How to Become a Paralegal Professional

A paralegal is a certified legal professional who aides and assists attorneys by providing a variety of legal services such as interviewing clients, preparing documents, filing forms, conducting research and generally managing the day-to-day tasks of a case or a lawyer’s office.

A paralegal diploma program from an accredited university is the best way to get intimately involved in this exciting and growing employment field.

According to payscale.com, the median paralegal salary in major cities such as Washington and New York is roughly $50,000 per year, so the compensation is significant.

As many law firms look to cut costs they are actually firing more lawyers and hiring many more paralegals.  This bodes well for the paralegal professional generally, as jobs are projected to be plentiful in the coming years.

Paralegal Diploma Programs in Detail

A paralegal diploma program is often completed in less than one calendar year, though some programs are paced slower and can be completed in roughly two years.  The prerequisites for becoming a paralegal differ depending on the university or paralegal diploma program you enroll with.

For instance, Emory University, a top-tier university in Atlanta, requires an undergraduate degree from an accredited university, while New York University on requires sixty undergraduate credits for admission (though they do strongly prefer a bachelor’s degree).

New York University’s paralegal diploma program consists of 270 classroom hours of education, which is spread over an intensive two-semester period.  It consists of two distinct courses: Basic Concepts in Paralegal Studies and Advanced Concepts in Paralegal Studies.

According to their curriculum, you will learn “a broad background in basic concepts: legal research; civil practice; torts; matrimonial (family law); criminal law; contracts; ethics; debtor-creditor relations; business organization; trusts and estates; and real property.”

What this means in practical terms is that you get a broad swath of the entire legal industry and you will become well acquainted with many of the probable work topics you’ll be dealing with for the next stage of your career. Maybe a career in the world of Corporate Security could also be interesting for you. Check it out here.

How to Find a Paralegal Diploma Program

The American Bar Association, one of the most respected professional organizations in the United States, keeps a list of updated accredited paralegal programs.

There are literally hundreds of programs that are available and it can be overwhelming to choose between programs in your area (or even online, as courses are available in that format as well).  Some tips to help find a program that works for you are as follows:

Consult the above list for law schools and paralegal programs in your area and request information from each of those schools.  You can even schedule campus visits to meet the faculty and see the classrooms and other facilities.

Contact one of the three national paralegal associations for advice and guidance.  They are the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. (AAPI) and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).

If you personally know any paralegals or practicing lawyers you can ask them for advice on recommended programs.  You should ideally speak with a graduate of that program to get their personal feelings on the program, the value and the job placement services offered.

If you’re serious about paralegal studies and working with the legal profession, you should absolutely look into a paralegal diploma.  It’s a fairly short program and the payoff in salary and job prospects can be enormous.  We hope you use the above suggestions to help find the perfect paralegal diploma program for you.