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Paralegal Certification: What It Is & How to Get It

November 24, 2008

While it's possible to obtain a job as a paralegal and learn the intricacies of the position through on-site training, it's becoming more common for law firms and large corporations to require their legal assistants to have formal education. There are nearly 1,000 formal schools across the country that offer Associate's and Bachelor's programs for aspiring paralegals, but for those who want to supplement their traditional degree, there are several certifications available that can help boost their resumes and make them more attractive in the eyes of prospective employers.

Types of Certification

You can apply for certification regardless of your place of employment, whether it's a large law firm, a small private practice, a corporation with an internal legal department, or a sole proprietorship. Depending on the program you use to obtain certification, you'll be held to different requirements.

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Choosing an Accredited Paralegal School

November 23, 2008

Although a paralegal degree is not a hard-and-fast requirement for launching a career as a legal assistant in most states, it can definitely provide an advantage over other candidates vying for the same position. Those who are serious about pursuing a career in the paralegal field or plan to eventually attend law school should consider obtaining an Associates or Bachelors degree from an accredited paralegal university.

While there are hundreds of paralegal schools across the country, only 260 of them are accredited, which means they have been verified as high-quality educational institutions by the national American Bar Association (ABA) or by a local bar association. There are also several independent accrediting agencies that evaluate online paralegal training programs. ABA accreditation is by far the most respected form of endorsement in the legal field. To receive ABA accreditation, a school must request the designation and pay an application fee to be evaluated.

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Choosing a Paralegal School

November 22, 2008

While formal education is not a requirement to work as a paralegal in the United States, many law firms are setting more rigid qualifications that require their legal assistants to possess at least some level of schooling or training. If you're competing against other applicants for a position, you're much more likely to receive an offer if your resume includes at least an Associate's Degree in paralegal studies. Plus, with a higher level of education, you'll command more market value and a higher salary.

With roughly 600 educational facilities offering paralegal training programs across the nation, as well as several reputable online courses, those seeking a career as a legal assistant should have no trouble finding a school that meets their needs.

Levels of Paralegal Education

Although program details will vary from school to school, there are four basic levels of paralegal education that can be achieved:

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Popular Practice Areas for Paralegals

November 21, 2008

Even in the face of our struggling economy, the paralegal field remains a thriving and popular industry, attracting a large number of aspiring legal assistants. With nearly 1,000 paralegal schools across the country and an abundance of job opportunities available at law firms and corporations, a career as a legal assistant can be a rewarding and profitable one.

Like lawyers, paralegals can select a specific practice area in which to seek employment. Different specialties can require varying skill sets and disciplines. On any given day, a legal assistant in the personal injury area will most likely perform different tasks than one who works for a divorce lawyer, although there will always be certain common threads among the various practice areas.

Although there are some general practice firms that cater to a wide range of clients, most attorneys choose a specific area of law. When they're in the market to hire a paralegal, they usually prefer one whose education and experience matches their own. Once you've decided that the paralegal industry is for you, it's wise to consider choosing a specialty.

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Paralegal Salary Levels & Trends

November 20, 2008

There are many benefits to obtaining a position as a paralegal in today's thriving legal industry. Given the steady, year-over-year growth seen in the field, the job offers high levels of stability and security, as well as healthy levels of intellectual stimulation. Paralegals are presented with potentially rewarding challenges and the opportunity to delve deep into intricate legal matters.

As legal costs rise in the face of a struggling economy, more tasks are being delegated to paralegals in an attempt to cut costs and give attorneys more time for billable work. With qualified legal assistants on staff to handle the large amounts of paperwork, research, and time management, firms are able to accommodate larger case loads to boost revenue without hiring additional full-time attorneys.

Among those considering a

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