How to Become a Paralegal Online
Looking to become a paralegal online? Legal assistants and paralegals are individuals who assist lawyers in the delivery of legal services, although they cannot give legal advice themselves. Through formal education, training and experience, legal assistants and paralegals have knowledge and expertise regarding the legal system and substantive and procedural law which qualify them to do work of a legal nature under the supervision of an attorney.
In recognition of the similarity of the definitions and the need for one clear definition, in July 2001, the NALA membership approved a resolution to adopt the definition of the American Bar Association as well. The ABA definition reads as follows:
A legal assistant or paralegal is a person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, government agency or other entity who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. (Adopted by the ABA in 1997)
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2028.
With a Paralegal Certificate from Blackstone, you’ll be on your way towards earning an attractive salary. According to the 2018-2019 Occupational Outlook Handbook, top paralegal pay was over $82,050 in 2018, while the middle 50 percent of paralegals earned an average of $50,940.
There are several paths a person can take to become a paralegal. Most paralegals and legal assistants have an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, or a bachelor’s degree in another field and a certificate in paralegal studies.
Blackstone’s nationally accredited Legal Assistant/Paralegal Online Certificate Program provides students with the 900 clock hours of coursework needed to sit for the Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) exam and/or the Professional Paralegal (PP) certification, given by NALS, the association for legal professionals.
Graduates with a Paralegal Certificate from Blackstone will also meet the accredited business/legal course criteria needed to sit for the Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal (CLA/CP) exam given by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). Become a paralegal online through BCI’s accredited career training program.
Employment for paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 12 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Formally trained paralegals with strong computer and database management skills should have the best job prospects.
A common path is for candidates to earn an associate’s degree in paralegal studies from a postsecondary institution.
A college degree is another avenue to go however there is a small number of university’s who offer bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies. Instead, applicants will typically have a bachelor’s degree in another subject and earn a certificate in paralegal studies from a paralegal education program approved by the American Bar Association. This is similar to being certified with the NALA or NALS.
Associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in legal or paralegal studies usually offer paralegal training courses in legal research, legal writing, and the legal applications of computers, along with courses in other academic subjects, such as corporate law and international law. Most certificate programs, such as Blackstone’s, provide intensive paralegal training for people who have already received a High School Diploma, GED, or college degree and are looking to begin educational training in law.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although not required, some employers may prefer to hire applicants who have completed a paralegal certification program.
Some national and local paralegal organizations offer voluntary paralegal certifications to students able to pass an exam. Other organizations offer voluntary paralegal certifications for paralegals who meet certain experience and education criteria.
State licensure will differ from state to state and it is important to research the state you will be practicing in. Simply follow this link and select your state: https://blackstone.edu/about-us/state-licensing/
View from the field:
“The Paralegal program has provided me with invaluable practical skills and knowledge that has by far helped me further my career in the legal world. By taking this course online, I was able to focus on my career, my family and study at my own pace to get the most out of my classes. I was hired in July 2014 as a secretary in a small law office however with my education, I have received and the knowledge I have gained through this program I am now a paralegal with the same firm. I received a small increase in my pay but most importantly, I have gained self-confidence and skills that have helped me flourish in this fast paced demanding field.”– J. Owen, Paralegal Graduate
Communication skills. Paralegals must be able to document and present their research and related information to their supervising attorney.
Computer skills. Paralegals need to be familiar with using computers for legal research and litigation support. They also use computer programs for organizing and maintaining important documents.
Interpersonal skills. Paralegals spend most of their time working with clients and other professionals and must be able to develop good relationships. They must make clients feel comfortable sharing personal information related to their cases.
Organizational skills. Paralegals may be responsible for many cases at one time. They must adapt quickly to changing deadlines.
Research skills. Paralegals gather facts of the case and research information on relevant laws and regulations to prepare drafts of legal documents for attorneys and help them prepare for a case.