Become a Litigation Specialist
The term litigation specialist is used to describe both trial lawyers and paralegals who help lawyers prepare for trial. This video will focus on the latter. Litigation paralegals conduct research and gather evidence for use during a trial. They also might utilize databases to organize evidence and draw up settlement agreements. Some travel may be involved in this field.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree usually preferred|
|Licensure/Certification||Not required, but paralegals can earn basic and litigation specialist certification to validate skills|
|Experience||Most employers prefer candidates with 3-5 years of paralegal experience|
|Key Skills||Interpersonal communication, research, writing, and organization skills; able to work under minimal supervision and handle multiple cases simultaneously; knowledgeable regarding litigation processes and procedures and negotiation skills; able to use Clearwell and Concordance, Relativity, IPRO, LiveNote, CaseMap, and Concordance programs as well as litigation support software programs|
|Salary (2015)||$52,390 (average annual salary for paralegals and legal assistants)|
Sources: Monster.com job postings found in October 2012, National Association of Legal Assistants, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Let's look at the steps involved to become a litigation paralegal.
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Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Paralegals typically need at least an associate's degree. However, many employers prefer to hire those with a bachelor's degree. Thus, completing a bachelor's degree program in paralegal studies might better qualify an individual for litigation specialist jobs.
Thee programs generally require four years of study. Classes cover topics like legal research and writing, litigation, substantive law, document drafting, civil procedure, business associations, torts, and legal ethics. Elective classes can include administrative law, law and society, criminal procedure, and constitutional criminal procedure.
Complete an internship. Some schools require paralegal studies students to complete internships. During an internship, a student might complete tasks that paralegals regularly perform, such as organizing file materials and checking court records. This experience might impress employers, allow students to network with other paralegals, and provide an understanding of a litigation specialist's job tasks.
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
As a litigation paralegal, you'll gather and analyze information like discovery documents and legal pleadings. You'll also research laws and regulations, draft legal correspondence, and investigate case facts. Experience often is needed for voluntary certification, which could improve your job opportunities.
Paralegals can obtain certification from associations like the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. (AAPI). To be eligible for certification from NALA, an individual must have graduated from a bachelor's degree program in paralegal studies. AAPI certification requires a bachelor's degree and five years of work experience. Both organizations also require that certification candidates pass an exam.
Additionally, NALA offers paralegals the ability to earn advanced certification in 12 areas, including trial practice, discovery, and criminal litigation. Possessing advanced certification might impress potential employers.
To recap, litigation paralegals are a type of litigation specialist. These professionals typically need a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies. Voluntary certification could boost your prospects in this career.