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How to become a Paralegal – Education and Certification Helps

June 29th, 2006

How to become a Paralegal – Education and Certification Helps

Paralegal document preparation services

A paralegal, sometimes called a legal assistant, is a person that helps prepare legal documents usually on behalf of a lawyer.  Sometimes a paralegal will offer services to the general public.  If the documents that need to be filed with the courts are straight forward and simple, people will often seek out paralegals as a way to save expenses on a lawyer that may not be necessary.

Paralegals are able to assist in helping to file for legal name changes, divorces and other paperwork.  Paralegals are not able to give legal counsel and are not able to represent someone in court.  They strictly help put together the legal documents; if a legal case is complicated a lawyer is still necessary.


Each paralegal will have different skill levels; usually one that offers their services to the general public is very knowledgeable on procedures that are needed to file paperwork with the courts.  If you are working for a lawyer you can often be trained on the job, however, it could be difficult to find a busy law office that is able to do on the job training. 

Most paralegals will work for a law firm.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics note on their website, approximately 7 out of 10 paralegals will work at a law office.  Paralegals will also work for a large corporation’s legal department and also for the government.

The good news is that paralegal services are a growing industry.  Many businesses are looking to use paralegal services rather than hiring a lawyer to save on expenses.  The average income for a paralegal is $39,130.  Depending on where you work, and your work experience will determine your income level.  The highest paid paralegals made a salary of $61,390.


You don’t necessarily have to have a degree or certification to become a paralegal; however the more knowledge that you have, the more work opportunities will be made available to you.  You will also have an easier time managing in the busy day to day work load of a legal office.  Paralegals need to know procedure, not make mistakes and complete paperwork preparation in a timely manner.

There are a wide variety of paralegal courses that are available online.  You can complete some programs in as few as 8 weeks.  Most online university and junior colleges offer a 7 – 14 month program or an associate’s degree, which is a two year college degree.  There is even more extensive training beyond that, which you can add to your resume as you progress in your career as a paralegal.  Most people that work as a paralegal will have acquired an associated degree specifically for paralegal services.  In addition to a degree many paralegals will get certification to insure that they good candidates for employment in this field.


Training for a career as a paralegal is very helpful.  It will give you confidence when you start the job and make it more likely that you will be able to continue in this field.  It could be completely overwhelming if you are learning while you work as a paralegal.

Paralegals can work for themselves and help lawyers on a part time basis.  They can add notary public services as part of their business.  You can work from home and help a number of small lawyer offices in completing the paperwork as needed.

There are also opportunities for a paralegal to work in a busy law firm that is continually processing large amount of court documents.  Paralegals at busy law firms often are required to work long hours to meet deadlines.

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Nicole Wilson
Best Syndication

Books on Paralegal

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