Paralegals are sometimes called legal assistants. They work in the public and private sectors to mostly support an attorney. They will prepare for trials, meetings, and hearings, as well as communicate with clients. The career options for a paralegal are endless. You can work as bankruptcy, corporate, criminal law, immigration, personal injury, or litigation paralegal. The remuneration for a paralegal is also lucrative, and the job opportunities are plenty.
You should generally have attended a paralegal school for training to attract the right employers. Since in most states, the paralegals are unregulated, some people assume that all it takes is the right practical skills to get employed. In this case, however, you can be easily exploited by an employer and have little or no choice.
Here are your formal training alternatives as a paralegal:
Associate and Bachelor Degree Program
The associate degree program is a two-year program offered by various universities. It generally comprises approximately seventy semester hours. Half of this time will be focused on paralegal-related studies while the rest will cover basic core curricula. These include social studies, Math, English, and Science, among others.
On the other hand, the bachelor’s degree program takes approximately four years. In this program, you will cover more extensive courses compared to those offered in the associate degree. Around 30-60 credit hours in your degree program will be spent on paralegal-related studies.
These are handled by practicing attorneys and will be limited to paralegal-related courses. Certificate programs are often quicker compared to degree programs and will take 20-60 semester hours and at times, be completed in six months. However, most certificate programs are only open for those with a bachelor’s or associate degree. Others may need some prior work experience in the legal field or law-related credit hours. In most cases, certificate programs are the bare minimum formal training required for paralegals.
Master’s Degree Programs
Though relatively rare among paralegals, a few colleges now offer master’s degree certification for interested parties. These are often the same ones that offer degree programs. Though most employers will not require a master’s degree, it boosts your chances of employment and assures you of attractive pay packages.
Colleges offering the above programs will ordinarily link you with 3-12 month internships at different periods during your training. These are ideal to help you network and get a hands-on experience of your job. In some cases, however, internships are stand-alone paralegal training programs. Colleges will connect you to a law firm or related office where you will get hands-on training.
The colleges will ordinarily have supervisors checking in time and again to ensure that you are getting quality training. This standalone internship will lead to your occupation as a professional paralegal.
Education in the past meant putting everything aside to attend classes. These days, however, the above formal training alternatives can be pursued from your home with minimal impact on your life through online classes, DVDs, and text-based materials. If you cannot spare time to attend live lectures, this should not stop you from pursuing formal paralegal training. All you need to do is choose a certified institution that offers the program you need.