What do Paralegals Do?
Paralegals provide a vital support service to attorneys. By taking on crucial administrative duties such as fact investigation, letter-writing and legal research, paralegals allow their employers the freedom to focus directly on their cases and clients. Paralegals may accompany attorneys to court, providing evidence, documents and reports on request. They may also do fact-checking or take minutes.
There are specialized paralegal fields that may appeal to those interested in industries besides law. For example, nurse paralegals can combine knowledge and experience in medicine with a career in law. They often work at medical-legal practices where attorneys specialize in personal injury claims or health insurance investigations. Nurse paralegals will usually have a nursing qualification before attending paralegal vocational school. Paralegal programs offered by various trade schools can differ, though they generally offer the same core curriculum.
How to Become a Paralegal?
Most vocational schools offer a certificate, a two-year associate's degree or a four-year bachelor's degree in paralegal studies. Certificates take only a few months but often need to be combined with a relevant bachelor's degree. Though vocational schools don't have to be accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that graduates of accredited programs enjoy improved employment opportunities and faster job growth. Membership and certification by various voluntary societies is also not required, but again, employment opportunities may be enhanced by these additional credentials:
- the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) designation
- the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam
- the Registered Paralegal (RP) designation
Wages generally depend on your education and your employer. Though technical school education cannot guarantee job security and earnings, According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics of May 2011 mean annual wages of paralegal was $49,960.