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    How to Become a Paralegal: Everything You Need to Know

    By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: April 9th, 2024
    How to Become a Paralegal: Everything You Need to Know

    If you have an interest in reading, writing, and the law, you may be wondering how to become a paralegal. The paralegal profession can be extremely rewarding for many people; it allows you to work in law without having attended law school. Paralegals spend much of their time researching and synthesizing information. If you pride yourself on an attention to detail, you may have found the job for you.

    If you know that you’re interested in the paralegal profession, the next step is to determine how to become one. The paralegal profession is not too difficult to break into; many positions only require an associate degree. Others just require a bachelor’s. Even if you don’t have extensive legal knowledge from school, you can become a paralegal. Let’s get into a brief description of what the paralegal description entails. After the description, we’ll show you how you can get into this field of work.

    Also see: Highest paying associate degree jobs

    What do paralegals do?

    Paralegals provide support of many kinds for lawyers. They help research and build cases, as well as synthesizing, organizing, and summarizing information. They draft legal documents to be reviewed by lawyers and ensure that citations are accurate and current. This involves a lot of time spent researching and writing. You’ll also be using a lot of computer software to remain organized.

    Most court cases involve an immense amount of reading. No lawyer could have enough time to do all the reading required to try a case. One of the main roles of a paralegal is to be the eyes of a lawyer. They’ll comb through page after page of legal documents, looking for what they know to be in the interest of the lawyer. You’ll collaborate with lawyers to ensure that your focus is on-track, and to help find additional documents.

    In some cases, paralegals will even conduct interviews with clients and witnesses. They’ll be responsible for taking strong notes during these interviews and picking out the points of interest for the lawyers. Depending on your role, you may have a lot or very little interaction with actual clients.

    Also see: Top majors and careers for introverts

    What makes a good paralegal?

    A good paralegal has a strong eye for detail and strong organizational skills. They should be good researchers and enjoy reading and writing immensely. They should be able to sift through dense, technical documents and pull out the important information efficiently. After finding this information, they should be able to lay it out in a clean and sensical way for the lawyer’s use.

    How to become a paralegal

    Education criteria

    Now that you’ve read about a paralegal’s duties, you may be wondering, “That all sounds great – now how do I become a paralegal?” We’ve got the answers for you here. Unlike most other law-related professions, the barriers to entry for paralegals are not exceedingly high. Typical entry-level positions only require an associate degree. 

    If you’ve already earned a bachelor’s or associate degree in a different field, don’t fret. Instead of pursuing an associate degree in paralegal studies, you can complete a paralegal certificate program. These programs are less expensive and time-intensive than completing another associate degree.

    Skills to hone

    To land a job as a paralegal, you should demonstrate that you are a strong communicator and an organized person. Work on showcasing your research and writing skills at all. You’ll also want to show your interest in the law, and your ability to work hard and maintain focus.

    Also see: Top reasons to become a lawyer

    How much money do paralegals make?

    According to the BLS, the 2022 median pay for paralegals was $59,200 per year. But remember, entry-level jobs typically have lower salaries than the median pay. The BLS also notes that the demand for paralegals grew 4%, which is as fast as average. Additionally, the highest paid paralegals typically worked in finance and insurance.

    Will becoming a paralegal help me become a lawyer?

    Becoming a paralegal is a great step to take in preparation for becoming a lawyer. If you are considering the profession of law, working as a paralegal is a great way to try your hand. You’ll become comfortable with legal terminology and the law firm workplace environment. Paralegals also make connections in the legal world and may have an easier time getting hired after law school. And a final perk is that if you decide to attend law school, you’ll start off with advanced knowledge.

    Also see: Top law school scholarships

    Additional resources

    Are you just starting to research a possible career? We have lots of resources that can help! Learn what the fastest growing careers are as well as what the top 20 highest paying careers are. Maybe you are not interested in earning a college degree and want to  start working in a trade sooner than later? Check out our guide to trade and vocations school and learn what you need to get started. Check out our list of top certificates to earn (and find out how to pay for certificate programs too!). Keep reading and learn about top alternatives to four-year universities so you know all your options! Make sure that you also apply for all the scholarships you qualify for no matter which path you take to a fulfilling career! Best of luck to you!

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    Frequently asked questions about becoming a paralegal

    Are remote paralegal positions available?

    Remote paralegal positions do exist! You can find remote paralegal job listings on job search directories. Though most paralegal positions involve at least some in-person work, it’s a job that can be done remotely for the most part. As companies transition into a post-coronavirus world, we expect to see more remote flexibility in remote positions.

    Do I need to go to law school to become a paralegal?

    Nope! Paralegals do not need to attend law school. You only need to complete either a paralegal associate degree, or obtain a certificate after obtaining an associate or master’s degree. In fact, the job is a great option for students who haven’t attended law school but are considering it in the future.

    Do law firms pay for paralegals to go to law school?

    Though it is not typical for law firms to fund paralegals’ law school, it has happened. If you are considering becoming a paralegal to receive a free law school education, you should reconsider. It’s not a good idea to bet on this possibility. 

    However, working as a paralegal can help your law career in other ways. You can save up money as a paralegal to help finance law school. And once you complete law school, you may have a better chance of getting hired by your firm. In fact, any firm will be more willing to hire a candidate who already has years of experience in a law office.

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