Paralegals can be found working in almost every part of the legal industry. These are also known as assistants and are required to help attorneys and lawyers. Over the years, the demand for paralegals has increased due to many reasons. Many law firms are shifting responsibilities to paralegals that were once performed by lawyers. Not only does this increase the efficiency of the delivery of service, but also lowers costs for businesses. Paralegals are responsible for a wide range of tasks such as managing client appointments and files to preparing documents for trials. Approximately two-thirds of lawyers in the nation utilize the services of paralegals.
The American Bar Association (ABA) promoted non-lawyers and paralegals during the 1960s when the legal industry started expanding. The increased use of non-lawyers (paralegals) was proposed by the ABA to help lawyers manage work. At that time, these professionals had no education in law and typically received on-the-job training. But with the passage of time, paralegal education gained significance and is now being offered as an academic principle at schools.
Training and Certification of Paralegals
There is no defined academic path to becoming a paralegal. However, education in this field is necessary. Although certification is not mandatory, many employers prefer hiring paralegals that are certified. Certification and training programs are designed to provide students with familiarity of legal terminology, administrative skills, and knowledge. There are a few leading organizations that certify paralegals. Listed below are a few of these organizations:
- The Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- Standing Committee on Paralegals, American Bar Association
Paralegal Certification Program
Paralegal Certificate Programs are courses that have been specifically designed for this field. Students can seek certification in paralegal education through such programs. These are non-degree programs and are not equivalent to any bachelor, associate, or master’s degree. It is recommended that you find out what the minimum educational requirements are for paralegal careers in your state.
Paralegal certificate programs will cover a range of subjects. A few of the most common courses are mentioned below:
- Evidence and Investigation
This course covers the different stages of litigation, forms of evidence, interviewing techniques, and investigation methods. Students will learn what practices are used in today’s legal environment.
- Legal Research and Writing
Legal research is an important part of becoming a paralegal. This course is dedicated to research methodologies and tools used for research. Students will acquire in-depth knowledge of legal indexes, citations, and analysis processes.
In this course, ABA rules of ethics are discussed in detail. Students are taught to maintain ethical integrity and work within the ethical boundaries. The course typically entails a number of case studies that students are required to assess and tackle.
Technology has revolutionized the legal industry and its practices. With increasing competition, paralegals must be up-to-date with latest technological trends and applications. This course highlights the electronic modes of conducting legal research, electronic discovery, and creating computer queries.
In this course, students will learn about the general course structure and how courts function. The course will include topics such as legislature, trial and appellate courts, foundations of state court, government structure, federal court structure, and the federal rules of civil procedures.
This course will help students learn about basic motions, files, and briefs. Students will discuss how to create and maintain client file systems, reminder systems, and basic law office etiquette.
Apart from the above mentioned general courses, students are required to pick a specialization. This course can be chosen according to one’s preference, career goal, and interest. Here are a few options to choose from:
- Contract law
- Family law
- Criminal law
- Business law
- Tort law
- Employment law
- Real estate law
- Agricultural law
- Intellectual property law
Objectives of Paralegal Certificate Programs
- Allow students to familiarize themselves with the role of paralegals and their need in the industry
- Acquire familiarity with the legal process and system
- Build necessary skills in research, writing, investigation, communication, and interviewing
- Understand the general principle and ethics designed by the ABA
- Receive in-depth knowledge in the chosen area of specialization
- Acquire competency in managing legal paperwork and documentation
Duration and Credit Hour Requirement
The credit hour requirement is likely to vary from school to school. Usually, the credit hour requirement is between 20 and 40.Each course is equal to a certain number of hours that can be earned by successfully completing the course. Some schools offer 6 month programs while other schools may offer the same in 12 months.
Online paralegal certificate
In today’s economy, getting a college education is not easy. Many students lack the finances or the time to pursue a college course. To enable such students to fulfill their academic goal, schools are now offering online paralegal certificate programs. All students need is a computer and an internet connection to study.
Benefits of Online Learning
There are many benefits you can get by enrolling in an online program instead of a campus-based program.
- More accessible as students can study from home
- Offers flexibility to students
- Self-paced coursework allows students to study according to their pace
- Less expensive since no travel-related or textbook costs are included
- Student-centered teaching approach
- Individualized attention
Career as a Paralegal
A certificate in paralegal studies will lead to employment in all kinds of law firms. Some law firms also provide on-the-job training to paralegals. The main job duties of paralegals have been listed below:
- Assist lawyers and attorneys with cases
- Conduct legal research for cases and trials
- Draft contracts, legal documents, and other formal statements
- Organize and manage electronic file systems
- Schedule appointments with clients
- Investigate the facts of cases
- Assist lawyers during trials, take notes and reviews
According to the US News and World Report, paralegals are ranked among the best jobs in the legal industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the annual median wage of paralegals as $46,990 in 2012 with the employment outlook expected to be around 17% from 2012 to 2022.
Frequently Asked Question(s)
Q:What are the contents of the course on Criminal Investigation in the Certificate in Paralegal Studies?
A:The Certificate in Paralegal Studies has dedicated course on Criminal Investigation. This course is worth 2 credits in total it is designed to provide students with ample understanding of the basic level principles that are employed in the investigation of a crime scene. Students are provided with ample understanding of the way in which evidence should be aptly handled.
Q:Can you tell me about the best college for paralegal in Florida?
A:Florida is home to a number of accredited law schools and paralegal schools. You can choose form many schools. Make sure you check the accreditation status, student review, educational facilities, faculty qualifications, and rankings before enrolling in any school. You can also go through our page and find schools that are currently offering paralegal programs.
Q:How can i get into law degree with a paralegal certificate?
A:After completing a paralegal certificate, you have the option of pursuing bachelors and masters level legal paralegal degree completion programs and get an accredited law degree. Also after acquiring a paralegal certificate and gaining a two years work experience, you can also go for a Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE) which can later on be used to acquire the "Registered Paralegal" (RP) designation.
Q:How much time is required to complete paralegal certificates?
A:The time taken by paralegal certificates can vary among different institutes. However, certificates are of a short duration and may take one to two years to complete. Online paralegal certification can allow you time flexibility, as you can learn at your own pace and complete the program at your preferred time.
Q:Could a paralegal certificate online actually qualify me for an assistant job?
A:Yes, a certificate in the field of paralegal studies can qualify you for a legal assistant role. The growth and demand of legal assistants is high nowadays. These professionals provide supportive services to lawyers and attorneys and are hired by many law firms. Employers do not differentiate between campus-based degrees and online degrees.
Q:Paralegal certificate programs will teach me about what?
A:The paralegal industry is one of the fastest growing fields. If you wish to work as a paralegal, you will need to earn a degree in paralegal education. The program will provide you with in-depth knowledge about the functions of paralegal firms, legal terminology, management functions, administrative procedures, and more. Take a look at our page for more detail.
Q:What will I have to do in order to get Online Paralegal Certificates?
A:Online paralegal certificates are handed out to students who have successfully completed paralegal certification programs online. Upon completing certification programs and passing the test or examination, successful students are awarded paralegal certificates. To get this certificate you will have to complete your paralegal studies and a number of courses/subjects relevant to the field.
Q:What will my career prospects be like with a Paralegal Certification Online?
A:A paralegal certification online will give you entry level job opportunities in the legal assistance or paralegal profession. Paralegals and legal assistants' job responsibilities include supporting lawyers in their daily tasks, doing law research and maintaining client records. Their annual median pay in 2012 was $46,990 while the expected job growth from 2012 to 2022 is 17%.
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