Help Wanted in the Legal Field: Paralegals Needed
Paralegals are in demand! Law firms, corporations, and even government agencies are hiring paralegals at unprecedented rates. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the paralegal field is expected to grow by 22% through 2016, which means that those who have paralegal degrees will have excellent job opportunities. Earning a certificate, associate degree, or even a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies at an accredited career college will give you the training you need to compete for these positions.
A paralegal performs many of the functions that lawyers used to. Short of representing clients in court and giving legal advice, a paralegal does a great deal of work on a case. They file paperwork for court proceedings and draft correspondence. They can write legal documents like wills and contracts for the lawyer to use with her clients.
Paralegals are expected to be expert researchers. Much of what they do involves researching laws and previous court cases that are related to their current cases. After digging through information about judges’ decisions, they make reports to the lawyers they work for so the lawyer may decide the next appropriate course of action.
Now that paralegals handle most of the research and office tasks for lawyers, it means that lawyers can take on more clients. Companies and law firms can save money by staffing fewer lawyers and more paralegals to do the behind-the-scenes work.
While paralegals might come cheaper than lawyers, their salaries are nothing to sneeze at. In 2008, a paralegal could expect to earn an average annual salary of $48,790. They also generally receive excellent benefits packages that include health insurance and paid vacation time.
How to Become a Paralegal
Most people become paralegals by going to school for an associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. In some cases, students may obtain certificates or diplomas in paralegal studies, especially if they already hold a college degree.
Paralegal courses will teach you how to draft important legal documents like prenuptial agreements, divorce paperwork, property deeds, and motions to be filed in court. A paralegal program will also teach you how to research relevant laws and important cases in both law libraries and using industry-standard software like Westlaw. Through electives, you may be able to specialize in certain types of law, such as property law, elder law, contract law, or immigration law. Other paralegal programs offer an across-the-spectrum survey of legal assisting to make you versatile in the job market.
Many career colleges offer paralegal degree programs either on-campus or online. While it is important to make sure that any college you attend is accredited, the ABA (American Bar Association) has also developed a set of criteria for evaluating paralegal programs. You may want to check for ABA approval before registering for any paralegal program.
There are many career colleges that offer paralegal courses to choose from. To see these and others, visit the Paralegal Colleges directory today.