One of the most vital people within a law firm are the paralegals, also known as legal assistants. These individuals are hired, educated, and trained to work directly under the supervision of a lawyer or an attorney. Levels of education for paralegals vary. Some individuals receive on the job training or by taking courses through a private sector, others have associate’s degrees with a focus on law, and still others have bachelor’s of science degrees of bachelor of arts degrees.
There are several organizations that test and certify individuals that wish to become a paralegal. An individual that passes the competency examinations that are offered through the four associations that are representative of the profession will be given the highest preference when applying for a job within a law firm.
Paralegal Programs: Where to Find One
There are many options for finding a paralegal program in your area. Some of the options include four year colleges or universities, two year colleges, private schools, and online schools. Obtaining a four year degree will give a student a wider variety of options when seeking employment as a paralegal. For individuals that have other obligations outside of school such as a job or a family, online schools offer the most flexibility. Lower tuition rates are a bonus of taking courses at a community or two year college. Open enrollment at this type of school offers flexibility to finish courses at your own pace.
While it is not required to have a formal education in order to work as a paralegal, most law firms prefer to hire paralegals with some form of training or education. Currently there are over 600 schools and colleges that offer some type of formal paralegal training. The four main types of programs typically accepted are:
There are voluntary certification programs available as well, such as certified legal assistant and registered paralegal. These programs are not required, but will give an individual an advantage when seeking a career in the field.
Qualifications for Certified Legal Assistant
In order to become a certified legal assistant, individuals must complete all of the requirements as outlined by the NALA or National Association of Legal Assistants. A two day examination must be passed as well. This examination is given by the Certifying Board of Legal Assistants. Individuals must renew their certification every 5 years and must prove they have taken 50 hours of continuing education courses during the five year period.
Registered Paralegal Qualifications
In order to become a registered paralegal the Paralegal Advanced Competency Examination (PACE) must be passed. This examination is given by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. Renewal is every two years upon completion of 12 CLE credits.