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How to Become a Paralegal

Omkar Phatak
A career as a paralegal is challenging and satisfying as you get opportunities to be a part of the process of dispensing justice. Here are the details of educational requirements and skills needed to become the one.
The process of dispensing justice is complex, and it takes many hands and heads to ensure that justice is done. Right from the law enforcement agencies, to lawyers, judges, courts, and the support staff that makes this possible, all play an important role in the process.
If you are the kind of person who believes in fairness and justice, who enjoys researching and analyzing information, you may have it in you, what it takes to become a paralegal. These professionals assist a lawyer, in his research and lay all the groundwork for the case being argued, under his supervision.
Are you someone who follows John Grisham novels? Do you enjoy watching and following courtroom dramas? Were you a part of the high school debating team but rather than arguing, you enjoyed researching? Do you prefer being in the background and doing your job thoroughly instead of dashing into the limelight? Then, you should think about becoming a paralegal.

Job Description

Although, a paralegal is a legal assistant to a lawyer, he has no right to independently advise anybody on legal matters. An experienced legal assistant is like a lawyer's shadow. He does a range of tasks, which primarily include the following:
  • Handling of client interviews
  • Contacting and following up with clients
  • Conducting case investigation and witnessing interviews under a lawyer's supervision
  • Perform case background research and investigate facts
  • Work on preparation of legal arguments
  • Drafting legal arguments
  • Organizing the entire documentation of case proceedings, research, and other paperwork
  • Courtroom assistance to the lawyer during trial
These professionals are hired by law firms and individual lawyers, either as freshers or for their expertise in specific backgrounds. An experienced professional may decide to become a freelancer and work on a contract basis, for specific cases, with different lawyers.
Employment opportunities also exist in government offices, corporate companies, and even consumer organizations. This is definitely a great career for a person, who is willing to devote himself to acquiring expertise in legal assistance and applying it to streamline the procedure, for preparing a case.

Steps To Become One

Let us know about the educational background and certification, as well as the skill set, that you need to acquire. Here are some guidelines.
To become a certified paralegal, one needs to get a degree or certificate from a course conducted by any accredited educational institution, approved by the American Bar Association. It is good to go for such a course, after acquiring a bachelor's degree, as most legal firms require it.
You require a maximum of four years of education, if you go for a degree course and two years for a certificate course. Cost to become one, will depend on the kind of institution and type of course you opt for. Some paralegals are chosen by companies or law firms, for their expertise in specialized fields of law and are later trained on the job.
One of the most required essential skills is having an eye for minor details, understanding of legal procedures, and an ability to work hard. Skilled lawyers will never be short of work and neither will paralegals.