What is a paralegal? What do paralegals do and what kind of education is required?
A paralegal is a paraprofessional who has the required education and experience to assist licensed lawyers in their legal work. They are sometimes known as legal assistants who are responsible for handling tasks such as legal writing, research and other forms of documentation for the lawyers for whom they work. They cannot give legal advice, set fees, or appear as counsel of record in court nor sign pleadings (or other court documents) in a representative capacity.
Most community colleges offer a two-year Associate’s Degree program in paralegal studies. While a degree is not required for employment as a paralegal, it certainly helps when looking for a job. A paralegal can also consider certification. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers certification that can be met by taking a 2-day examination. Once the paralegal successfully completes this examination, they can use the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) designation. Working paralegals are expected to participate in continuing education classes and/or seminars to keep abreast of various changes in law.
So you graduated from college with a degree majoring in paralegal studies…
So you graduated from college with a degree majoring in paralegal studies, or you have become certified after passing the certification exam and you are looking for employment as a paralegal to start your career and achieve the success you diligently studied toward your desired profession.
You ask yourself, now “how do I secure an entry level paralegal job” in today’s society?
First off, being a paralegal is a “profession” and not just a “job”. You will be expected to work without supervision, act professionally, have excellent communication and management skills, and dress professionally at the least. There is a high level of expectation from attorneys of their paralegals. This is why it is difficult to secure your first paralegal position without having any work experience in this field.
With motivation, perseverance and determination, you can find an entry-level paralegal job that would enable you to gain the experience in order to excel into a better or more senior paralegal position.
Here are a few tips to help you achieve your Paralegal Goals:
1. Accept whatever job you can in a law firm which would enable you to gain legal experience. Try to secure any position, i.e. a file clerk, junior legal assistant, receptionist or even an internship. This will also help you to begin making contacts in your respective legal community and increasing your network.
2. Once you have been hired by a law firm…..observe. Read everything your eyes come across whether it’s reviewing files, motions, exhibits, orders, etc. Gain and absorb as much information as possible.
3. Ask questions of everyone. Make friends with the legal assistant in the office. She is the one that knows all the details pertaining to the courts, the judicial assistants, the judges and how they like things. The legal assistant will know what is happening in a case, what copies need to be made, what needs to accompany files, when a check needs to be attached to documents, etc.
4. Always dress professionally and conduct yourself with the professionalism of the highest regard. Please keep in mind that everyone you come in contact with will be the professionals, attorneys, judges that you will be working with for many years to come as a paralegal. Therefore, treat everyone with the utmost respect.
5. Build your network. You don’t have to wait until you graduate from your college or certification program to start building your network. Join a paralegal association to make acquaintances in the legal field. Volunteer on committees to get your name recognized in the community. You could even seek a paralegal internship while attending school, which would allow you to gain on-the-job experience. Read More Here…
Hopefully all of the above information will help you move forward in your pursuit to the wonderful profession of “Paralegal”.
Just think, two years down the road, you may be the “go to” paralegal and all the newbies will be looking toward you for guidance and advice. At that point everything will come full circle and all of your hard work, patience and determination will all be worth it.
And remember, once you’re a seasoned paralegal and are in need of legal deposition services, Accurate Court Reporting can help you that. Remember, we get more done with just one call!