A crucial member of any attorney’s staff, a paralegal works to assist lawyers in a wide variety of legal services
. Once only thought of as secretaries to lawyers, today paralegals are well versed and educated in the legal system, and are called upon to help to conduct legal research for cases, locate and interview witnesses, draft legal documents, assist with investigations and more.
It is first important to note that there are some states that will allow someone to work as a paralegal
without having any formal education. They can simply apply and be hired on the spot and receive on-the-job training at the office they are hired at. While this is a route that some people are able to take advantage of, most states and law firms require that a person must have a degree or certification in their hands prior to working. This is especially true for offices that handle a lot of medical cases. Since there is so much to learn and so many laws to watch out for as a paralegal, training is generally the best idea.
Many paralegals hold at least an Associate’s degree, if not a Bachelor’s degree. This may see like an overwhelming task to accomplish, but with many colleges and universities offering classes online, individuals are able to work, while going to school. Regardless of the school that you choose to attend, keep in mind that it is recommended that the school be approved by the American Bar Association.
Individuals can also obtain certifications to begin their careers as paralegals
. There are three main types of certifications that a paralegal can receive. The most common is a basic certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants. This certification is given after a two-day examination. There is also the paralegal advanced competency exam. While this is only a four-hour exam, there is generally a lot of preparation that is involved.
The most difficult certification comes from the American Alliance of Paralegals. To obtain this certificate a person must have five or more years experience as a working paralegal, meet certain criteria for education, and have a biannual renewal in addition to continuing education. Most paralegals do not go this far as it seems to be a little much for what they are interested in achieving with their career.
How Long to a Career as a Paralegal?
So how long exactly does it take to begin such a career? The truth is that it varies. It could take weeks or years, all depending on the route that you take in obtaining an education, as well as the area that you desire to work in as a paralegal. Those who desire to work on medical cases may want to go the extra route on the education. The more education and experience a paralegal has with medical issues and typical criminal justice issues, the more marketable they will be when it comes time to look for a job.
Some people will begin working in the criminal justice field or something related to a paralegal while they continue with their education. Whether you are looking at medical cases or something completely different, it is important to make sure that you are taking enough time to get fully trained.
If you are interested in criminal justice or medical work in the paralegal field then your first step is to make sure that you are on the right track in terms of education. Check out what your state laws are for paralegals, or meet with a working paralegal to find out what kind of background they have. With a little hard work and patience, you too could be on your way to working in the legal industry.
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