How to Become a Paralegal
If you’re considering a career as a paralegal, then you might be wondering about the best way to get started. For example, what kind of degree do you need and how can you ensure that you have the right skills? To take the guesswork out of it, we’ve outlined the exact steps you need to follow if you want to become a paralegal.
Here’s what you need to do to land a paralegal job.
1. Earn an associate or bachelor’s degree.
Before you can become a paralegal, you need to earn an undergraduate degree. This can be either a two-year associate’s degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree. Although there’s no specific requirement in terms of major, many students choose to major in either paralegal studies or a similar subject such as psychology, criminology or business administration.
Pro Tip: If you’re interested in multiple subjects and can’t decide on a major, consider taking on a double major or minor. This will help you develop a broad range of skills while learning as much as possible about several different subjects.
2. Intern with a law firm, government agency or corporation.
Once you’ve started working toward your degree , it’s time to look for an internship that will give you some hands-on training. This includes internships with a law firm, a government agency or within the legal department of a corporation. These types of internships will give you exposure to how legal issues affect various types of organizations and teach you about the various day-to-day tasks you’ll be expected to take on as part of a paralegal role.
3. Take the certification exam.
With your degree and internship out of the way, it’ time to focus on the certification exam. Although this is not a national requirement, many large law firms and corporations do insist that their paralegals get certified. This is for two reasons: 1) Passing the test ensures that potential employees receive adequate training and 2) It sets a standard for the type of candidate the company is looking for.
Pro Tip: There are several exams you can take to get certified. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers both Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) and Certified Paralegal (CP) certifications that are nationally recognized and accepted by all employers.
Being a paralegal is a great way to get exposure to the legal field and learn about the ins and outs of various legal proceedings. The best way to find out if being a paralegal is right for you, is by doing an internship and getting a first-hand feel for what it’s all about.