Those interested in paralegal studies or legal assisting may want to look into an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) program for legal degrees. Normally, these are 2-year programs. This does not permit students to be practicing lawyers; a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree is required.
A.A.S. Programs for Legal Degrees
Lawyers typically rely on legal assistants and paralegals for help in preparing for corporate meetings, hearings, real estate closings and trials. Graduates of an AAS degree in paralegal studies or legal assisting can seek entry-level work as legal assistants and paralegals in several areas of law, such as business and corporate law, criminal law and bankruptcy law, property damage, personal injury, real estate, divorce and family law and civil litigation. Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma.
Core required general education classes are augmented by basic concepts in law, such as the use of legal office technologies, procedures, legal research methods, legal principles and ethics and terminology. Coursework typically includes topic areas such as:
•Ethics in law
•Criminal law procedures
•Legal research and writing
Job and Wage Outlook
In 2010, legal assistants and paralegals earned an average annual wage of $46,680 (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)). A job growth rate of 28% is expected in this field during the period from 2008 to 2018; legal assistants and paralegals with specialization in areas such as real estate, medical malpractice and bankruptcy are likely to enjoy the best job opportunities.
Certification and Continuing Education Choices
Students who wish to gain knowledge and boost their job opportunities can seek enrollment to a bachelor’s degree program in paralegal studies. They can also pursue various professional certifications and credentials in this field, including the National Association of Legal Assistants’ Certified Paralegal (CP) and Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) credentials, in addition to American Alliance of Paralegals Inc’s American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) credential. To earn these voluntary credentials, interested candidates need both experience and education and the passage of a test.