Those interested in assisting attorneys in fact checking, writing, research and document preparation may want to look into the paralegal professional career. To find a job in this legal field, an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in paralegal studies is recommended.
A.A.S. Programs in Paralegal Studies
Students enrolled in an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) Degree Program in Paralegal Studies are taught about the job requirements to be satisfied by paralegals who have been trained to provide legal assistance in the form of support services to clients and attorneys, and what it takes to work in law office settings as paralegals, who are legal assistants trained to provide support services to attorneys and clients. Coursework in paralegal studies associate’s degree programs is devised to make students adept at assisting lawyers with tasks such as filing motions, interviewing witnesses, conducting background research and writing briefs. Paralegals are usually employed in various settings such as government agencies, insurance companies, court systems and writing briefs. Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma.
Coursework is usually a combination of classroom lectures and internships wherein students gain practical training in real-life cases. Coursework may include topic areas such as:
•Criminal law system
•Civil litigation procedures
•Computer-assisted legal research
Job and Wage Outlook
A job growth of 28% has been predicted for paralegals and legal assistants during the period from 2008 to 2018 (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)). In May 2010, these professionals earned an average annual wage of $46,680.
Certification Information and Continuing Education
Paralegals and legal assistants can seek voluntary certification to enhance job opportunities and showcase their skills and knowledge in the field to potential employers. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) and Certified Paralegal (CP) credentials that can be earned by qualified applicants through the passage of a 2-day certification examination.
There are other organizations also that offer Certifications such as the American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) credential offered by the Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. This credential is valid for two years and is required to be maintained via continuing education.
Schools also offer Bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in paralegal and legal studies. The Registered Paralegal (RP) certification exam offered by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) can be taken by paralegals holding bachelor’s degrees augmented with two years of work experience in the field. This certification, valid for two years, can be renewed through 12 hours of continuing education. The Professional Paralegal (PP) certification offered by the National Association of Legal Secretaries can also be earned by paralegals.