A paralegal professional performs duties that require knowledge of legal concepts.  While a paralegal does not have the expertise of a lawyer, they typically work under attorney supervision.  A paralegal is responsible for a wide variety of tasks supporting the attorney they are working for.  Duties can include contributing to trial preparation, drafting legal documents, interviewing clients, legal research and filing documents with the courts.

There are other options for paralegals that do not involve law firms.  There are many types of paralegal options in growing industries such as health care, real estate and government.  Corporate paralegals need knowledge of business law as they are working on documents such as buy-sell agreements, employment agreements and amendments of articles.  Paralegals in government are working on the area of laws in which departments practice in such as insurance regulations and labor laws.  Healthcare companies need paralegals with medical knowledge.  A perfect fit for someone with a hospital or nursing background.  Real estate firms need paralegals who know the business of commercial and residential real estate transactions.

Paralegals can find work without any formal training.  They simply learn on the job under an attorney.  However, paralegals that have some experience or special skills can command a higher salary.  Educational options such as online certification or pursuing a college degree are great ways to obtain knowledge of the field.  Both options really help you stand out from other candidates.  Combining education with prior experience will position you to have the best prospects.

Some soft skills that contribute to making a good paralegal are being organized, having strong communication methods, ability to research and write, working well under pressure of timelines or stressful situations, and multi-tasking.  If you can prioritize tasks and focus without getting overwhelmed or distracted then this is a career that suits you.

I would encourage you to get started by choosing a specialty.  Focus on an area that is interesting to you.  Whether it is litigation or real estate if it’s something you have experience or interest in you will be all that better in your role.  Next, choose the path you want to pursue for education and training.  The most common education requirement for an entry-level paralegal role is to obtain an associate degree which is a two-year commitment.  There are programs that offer certifications that can be found at paralegal organizations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants.  It is a designation that marks a level of professional achievement.

Finding entry level positions do not require you to attend a college or a certification program.  However, doing so often increases your chances for finding work and students are able to use their school’s career placement services.  If you don’t have the education or experience you can start by volunteering in your community.  Volunteer for Legal Aid or Habitat for Humanity.  You can establish crucial contacts by networking through these organizations.  Volunteering is a great way to learn the job and add to your resume.  You can also intern with a company or law firm.  Internships while pursuing education are a perfect combination to support your learning with hands-on experience.   It is also a nice way to get your foot in the door for potential permanent employment.

Once you secure a position, read (and reread) everything, listen to what is going on around you and ask questions of other paralegals or legal secretaries.  The paralegal field is fast growing and compensation has been rising.  As a paralegal’s experience and education in the field develops so does their opportunity to earn more and secure employment.

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