Pennsylvania Schools Rush Paralegals to the Courtroom
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Behind every successful lawyer there's a support team of partners, law secretaries, researchers, and paralegals. Once mostly background players, paralegals have more recently assumed greater duties in the law office and frequently are key representatives in the courtroom. In Pennsylvania, paralegals are mainstays of the legal profession, handling research and document work for lawsuits, real estate proceedings, wills and trusts, personal injury, bankruptcy, and divorce cases.
Projections for rapid job growth for paralegals make this an outstanding time to pursue training through an accelerated associate's degree or paralegal certification program. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as paralegals continue to assume more duties traditionally carried out by full lawyers, the profession will experience job growth exceeding the average rate for all other occupations through the end of 2014. Formally trained paralegals, the report says, will have the best opportunities.
Formal Paralegal Training in Pennsylvania
There are several paralegal degree and certification paths that Pennsylvania schools have to offer. After earning a traditional or online high school diploma, one can attend one of the several colleges and applied vocational schools that provide a two-year associate's degrees in paralegal studies or diplomas in criminal justice with paralegal specializations.
Or you can choose among associate's degree programs with a focus in legal assisting, or legal administration. If you already hold a college degree in another field, you may prefer seeking a Pennsylvania school that offers a certification in paralegal studies.
It's a good idea to enquire with several schools to evaluate the specific paralegal focus of each institution. Law firms prefer graduates from programs that offer at least some form of internship or office-based experience as a part of your overall paralegal studies.
Paralegals on the Job
BLS findings show that almost three-quarters of all employed paralegal grads work for law firms or in government agencies such as the Social Security Administration and the Department of Justice. There are also paralegal jobs in the Pennsylvania public sector with community service law organizations or in state and local government.
Depending on your paralegal training, you can expect to assume legal responsibilities immediately, with a greater complexity of work as you accrue experience. You'll help lawyers prepare for cases, gather information for presentations and depositions, research legal decisions and pertinent judicial publications. You'll also help prepare and file vital legal documents, working directly with other attorneys and clients.
The real preparation work, however, begins as soon as you choose a Pennsylvania paralegal training program that prepares you for this exciting and rewarding field.