Learn how to become a paralegal – Forbes Advisor

In the legal world, we have this presumption that it mostly consists of lawyers, however, a group of specialized experts, such as paralegals and legal assistants, work alongside lawyers and provide assistance in a variety of ways. The state of California currently has the highest number of paralegal employment as of 2022 with an employment level of 34, 710, followed by New York and Florida, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and statistics. With this data, paralegals have more chances to be hired in the Golden State as you might anticipate, because of the big sectors of the state like film, hospitality, and technology, to name just a few.

As stated in the State Bar in California, the Paralegal (PL) assists with case planning, development, and management, legal research, interviews clients, gather facts and retrieves information, drafts and analyzes legal documents, and collects, complies, and utilizes technical information, to make recommendations to an attorney. 

Minimum Paralegal Requirements in California

  1. Bachelor’s degree or associate’s degree, must have similar work experience in a sector that develops the abilities necessary for the duties and responsibilities of the position.
  2. An approved paralegal program that is completed.
  3. A minimum requirement experience of 2 years working as a paralegal. 
  4. You must pass the State Bar’s standard tests for paralegals.
  5. You must have excellent computer keyboarding skills, as the job demands a lot of documentation.

An important note to consider is that there are not any federal mandates governing paralegals in particular, and only a handful of states have requirements that must be met in order for paralegals to work. Employers, mostly in private offices, give the standard requirements for paralegals, whichever serves their best interests and some require a more demanding education than others. Fortunately, this gives you a wide range of possibilities for paralegal degree programs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment of paralegals will increase by a faster-than-average 14 percent in the years 2021 to 2031, which is a promising job outlook for future law-related careers.

Paralegal With a Bachelor’s Degree

When employing paralegals, the leading law offices in any state might prioritize bachelor’s degree holders, with that it may offer up additional chances or allow you to make a higher wage, but earning an associate’s degree instead shouldn’t substantially restrict your alternatives. There aren’t many institutions or universities that offer paralegal studies as a four-year degree. 

For those who opt to pursue a bachelor’s degree, this may require them to choose a related area of study for their degree and then finish a separate certificate program. You have a variety of alternatives for pertinent subjects of study if you choose to pursue a career as a paralegal with a bachelor’s degree, you can even learn that through distance learning. Moreover, some paralegals hold bachelor’s degrees in business, sociology, history, or English. It is also important to note that what state you reside in can greatly influence your decision in becoming a paralegal or any law-related career.

Paralegal With an Associate’s Degree

Despite the fact that some law firms want their paralegals to have a bachelor’s degree, many companies will still hire paralegals with an associate’s degree. Since an associate’s degree is less expensive than a four-year college education and enables you to enter the field sooner, it can be an excellent choice for aspirant paralegals.

A lot of community institutions offer associate’s degrees in law or paralegal studies. These programs include coursework that is tailored to the abilities and expertise a paralegal should have, like writing, ethics, and research, to name a few. The majority of companies prefer to see an associate’s degree from a program recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA) their website can provide you with a list of paralegal programs that have been endorsed by the ABA.

Licenses and Certifications for Paralegals in California

Although obtaining a license or passing a certification test is not legally needed for paralegals, several employers favor applicants who meet these requirements. Exams for license or certification are offered by a number of national and state paralegal organizations. You can demonstrate that you have the skills necessary to succeed as a paralegal by passing one of these exams and receiving a license.

In the state of California, a person must be an American citizen, 18 years old or older, have a certificate from an American Bar Association (ABA)-approved school, or have a regionally accredited institution’s credential with at least 24 credit hours of legal coursework, and must be supervised by a lawyer that is prepared to attest to your qualification to serve as a paralegal. Every two years, the state requires paralegals to complete eight hours of continuing education, ethics should take up four hours, and the remaining four hours should be either general law or a particular legal area. A background check may be required of you by your employer before you start working as a paralegal.

Generally, you would become an authorized paralegal if you pass the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and Commission for Certification of California Paralegals (CCCP) examinations, obtaining these could broaden your options for work.

How Much Can I Earn as a Paralegal in California?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, paralegals in California earn an hourly rate of $ 33.79 and earn $ 70,290 annually, on average, the third highest in the country. Most paralegals are full-time employees. In order to achieve deadlines, some people may put in more than 40 hours per week.

The major industries in which paralegals worked paid them on average like in federal government ($ 69,680), finance and insurance ($ 64, 740), and legal services ($ 48, 270). It is also clear that paralegals are compensated more in urban areas than in rural ones; most of the top 10 urban locations with high paralegal compensation annually are in California, such as Santa Clara ($ 90,640), San Francisco ($ 75,640), Los Angeles ($ 69,180) and San Diego ($ 68,790).

Abraham Lincoln University Paralegal Studies Diploma

The paralegal studies diploma program at Abraham Lincoln University (ALU) equips students with the legal knowledge necessary to get an entry-level paralegal or legal assistant position in a legal setting. Students who complete the Paralegal Studies Diploma program successfully will have the knowledge and skills to apply analytical, interpersonal, and critical thinking techniques to problems that arise in the real world; recognize the fundamental and supplementary sources of the law; produce written legal analyses that identify a case’s issues and the law as it applies; application, oppositional arguments, and conclusions; and finally, demonstrate fundamental legal knowledge.

The curriculum plan at ALU comprises courses like Introduction to the Legal Profession, Contracts, Criminal Law, Legal Research, Real Property, and Business Organizations, to mention a few. The program’s core requirements total 24 credit hours, which is sufficient for prospective paralegals. If that sounds good to you, think about applying here.

Duties of a Paralegal

Even though paralegals are not allowed to provide legal advice, they frequently handle legal tasks that attorneys also handle (apart from those who have earned a law degree). While being supervised by a senior lawyer, they can manage their own files and complete responsibilities that would generally be performed by a young lawyer. Some paralegals may be employed as independent contractors by individuals or law firms to work on their cases. Some people engage in work outside of law companies.

The provision of legal services today is greatly aided by paralegals. Duty descriptions may vary depending on the company or organization: case management, development, planning, fact-finding, information retrieval, legal research, communicating and holding conferences with clients, fact verification, and finding and speaking with witnesses.

Skills for Paralegals

The circumstances in which paralegals frequently operate are stressful. This is particularly true if you work for a litigator or trial lawyer because time is of the essence while getting ready for a case. Choosing to work as a paralegal might be a wise career move if you prefer a high-pressure atmosphere. Two of a paralegal’s primary responsibilities are research and writing, therefore if you want to work in this field, you should be able to do these activities. To prepare for a case, you might need to interview clients, look up related cases, or carry out other studies. You then need to present your findings as clearly and effectively as you can. Another key trait for paralegals is attention to detail. Paralegals must meticulously review each document to ensure its accuracy because the legal profession is extremely precise and technically complex. Additionally, since they may need to manage numerous cases’ worth of paperwork at once, paralegals should be well organized.

Is paralegal work a rewarding career?

A paralegal career is a great choice. Under the direction of an attorney, paralegals do carry out substantial legal work. Without them, lawyers, paralegals, and law firms might not be able to handle the widening range of responsibilities that they are required to handle. Even though the prospect of working with some of the largest law firms in the country may thrill you, the job of a paralegal is just as demanding as it is intellectually satisfying.

Legal counsel cannot be given by paralegals. Additionally, they cannot represent clients’ interests in court or guide them toward specific decisions. You can determine whether or not you want to go to law school and become an attorney by gaining experience as a paralegal. Your prior legal experience may be useful there. 

By Rehan

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