In becoming a paralegal or legal assistant, you will deal with an array of tasks from conducting research to drafting letters to handling communication with clients. Many people wonder, “How can I become a paralegal?” and, “How long does it take to become a paralegal?” In order to begin working in this profession, there are several things you need to consider. This guide will help you learn everything you need to know about how you can become a paralegal and begin working in this lucrative career field
Steps to Becoming a Paralegal
- Receive a high school diploma or GED. In order to become a paralegal, you must first graduate from high school or pass the General Education Development, or GED, exam. So, if you haven’t done so already, work on either obtaining your high school diploma or taking and passing the GED exam.
- Receive training or earn an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies. In order to become a paralegal, you might be able to do so through on-the-job training, although this is the least common of the routes people take to become a paralegal. So, most people who want to become paralegal’s go through schooling to do so. You can become a paralegal by obtaining an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies or by obtaining a certificate in paralegal studies if you already have obtained a bachelor’s degree in another field. It is important to keep in mind that the coursework required will vary among schools that offer paralegal studies degrees and certificates, but most programs involved learning about legal software and how you should conduct legal research.
- Get work experience. It can greatly benefit you to get relevant experience working in a legal environment. So, find an internship or job in a law office where you can help assist other paralegals or perform administrative tasks. This experience will help you to become more familiar with the legal environment and will look good on your resume once you begin to search for a job as a paralegal.
- Complete paralegal certification. Although it is not required to do so by every employer, completing paralegal certification will give you a better advantage over other job candidates. Many certification programs will help to give you the hands-on skills you will be using as a paralegal. Getting certified as a paralegal is both honored and respected by professionals and employers in the paralegal career sector.
- Get a job as a paralegal. Once you’ve completed the proper education and any relevant work experience, you can begin applying to jobs as a paralegal. Be ready to apply to as many jobs as you can and be prepared to have plenty of interviews before landing a job as the paralegal field is very competitive. Once you snag the job, though, you will be happy you’ve earned that paralegal salary and job title you’ve been preparing for.
The following are the qualities that a paralegal or legal assistant must have as they are considered top priority by employers and law firms:
- Communication Skills: Paralegals working on professional settings should have the ability to present and document their research as well as other related data to the attorney they are assisting. As such, communication skills are a crucial quality. Plus, it is also necessary for the paralegal to naturally form a good understanding with clients and third party vendors as this is a part of their job.
- Interpersonal Skills: This quality goes hand in hand with communication skills. This is again mainly due to the fact that paralegals require spending time working with fellow professionals as well as clients and therefore it is necessary for them to be good at developing good relationships. They should make clients feel comfortable around them so they can feel at ease while sharing important personal information regarding the case.
- Computer Skills: Legal assistants should be familiar with the use of technology and computers as these machines are necessary during legal research and support of litigation. Furthermore, computer programs and software are also used by paralegals during the maintenance and organization of essential paperwork.
- Research Skills: Legal assistants should also be good at conducting research. Legal research mainly requires strong investigative skills. As such, paralegals should have good practice and experience when it comes to conducting investigations and research.
- Organizational Skills: It is common to have several cases that need to be looked after at the same time. Keeping this nature of legal proceedings in mind, legal assistants should have good organizational skills as they can often be held responsible for taking care of several cases at once. They should have the ability to meet deadlines and adapt to changes.