A career as a paralegal can be engaging and challenging. Typically, a paralegal works for a lawyer, a legal division in a corporation, or directly for a law firm and can have a variety of responsibilities. Many times, a paralegal is the first point of contact, and is responsible for initial client interviews, and ensuring that forms and legal documents are completed correctly. Often the paralegal is assigned to do research, compiling information related to a court case or other legal activity, or researching court records to get specific information for an attorney or group of attorneys. Paralegals are, in many ways, the backbone of a law office or of a legal division in an organization. They do a large amount of the footwork, providing attorneys what they need and freeing them up to practice law.
While occasionally someone in an administrative assistant role will eventually gain enough knowledge to work as a paralegal, such positions generally require a certification or a degree. A true paralegal position usually requires either a state certification or a bachelor’s degree In legal studies, depending on the laws in your particular state. Many look to online degrees because of their flexibility. If you are careful to choose an accredited online school, then an online paralegal certificate degree will give you the same quality education as a traditional school. When choosing a school, take the time to do your research in order to find the program that works best for you.
During the course of your degree program, you will study many different topics. Written and oral presentation skills are extremely important in a paralegal position, so expect to take English, writing and communications classes. In addition to other core classes such as history and algebra, expect to take many classes that directly relate to law. Classes will familiarize you with topics such as bankruptcy law, civil litigation, and criminal law.
Even if your state does not require it, an undergraduate degree is recommended if you would like to pursue a career as a paralegal. A bachelor’s degree would be most helpful. There are master’s degrees available, but most law offices do not require them.
If you are considering a degree that would lead to a career as a paralegal, you are choosing to enter a field that will likely always have plenty of opportunity. Paralegals are in demand everywhere, in any industry. Most corporations have their own legal departments and have corporate attorneys on their payroll. Local city governments or counties also often have their own legal divisions. No matter what industry you look at, paralegals are needed to support lawyers in that industry. You’ll be getting a degree in a field that will always be in demand.