The legal profession is one sector of the economy that continues to grow. This includes not only attorneys but also people who work in law offices. Becoming a paralegal is a good choice for anyone who wants an interesting and well paying legal job without having to devote many years and a great deal of money to attend law school. Let’s look at some of the ways that you can become a law clerk, legal assistant or paralegal.
Types of Paralegal Jobs
The jobs of law clerk, paralegal, legal assistant and legal secretary overlap a great deal. All of these jobs entail assisting attorney with a variety of tasks. The exact nature of the work will depend on the type of law office in which you are employed. These include large law firms, small law offices and government agencies. There are also many specialties within law, such as:
- Criminal Law -Defending people charged with misdemeanors or felonies.
- Real Estate -Deal with house closings and other issues pertaining to property.
- Business Law -Working for small businesses or large corporations.
- Environmental Law -Laws regarding the environment.
- Family Law -Includes divorces, child custody and other family issues.
As a legal assistant or paralegal, you may have a wide variety of responsibilities, such as:
- Conducting legal research.
- Interviewing clients.
- Locate witnesses for court cases.
- Draft legal documents.
- Attend real estate closings, depositions, execution of wills and other such events.
As a paralegal or law clerk, you can decide what type of law you find most interesting. You may also consider where the most jobs are in your area and what type of pay is offered.
Qualifications For Working as a Paralegal
While most paralegals have some sort of formal legal training, there are no mandatory qualifications to get this type of job. An attorney could hire a high school graduate and train him or her in the necessary responsibilities. If you have the right connections, such as a friend or family member who’s an attorney, you may be able to take this route. Most people, however, find that the best way to prepare for this type of career is to get some formal training.
Degree Programs For Legal Assistants
After graduating high school, you have a few choices for pursuing paralegal training. Many colleges and universities offer a Paralegal Studies degree. In addition to taking classes in person, many institutions offer this as an online degree as well. There are both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in this field.
There are also some career training schools that either specialize in paralegal training or offer it as one of their programs of study. Before signing up for any type of study, you should inquire if the school is accredited.
You can increase your chances of getting a paralegal job by getting any type of job in the legal profession while you’re studying. An internship or administrative job may not pay well, but it can give you valuable experience in the field.
In the U.S., paralegals are certified by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALS). This certification is not required by all employers, but it will certainly help you get a job. Paralegal certification is awarded by many schools. You can also study independently and take an examination to become certified.
Getting Paralegal Jobs
Once you’ve completed your training, you can begin searching for a job as a legal assistant, law clerk or paralegal. If you have attended a school, they may offer job boards or other resources to help you find a job. You can also check the usual places for job listings, such as newspapers and online job sites.
If you want to get a job as soon as possible, you should be proactive about it. While it’s good to apply for posted jobs, you should also do as much networking as possible. Let people know you’re seeking a job as a paralegal. Since attorneys regularly hire for these positions, you should get the word out that this is what you’re seeking. You should also apply to law firms in your area, or to an area where you want to work.
Keep in mind that paralegal jobs are often quite competitive, so it may take a little time to land your first job. At the same time, the legal profession is constantly hiring paralegals, so if you have made the right preparations you should eventually be able to find a position.