Can a Convicted Felon Become a Paralegal?

Do you or someone you know want to become a paralegal but have a criminal background?

Perhaps you’re wondering whether you can still become a paralegal if you have a felony in particular.


This can certainly make you feel defeated if you’re ready to put your past behind you and start a real career.

The good news is that individuals who do have a criminal record are typically eligible to enroll in various paralegal preparatory courses.

Nevertheless, enrolling could pose a challenge if the American Bar Association sponsors those courses.

So, what can you do?

This guide was put together to provide you with all the information you need regarding training programs and certificates for paralegals if you have a criminal record.

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Becoming a Paralegal with a Felony

The simple answer is yes, you can become a paralegal with a felony on your background.

But you should know that having a criminal background as a convicted felon will make it much more challenging to begin a career as a paralegal.

First off, there are certain requirements you must meet to become a paralegal.

These requirements may be different depending on the state you live in.

For example, you may run into certain employers who will require you to undergo an extensive background check.

Prospective employers are much likelier to determine whether they’d like to bring you on as a paralegal if you’re a convicted felon, depending on the following:

  • The nature surrounding the felony
  • The amount of time that has passed since you’ve been convicted
  • If you had to serve time in prison, and for how long
  • If you’ve committed any other crimes since your felony
  • If you underwent rehabilitation

Keep in mind, that certain states will not allow you to be a part of the legal field, no matter the type of felony conviction you have.

It’s highly advised that you conduct extensive research, depending on the state in which you reside.

You can find further information below, broken down into several categories regarding felony convictions and becoming a paralegal.

Training Programs

Being able to enter a paralegal training program with a felony conviction will depend on several things.

For instance, are you looking to earn a paralegal degree online?

If so, having a criminal background, or a felony conviction shouldn’t be an issue.

In spite of that, you may be questioned about your criminal history if you apply to a school that is accredited by the American Bar Association.

If, at any point, you are questioned about your record, the worst thing to do is lie.

Doing so will terminate you from the paralegal program.

If you are asked about your criminal background on an application, you should always be honest.

And, if you plan on applying for financial aid, certain types of drug crimes can prohibit you from receiving any help from the government.

Once you’ve finally entered into a paralegal training program, you won’t be out of the clear just yet.

There are internship sites that will conduct background checks on students.

If you have any felonies in your background, it may raise a red flag.

This may impact your ability to work with them.

Nevertheless, this mainly applies to government entities.

What can you do to make this process easier?

Before applying for any program or internship, make sure you ask whether your criminal background will be an issue.


Obtaining certification as a paralegal with a criminal background will also be a challenge.

Many states have no policy in place concerning paralegal students with criminal backgrounds.

What they will do is decide on a case-by-case basis.

So, if you do have a criminal background, you should consider reaching out to the appropriate body in your state that handles certification after you complete the paralegal program.

By doing so, you will be informed of the next steps to take to become certified.


If you’ve successfully taken the necessary courses and earned your certification to become a paralegal, you may be wondering how to find employment.

This could be the most challenging step out of the three.

During your research, you’ll quickly find that many law offices you apply to will only consider your paralegal application if your background is clear of convictions.

The types of offices that may present more of a challenge for you include big corporate offices that are located in major cities.

But, don’t get discouraged just yet.

Being able to find employment will be more difficult if you do have a felony, even though it’s not impossible.

Many employers will look at how much time has passed since your conviction.

They may also consider the type of offense.

Moreover, certain law firms require paralegals to obtain a license as a notary public.

The bad news is that you will not be able to receive this license if you are a convicted felon unless your record has previously been expunged.

If this sounds like you, fortunately, it’s possible to receive a certificate or pardon from the state.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to become a paralegal with a felony conviction?

Despite what was mentioned above, being a convicted felon can make it extremely challenging to become a paralegal, although it’s not impossible.

You must research to find out the requirements in your state.

In addition, remember to always remain honest when applying for openings as a paralegal.

Where are some places of employment to try and look for work as a paralegal with a criminal background?

As mentioned above, avoid applying to major law firms in major towns unless your felony has been expunged.

However, you can try applying at law clinics, local courts, and attorneys’ offices that have a private practice.

Can I enter into an internship for a paralegal as a convicted felon?

As far as internships, it may be hit or miss if you have a felony conviction.

The same rules are similar for internships as they are in certification programs.

Depending on the state you reside in, you can look those qualifications up.

Again, this may be challenging, but it’s not impossible if you look in the right places.

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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