Continuing Legal Education for Paralegals
During your time as a paralegal, you’ve most likely heard attorneys talk about C.L.E credits (Continuing Legal Education). C.L.E credits are the professional education of lawyers that takes place after their initial admission to the bar. C.L.E credits require attorneys to maintain their skills and keep current with continuing changes in the law.
Every attorney is required to complete C.L.E credits. How often depends on the state they are licensed to practice in. However, in most states, this requirement is not the same for paralegals. There are states such as California and Texas that require paralegals and certified paralegals to obtain continuing education credits. Just because it’s not “required” doesn’t mean as a paralegal you should pass on or not find value and invest in continuing education. The opportunity to learn should be seen as an investment in your ongoing paralegal career.
Why You Should Consider Continuing Education?
I remember beginning my career as a paralegal. I didn’t even know what field of law interested me. Early on, I was introduced to Workers’ Compensation Law. I will be honest; I had no idea what Workers’ Compensation really involved in the beginning. I had never even considered it a specific field of law. And by speaking to other attorneys, it was a field of law that is never fully covered in law school.
Workers’ compensation is a specialized field of law with its own set of laws, rules, and regulations, which is far different from State, Federal and Appellate Courts. As a paralegal specializing in the workers’ compensation field for over 20 years, I began to feel a bit “boxed in”.
When it came time to expand my career and explore different area of law that might interest me, I quickly realized I didn’t have the skills or knowledge required for the jobs I wanted. It also helped me realize that education does not stop once you graduate college; it truly is an ongoing pursuit.
Benefits of Continuing Education for a Paralegal
- Help Advance Your Career- While it’s completely acceptable to specialize in a field of law, you can also take continuing education to explore other areas. Continuing education can be beneficial if you are a trial/litigation paralegal for the simple reason of gaining knowledge in the changes in laws and states. This is extremely valuable to the attorney(s) you might work for. By committing to regular ongoing education, you show your dedication as a paralegal to current and future employers.
- Continue To Learn- Continuing education is just that, a way for you to keep learning. We are always learning new things about life, right? Learning new things in your career is no less valuable. Participating in workshops and seminars allows you to stay on top of changing cases, laws, and procedures and gives you a real advantage above other paralegals.
- Boost Your Skills– There are workshops that focus on communication and presentation skills. The ability to communicate effectively as a paralegal is essential, especially when you deal directly with clients. Continuing education doesn’t have to always be centered on “the law”. A public speaking class would be a great addition to your resume.
- Job Search– Continuing education workshops and seminars can also help with job searches by showing potential employers your ongoing interest in the paralegal field, your interest in career growth, and acquiring knowledge in varying fields of law. Continuing education can afford you the opportunity to not remain “stuck” in a specialized area and can show employers that you can transfer your skills and be a serious asset to their company.
What CLE Programs Should You Consider?
Your career goals as a paralegal should play a large role in the types of continuing education your engage in. As with your degree(s), check to see if the courses are accredited or recognized by the American Bar Association. Also, check out the reviews and try to speak with any fellow paralegals that have participated. If you find a program of interest, reach out directly to the program director to ask questions to determine if it might be a good fit. And remember, non-law related courses are always good to mix in so you can expand your horizons and acquire skills that will make you a more well rounded paralegal.
Programs with Substantial Continuing Education
National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
National Federation of Paralegals Associations (NFPA)
Lorman Training Solutions
Institute for Paralegal Education (IPE)
Paralegal Boot Camp
Free Continuing Legal Education
Part of your responsibility as a paralegal is to stay current with relevant changes in your profession. Education doesn’t end once you graduate or land your dream job. Continuing education is an investment in yourself and your career. And when chosen carefully, it can truly make you an indispensable paralegal. Take that next step and invest in yourself because YOU ARE WORTH IT!
By Keesha Hughes
We would love to hear your opinions on any continuing legal education courses that you may have taken. We also invite you to connect with National Paralegal & Notary for more relevant blog content and to see about joining our network of paralegals.