Paralegal Education

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ABA Approved Paralegal Programs Online

Becoming a paralegal can be a very rewarding career choice. If you are interested in pursuing a career path in this field, it is important to first understand what you will be doing and what all is involved. It is also important to find a good program that is American Bar Association (ABA) approved. There are paralegal programs available through local community colleges as well as major universities. If you are an adult who wants to go back to school and also maintain a current job, you may want to consider one of the ABA approved paralegal programs online. This article is designed to help you begin that process and to understand what all is involved in being a paralegal.

What is a paralegal?

A paralegal is one that works along-side a lawyer in performing various legal tasks. In short, a paralegal is a person trained in subsidiary legal matters but is not fully qualified as a lawyer. They are professionals that are trained to assist lawyers in a number of legal capacities. Paralegals are far more than just a clerical worker as they have had more legal training. A paralegal often conducts research of a factual and legal nature. They can draft legal documents, manage cases and work personally with clients on behalf of the law firm. They cannot, however, unless permitted by law, provide any legal services directly to the public.

A paralegal may work independently at times, but may also work in a team of lawyers, legal secretaries along with other paralegal members. It is important that one who is a paralegal write clear, grammatically-correct sentences. Their other aptitudes should include computer capabilities and organizational skills.

Paralegals are an asset to a lawyer in that they can help deliver legal services to clientele more efficiently and economically. Since they don’t have as much training or expertise as a lawyer, their pay is considerably less. So their services don’t cost a client nearly as much.

It is important for one who wants to become a paralegal to attend an American Bar Association (ABA) approved program for paralegals.

Attributes that are important for one who is considering becoming a paralegal are listed below:

-        Self-Confident & Assertive

-        Self-Starter

-        Organizational Skills

-        Oral Communication Skills

-        Analytical Skills

-        Interpersonal Skills

-        Attention to Details

-        Intellectual Curiosity

-        Written Communication Skills

-        Ability to Multitask

-    Ability to Work Under Pressure

Program Format And ABA Approval Requirements

Online paralegal programs that are approved by the ABA are not totally online. In order to meet the American Bar Association standards, it is required that schools complete at least ten semester hours of legal specialty courses in a traditional classroom setting. Therefore paralegal programs must be either a hybrid program or a fully traditional program.

To become a paralegal, one must achieve at least an associate degree. For those who already have a bachelor's degree, postgraduate certificate programs are available. This cuts the time down for completing the program since the general education component has already been met. Those who achieve an associate degree as a paralegal can apply their credits towards a bachelor's program if they desire.

What Paralegals Do

In general, a paralegal will conduct interviews with clients in order to gather background information. They will often be used to communicate and inform clients of case maters or update them as to the status. They will prepare clients for their court hearing, assemble and analyze relevant records for a case, and may even review legal periodicals to find relevant information to a specialty area of law. They may even do research of case law which may include procedural matters. Since legislation is constantly changing, they may keep track of and report on any pending legislation.

Some areas that paralegals help lawyers include, but are not limited to:

-        Bankruptcies

-        Corporate and business matters

-        Family law

-        Foreclosures

-        Immigration issues

-        Intellectual property matters such as copyrights

-        Litigation

-        Matters of collections

-        Probate and estate planning

-        Real estate matters

-    Securities law matters

Online Paralegal Program Class Format

Unlike many online courses, the paralegal program doesn’t normally allow for as much flexibility. Most of these programs have a requirement that students turn in assignments on a regular basis. Often times the student is required to attend via webcams the lectures and discussions. Not every program is that rigid, but it is important when choosing a college to find what best fits your particular needs.

Online Paralegal Certificate Programs Approved By The ABA

There are postgraduate paralegal certificate programs that are approved by the ABA. These programs are designed for one who currently has a bachelor’s degree. The length of study generally takes at least 18 months, but that time frame can vary some depending on the institution as well as on the student’s accelerated pace. In some cases an associate degree qualifies one for the certificate program.

Paralegal Associate Degree Online

The associate program is primarily designed for a student who would like to do legal work under the direction of a lawyer. This is a good career path for a high school graduate who is wishing to get into the legal profession, without getting the added education that is required to become a lawyer. These associates degrees are designed to be completed in two years, but it is possible for a student to pursue a more accelerated program. Many of the classes cover criminal justice, litigation, contracts, legal research, and probation.

How much money does a paralegal make?

There are basically four levels of paralegals in addition to a paralegal manager or supervisor. A Paralegal I is the lowest category for paralegals. This individual has between 0 and 2 years of experience and could have the following job titles: Paralegal I, Law Clerk I, Legal Aid I, Legal Assistant I. The median national average for a Paralegal I is $47,000 for a base salary.

A Paralegal II has between 2 and 5 years' experience and could have the following job titles: Paralegal II, Law Clerk II, Legal Aid II, Legal Assistant II and has a median national average annual income of $53,800.

A Paralegal III generally has 5 to 8 years' experience and may have alternate job titles of Paralegal III, Legal Assistant III, Law Clerk III, or Legal Aid III. This individual may lead and direct the work of others. His or her work requires a wide degree of creativity. This position has a median income of $62,250.

For one that reaches the Paralegal IV May require a bachelor's degree and at least 8 years of experience in the field or in a related area. This person may lead and direct the work of others and is expected to have a degree of creativity and latitude. The median national income for this position is approximately $72,000.

A paralegal manager can make as much as $85,000 annually. For additional salary information, go to Paralegal Salaries.

As you can see, a career as a paralegal can be very rewarding. Whether you decide to go into a classroom setting or want to go through an online paralegal program approved by the ABA, you can begin a program soon. Remember, if you already have a bachelor's degree, you could potentially be employed as a paralegal within the next 18 months.