How to Become a Paralegal in Virginia

Paralegals are needed at many organizations and the greatest demands are in government agencies, law firms, and corporate legal departments. The projected job outlook for a paralegal in Virginia is exceptional over the next few years with a projected job growth rate of 19.3 percent. If you’re interested in this career field, here are the paralegal requirements in Virginia.

What Is the Virginia Paralegal Certification Process?  

The state does not have a statewide standard for Virginia paralegal certification. While individuals may obtain on-the-job training with no prior experience, many Virginia employers prefer to hire candidates that have a certain amount of formal paralegal education. There are five approved paralegal programs that are approved by the American Bar Association. Those programs were developed to allow individuals who have an interest in entry-level legal positions to gain substantial legal knowledge and professional skills. Paralegal certification in Virginia requires individuals to finish a certification program through a credible paralegal organization.

What Is the Virginia Paralegal Association?

The Virginia Alliance of Paralegal Association was created by six associations and represents more than 1,500 students and paralegals throughout the state. The objectives of the Virginia Paralegal Association are to oversee advancements in the paralegal profession and manage a communications network with its paralegal associations and other legal professionals in the community. The association has shared Virginia paralegal requirements that promote the employment of paralegals who have finished an ABA-approved program, earned a bachelor’s or associate’s degree with 24 semester hours of paralegal specific coursework, earned national certification, or have five years of working experience as a paralegal.

What Does a Paralegal Do?

Paralegals perform legal work while being supervised by a licensed attorney per Virginia paralegal requirements and provide assistance by investigating facts, researching legal examples, and preparing legal documents. Research is conducted to develop a defense, start legal action, or to assist with a legal proceeding.

Where Are Paralegals Employed?

Paralegals are employed at many companies, firms, and departments. Here are the types of organizations where paralegals are usually employed.

  • Legal clinics
  • Law firms
  • Title companies
  • Collection agencies
  • Construction companies
  • Government agencies and courts
  • Insurance companies and agencies
  • Accounting firms
  • Trade associations
  • Banks

What Is the Job Outlook for Paralegals in Virginia?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for paralegals is projected to increase by 15 percent nationwide until 2026. The projections correspond with ongoing trends in paralegal employment at internal corporate legal departments and law firms.

What Is the Salary for Paralegals in Virginia?

The average yearly salary for paralegals in Virginia is $53,000. Large law firms that are located in urban centers typically have the highest need for paralegals and provide a higher pay rate. With smaller law offices, paralegals tend to get paid lower but are afforded more flexibility with scheduling. National certification and formal education are the best pathways to land a paralegal job and demand a higher salary.

What Schools Have Paralegal Courses in Virginia?

There are colleges and universities that offer programs for certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor degrees that satisfy paralegal requirements in Virginia. Six schools in Virginia offer ABA-approved paralegal programs:  

  • American National University
  • J Sargeant Reynolds Community College
  • Northern Virginia Community College
  • South University – Richmond
  • South University – Virginia Beach
  • Tidewater Community College

These, of course, are not the only paralegal programs in Virginia – they are merely the ones that are approved by the ABA. While ABA approval is valuable, and in some areas may be necessary for licensure or certification as a paralegal, the ABA does not approve online paralegal programs, and many other worthy programs do not get approval either.

Even programs that are not approved by the ABA should perform the same function. Paralegal program requirements should include helping student:

  • build up skills in research, law, and writing, which are sought after skills in the current job economy
  • develop specific knowledge family law, trial practice & the law of evidence, legal writing
  • cultivate sensitivity to cultural diversity and the political sector
  • increase technological skills
  • move into specializations such as immigration law, criminal law, or contract law

All of these are basic to working as a paralegal in the 21st century, and any strong program from an accredited school, college, or university should be able to do these things.

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