What You Need to Know to Be a Paralegal

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As of May 2010 most states do not have educational requirements to be a paralegal. Paralegals work under attorney’s and should have some sort of college experience. It also recommended that paralegals have 3-5 years work experience in the field. Below are some general skills and education a paralegal should have.

PRIMARY SKILLS  

Paralegals need to have outstanding communication and organizational skills and  be able to efficiently juggle numerous ever-changing tasks in a fast-paced  environment. Excellent writing and phone skills are key, as are the ability to  process and maintain detailed paper  records and the focus to of schedule meetings, depositions, hearing and trials  that involve a number of different parties.

DUTIES

  • Paralegals, also called legal assistants, are individuals who, through  training or education, perform legal work that an attorney might do himself.  They draft legal pleadings, perform legal research and assist lawyers in all  manner of courthouse transactions from hearings to arbitration to  mediation.

EDUCATION

While no formal education is required, it can help people get a foot in the  door. Various paralegal programs are offered across the country to include two-  and four-year degree programs and certification training.

CERTIFICATION

Some firms (mainly very large ones) require a B.S. or B.A. degree along with  paralegal certification in order to practice as a legal assistant with their  attorneys. Paralegal certification programs vary widely in cost, length and  stature. The ABA investigates interested paralegal programs for inclusion on its  approved list.

SALARY

Salaries for paralegals vary depending on location, type of practice and the  education and experience of the legal assistant, but according to the Bureau of  Labor Statistics, paralegal salaries in 2009 ranged from $29,000 to $73,000.   The average annual wage across the country was $46,000.

ASSOCATIONS

Many paralegals join local and national associations to network, lobby and keep  abreast of ongoing changes in the field of practice. The two largest national  paralegal organizations are NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants) and  NFPA (National Federation of Paralegal Associations). Most state bar  organizations also have a paralegal division.

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