Paralegals work with attorneys in law offices, corporations and governmental agencies. They are responsible for providing assistance in the investigation, organization and analysis of information used during legal proceedings or for legal matters. At the certificate level, programs in the legal field offer legal assistant and paralegal education. These programs may last as little as seven months or up to two years. In addition, many programs are offered through a school's department of continuing education or department of professional studies, and some are available online. For consideration on being accepting into these programs, it may be required to send a letter or recommendation as well as passing a writing test.
Certification in Legal Services
Programs in the legal field cover writing for the legal profession, technology used in legal work and various aspects of the law. Courses include:
- Legal research
- Legal writing
- Civil litigation
- Real estate law
- Corporate law
- Criminal law
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Paralegals are increasingly taking on a wider range of responsibilities, especially as law firms and corporations try to boost efficiency and reduce costs; many paralegals are taking on tasks formerly performed by lawyers because they can perform the tasks at a cheaper rate. Employment for paralegals and legal assistants was projected to grow at a rate of 8% during the 2014-2024 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As of May 2015, the median annual salary for paralegals and legal assistants was reported at $48,810 by the BLS.
Certification and Continuing Education
Several organizations offer voluntary professional certification. The National Association of Legal Secretaries (www.nals.org ) offers three levels of certification to those who meet the eligibility requirements and pass the exam. Paralegals and legal assistants might consider completing a degree program. Because job competition is expected to continue in this field, according to the BLS, those with a degree or extensive experience might have an advantage. The National Association of Legal Assistants (www.nala.org) provides certification for those who have completed a degree program.
Obtaining a certificate in paralegal assistance will take anywhere between seven months and two years. To prepare students for the duties of being a legal assistant, these programs teach a range of skills from legal research to various types of laws.