What Does it Take to Become a Paralegal?

<<What Do Paralegal Jobs Encompass?

Let us begin with what exactly formulates the duties and responsibilities of a paralegal. Here are some of the most common duties of a paralegal:
  • Assisting attorneys in preparation of closings, hearings, trials, and corporate meetings.
  • Conducting in-depth legal research and identifying appropriate laws.
  • Helping attorneys with the investigation of particular case facts.
  • Conducting client as well as witness interviews.
  • Drafting documents, filing petitions, and attending various correspondences.
  • Attending depositions, execution of wills, and court hearings and trials.
The most important difference between a paralegal and an attorney is that paralegals are not authorized to give legal advice to clients or to represent clients in court. However, the work profile of a paralegal is similar to a new associate’s, and thus they are a valuable asset to any firm.

What Personality Traits Would Make You a Successful Paralegal?

To accomplish the above duties, you need to possess certain personality traits. If you have the following qualities, you have a great shot at the perfect paralegal career:

Passion for Research: Research is the base of a paralegal’s career profile. You need to be passionate about research. This may include long hours of research on the Internet or scouring through thousands of books and/or newspapers in the library. As a paralegal, you would need to consistently keep yourself updated with the new and amended laws that come into effect almost every day. Your researching skills will keep you up to date on anything new in the legal industry.

Excellent Communications Skills: If you are the shy type, search for another career; paralegals are required to be outgoing and articulate. They need to interact with clients and help direct clients’ questions to the attorney. Thus, it is important to possess strong people and interpersonal skills.

Organizing Abilities: Even if you think you are organized, reassess your abilities. Besides being organized, you need to follow logic and make sure you use user-friendly tools. As a paralegal, you will need to be logically organized in order to systematically file every report as well as client information.

Patience: A short-tempered, impatient attitude would not take you anywhere in your paralegal career. You will be required to work under tremendous pressure, and your supervising attorney will expect you to handle work with minimal supervision. Thus, to be able to stand out, you need to keep steady.

Tech-Savvy: Possessing technical skills and Internet knowledge is as important as knowing about respective laws in the legal industry. As more and more paperwork becomes electronic, you should have both interest as well as expertise in handling new technical tools.

The Last Level: An ABA-Approved School

If you have garnered the above-mentioned skills, you just need one last tool to excel in your paralegal career—a paralegal certification from an ABA-approved institution. In the current job market scenario, more and more legal employers are giving priority to those who possess a bachelor’s degree along with a paralegal certificate from ABA-approved programs.

The American Bar Association currently lists about 260 ABA-approved paralegal education programs nationwide. The ABA has followed strict rules for approving these programs, and it periodically reassesses these schools to ensure they continue to meet the ABA standards. While searching among these programs, give preference to those that offer internships. Internships will be extremely helpful in securing you a job after the end of your program.

According to the US Department of Labor, the employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 22 percent between 2006 and 2016, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Also, the median salary of paralegals and legal assistants in May 2006 was $43,040, of which the top 10 percent earned more than $67,540. Thus, the job prospects for paralegals are good in the coming 10 years.

After analyzing your skills and getting the certificate from the right school, you are all set to embark upon an exciting paralegal journey in the legal industry. Remember, you can reach anywhere you want to. So make the most of the available opportunities right away!

Read More About Becoming a Paralegal

Please see the following articles for more information about paralegals and paralegal jobs:

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