How to Become a Consumer Paralegal

Many times, paralegals are mistaken for only working in a law firm.

However, there are many other areas that paralegals can specialize in.

Consumer Paralegal

One of those being a consumer paralegal.

A consumer paralegal will handle business complaints or work with consumer protection agencies.

If you want to become a consumer paralegal, read our guide below.

What Is a Consumer Paralegal?

A consumer paralegal is a type of paralegal who works alongside clients to help with their complaints against a company.

Often, consumer paralegals protect clients who may have fallen victim to illegal or unethical businesses.

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Consumer paralegals may also find themselves working in a consumer protection agency, banks, or corporations.

Consumer paralegals work underneath a consumer protection lawyer and assist in their cases.

They can’t work alone, as they are only certified to assist, so they often don’t work on cases alone.

Steps to Become a Consumer Paralegal

Like other professions, a paralegal of any type should attend a paralegal program that a state bar association verifies.

Each state will have different requirements specifying if a paralegal can work without a certificate or training.

It’s crucial to meet any state requirements before applying.

In addition, companies often want to hire consumer paralegals who have certification, as consumer law is not simple.

Alternatively, some states won’t require certification or degrees.

A consumer paralegal may also be trained on the job and can opt to waive any educational requirements.

However, this is rare and isn’t always true in each state.

Step 1: Familiarize Yourself With State Requirements

Every state will have different requirements for what a paralegal can and can’t do with education and certificates.

To ensure paralegal work is legal, one must look up the state laws in which they reside.

Paralegals must double-check which state licensing and certificates count if working online or remotely.

Step 2: Apply to Programs and/or Degree Programs

It’s best to apply to a program after knowing what type of certificate you’ll need.

Applying either in-person or online and completing good grades is recommended.

It’s also essential that one chooses an ABA-approved paralegal program.

Otherwise, the certificate may not be worth anything.

Step 3: Complete Coursework

Students accepted into a program must complete all necessary coursework, including electives.

Each program has a GPA requirement that students must maintain to pass the final exam.

If they don’t, students will need to repeat the course until they pass.

Most programs expect students to maintain a B average to pass the class.

Step 4: Gain On-the-Job Training

The next step is to collect the required experience to work as a consumer paralegal.

Unlike a standard paralegal, consumer paralegals must understand the ins and outs of consumer protection.

When dealing with clients, it’s important to remember that each case is different.

Gaining experience working with an extensive range of clients to become competent.

Their supervising consumer lawyer will also help them build the skills to work on multiple cases.

Consumer paralegals can expect to complete anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 hours of on-the-job experience.

These hours must be completed before being able to apply for a bar exam.

Students who accumulate all necessary hours can take the bar exam and gain certification: the Paralegal Core Competency (PCC) Exam, the Practice Area Exam, and the Professional Responsibility Exam.

Each exam ensures that paralegals are familiar with the state laws and requirements.

Step 5 (Optional): Waived Option

Another option is to get an LLLT Waiver Option, which allows paralegals to waive the associate’s degree, 45 credits, and PCC Exam if they have ten years of law-related experience.

These hours must be working under the supervision of a lawyer, and the credential must be sponsored by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPS). Not all states offer this option.

Step 6: Gain Certification

Once all the other steps are complete, students will need to apply to a certificate exam offered by specific certifying organizations for paralegals (listed later in the article).

Students must pass the exam and submit hours and all documentation to be awarded their certificate.

Each state has different requirements, and students will need to make sure that all of those are met before they can get their certificate.

Step 7: Work as a Consumer Paralegal

Once a paralegal gains certification, they can start working as consumer paralegals.

Some will need to network to get a job, while others may apply to work for a company.

Some go freelance or work alongside a lawyer in solo practice.

If consumer paralegal work is only a stepping stone, then paralegals can attend a higher education program.

Licensing Requirements to Become

State requirements change depending on jurisdiction, but it’s essential to know all requirements and certificates available.

States that don’t require any certification mean that paralegals can work without attending an education program.

However, they will still need to work under a certified lawyer.

Below, we’ll introduce you to all the requirements and certificates you should be aware of.

To be a paralegal, you should meet the minimum requirements:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Being an official resident of a state
  • Being a United States resident
  • Completion of High School or GED program

Here are the different types of paralegal certificates:

  • Certified Paralegal (CP)
  • Advanced Paralegal Certification (APC)
  • Professional Paralegal (PP) Certification
  • Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) Certification
  • Professional Legal Secretary/Certified Legal Professional (PLS/CLP) Certification
  • Legal Document Assistant (LDA) Certification

Each certificate program must be provided by one of the certifying paralegal organizations.

This includes the following:

  • National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
  • American Alliance of Paralegals Inc. (AAP)
  • The Association for Legal Professionals
  • National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
  • National Association for Legal Support Professionals (NALS)

Consumer paralegals may also need to gain general paralegal experience to move into the consumer field.

Consumer law is very different, but it still requires paralegals to know the basics.

If a paralegal is gaining experience while working instead of attending a program, then they will need to understand the different roles the job requires.

Online Training Programs

While training isn’t always required, becoming certified does have its merits.

There are a lot of aspects of consumer law, and you must have proper training.

Below, we’ll provide a few online training programs for the paralegal profession.

Campus, MTI College

Campus (MTI College)

Campus is an online school that provides a wide range of certificate programs.

Their paralegal program has four start dates each year and is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).

Students will need to complete 48 weeks of coursework and be able to pay tuition of $39,115.76.

There is tuition assistance for those who qualify.

Ashworth College

Ashworth College offers a fully online four-semester associate degree in Paralegal Studies.

Students must also pay tuition, but they are offered flexible payment options.

They can pay fully for $1,299 or as low as $59 monthly.

Their online program is self-paced and an excellent choice for corporate paralegals, including business law.

National University

National University offers a BS in paralegal studies entirely online.

Students must attend 180 quarter units and be responsible for paying tuition.

The average cost is $13,320, and financial aid is available along with payment options.

Students should expect an intensive, fast-paced program, as it focuses on preparing students to sit for the bar exam.

Salary

The average consumer paralegal salary varies significantly due to many paralegals working independently.

The average pay is $70,026 annually but can range from $50,000 to $80,000 annually.

Paralegals who are experts in their field can expect to make up to $170,000 annually.

Salary Information by State

State Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Alabama3,770$51,130$24.58$74,640$31,200
Alaska740$63,580$30.57$94,120$43,110
Arizona7,110$61,300$29.47$84,100$35,310
Arkansas2,160- NA -- NA -- NA -- NA -
California37,270$76,080$36.58$109,340$46,730
Colorado5,750$68,920$33.13$99,060$45,510
Connecticut4,860$67,310$32.36$91,590$46,350
Delaware1,760$68,340$32.86$99,100$41,350
District of Columbia5,580$91,880$44.17$124,650$56,780
Florida36,060$56,650$27.24$78,440$37,370
Georgia12,510$57,890$27.83$87,660$29,820
Hawaii1,150$59,690$28.70$82,310$42,270
Idaho1,500$49,930$24.00$66,940$27,100
Illinois12,370$63,590$30.57$97,100$38,060
Indiana5,590$54,080$26.00$81,840$34,820
Iowa2,570$58,310$28.04$79,260$38,260
Kansas2,680$53,440$25.69$79,630$34,710
Kentucky2,800$51,020$24.53$73,780$35,620
Louisiana5,250$52,760$25.36$75,100$35,380
Maine940$56,110$26.97$71,460$46,550
Maryland7,040$62,880$30.23$88,670$39,250
Massachusetts7,490$71,670$34.46$103,000$40,760
Michigan7,440$58,400$28.08$81,560$38,500
Minnesota6,140$63,450$30.51$94,910$39,790
Mississippi1,950$46,060$22.15$63,840$31,990
Missouri5,930$58,040$27.91$79,830$36,920
Montana1,320$58,190$27.98$79,520$41,900
Nebraska1,720$56,510$27.17$79,600$38,880
Nevada3,190$60,860$29.26$89,690$41,600
New Hampshire1,310$56,530$27.18$81,100$37,890
New Jersey9,580$65,570$31.52$96,480$38,650
New Mexico1,850$51,420$24.72$70,010$37,660
New York30,020$69,860$33.59$103,890$45,720
North Carolina12,290$56,120$26.98$81,310$35,920
North Dakota580$54,090$26.00$75,500$39,360
Ohio8,200$55,320$26.60$78,490$36,700
Oklahoma2,840$51,430$24.73$74,590$34,080
Oregon4,790$66,250$31.85$86,420$46,090
Pennsylvania11,390$64,730$31.12$92,560$39,460
Rhode Island1,320- NA -- NA -- NA -- NA -
South Carolina6,150$52,060$25.03$65,960$37,300
South Dakota500$55,290$26.58$68,120$44,300
Tennessee4,740$54,290$26.10$82,600$34,330
Texas24,600$59,970$28.83$94,540$36,300
Utah4,080$56,040$26.94$78,830$35,660
Vermont640$61,210$29.43$74,930$48,020
Virginia10,470$60,570$29.12$83,650$35,530
Washington8,020$72,590$34.90$106,510$47,960
West Virginia1,990$50,380$24.22$77,230$28,760
Wisconsin4,840$54,880$26.39$78,420$37,460
Wyoming400$52,500$25.24$65,150$36,110
Guam80$40,810$19.62$55,930$29,450
Puerto Rico710$45,220$21.74$65,670$30,560
Virgin Islands70$54,500$26.20$70,620$43,880

Annual Average Salary: Top 10 States

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $91,880.

These are the top 10 earning states in the field:

  • District of Columbia - $91,880
  • California - $76,080
  • Washington - $72,590
  • Massachusetts - $71,670
  • New York - $69,860
  • Colorado - $68,920
  • Delaware - $68,340
  • Connecticut - $67,310
  • Oregon - $66,250
  • New Jersey - $65,570
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Paralegals and Legal Assistants, OCC Code 23-2011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Chelsea Wilson

About Chelsea Wilson

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LLM degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

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