How To Become a Paralegal

A strong sense of justice can give you the desire to work in legal matters, but fear and other circumstances may cause you to shirk away from becoming a lawyer. You can do the next best thing and become a paralegal, assisting an attorney with the preparatory work needed for hearings, such as research, and the writing and filing of reports. Here's how you can get started:

While formal education isn't a requirement for working as a paralegal, it certainly would help. Over 600 schools and colleges are offering paralegal training programs, and it would be a good idea to avail yourself of them. Look up which schools in your area offer such programs, then contact them about schedules and tuition. Do some research on the school's accreditations and job placement before making your decision on which one you'd like to enroll in. You can also opt to take classes online, but as with any online course, you'll have to be to discerning about the school's credibility. Be wary of scammers trying to cheat you out of your money for a worthless made-up degree. You can also consult the American Bar Association's (ABA) website at abanet for a list of approved educational programs, or check out the American Association for Paralegal Education's (AAfPE) site at aafpe. It's best to attend one of the approved programs, as some lawyers won't even consider hiring individuals from non-approved programs.

You can opt to complete a paralegal certificate program as a high school graduate, or to take a two- to four-year college course. You can do some research on the internet for the pros and cons of either path by checking various forums for testimonials. While the high school program definitely takes less time than the college course, more and more attorneys are looking to hire those with college degrees, so you'll have to weigh the cost and benefits of either option very well before making your decision.

Make it a point to visit the schools you're considering, if you choose not to take online classes. Take the time to get a feel for the campus and the people, and see if you'd be comfortable studying there. If you can, talk to the professors who'll be teaching your classes. A short interview will give you an idea of the depth of their expertise and how your student-teacher relationship will be.

After graduation, visit the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) website at nala, and inquire about certification. NALA certification will speed up the progress of your new career.

Once you've gotten your degrees and certifications, get your resume moving. Contact local attorneys and offer your services. Do a Google search and look through the classifieds for open paralegal positions within your area. Make sure that your resume is presentable and professionally done, and accompanied by a cover letter expressing your interest in the position. Be punctual, humble, honest and respectful at interviews, but keep your confidence, and you won't have any trouble getting a job as a paralegal.


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