Are you interested in doing legal work but don’t have the appetite or the heart for law school? Then, you may find the work of a paralegal to your liking.
A paralegal, or legal assistant as they are sometimes called, handle almost every aspect of an attorney’s work. While the attorney assumes the ultimate responsibility for the legal services that they provide their clients, he may, however, delegate most of his tasks to a paralegal, from drafting pleadings, to writing wills and contracts, and doing legal research.
The paralegal profession is one of the fastest growing professions in the US today. In fact, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for paralegals is projected to increase by 33% in ten years.
But while demand is high, there is no proper standardization of employment requirements in terms of paralegal studies and educational attainment. Indeed, majority of employers agree that some education is necessary. But the extent of such paralegal studies is often left to the discretion of the employer, since there are no proper standards or requirements. What’s more, no state currently has any laws that govern the licensing of paralegals and legal assistants.
This gives the prospective paralegal student all the more reason to get a degree or a certificate for paralegal studies. Doing so would help increase the chances of getting hired by legal offices, law firms, and government agencies that require paralegal work.
Types of Paralegal Studies/Programs
The courses usually included in paralegal studies aim to introduce students to law and legal research methods. General education courses are also often included, with courses in critical thinking, communications, and legal writing. In addition, there are specialized paralegal studies that hone in on a specific legal area, such as contract law or real estate under the broader category of Civil Law.
When pursuing a paralegal career, you have the following options:
* Associate’s Degree Paralegal Studies – These are the most common paralegal studies/programs available. In fact, most community colleges and universities offer courses, at the end of which the student may earn an associate degree in paralegal studies. The program may last from two years to four years, depending on the institution and the program requirements.
* Certificate Paralegal Studies – As popular as associate’s degree programs, certificate programs are often designed for students who already hold an associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies or some other field of study.
* Other Paralegal Studies – While associate and certificate programs seem to be the norm in paralegal studies, there are also other programs available. A small number of schools also offer a bachelor’s degree, with 130 to 160 semester units. Master’s degree is also offered as an advance paralegal education program in universities that are offering undergraduate paralegal studies.