How to Become a Paralegal

Projected Job Growth: 18%
Projected Employment Change: 46,900

Paralegals assist layers in legal matters related to cases, hearings, and trials. Essentially, they help lawyers prepare for trials. This may require them to conduct investigations to verify facts of a case, research laws and regulations, write reports, draft correspondence, and more. They also assist lawyers during trials, obtaining formal statements like affidavits that can be used as evidence in court and recording case information in databases for future reference. As indicated in the above projections, provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), even though employment in this occupation is expected to increase just about as fast as average for all occupations, it is still among the faster-growing careers in the legal field.

Why Legal Assisting?

Those who are interested in working in the legal field, but not interested in going to law school, may find a career in legal assisting intriguing. Paralegals can be employed full time at law firms, corporations, and public agencies, or find temporary employment during particularly busy times of the year. They may have the opportunity to travel, visiting different cities to gather information and complete other tasks as needed. There is a growing need to make legal services more efficient, which will increase the demand for paralegals, according to the BLS. Also, more and more law firms are hiring paralegals because they are a cheaper alternative to lawyers and can complete various tasks once done by them.

Getting Into Legal Assisting

There are many educational paths that lead to a career as a paralegal. Many community colleges offer paralegal programs that lead to an associate degree, while some schools have paralegal studies programs that result in a bachelor’s or master’s degree. A certificate in paralegal studies can be earned by those who already have completed on campus or online bachelor’s degree programs. Work experience in a law firm or office is important, and while some positions may only require a certificate in paralegal studies, others may want a candidate who holds a degree. There are a variety of online degree programs in paralegal studies that one can complete while gaining experience in relevant areas like criminal justice or tax preparation. One should only consider accredited online degree programs in paralegal studies, as well as those that are approved by the American Bar Association.