If your favorite Law & Order episodes have piqued your interest in a new career, you’re in luck. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of paralegal and legal assistant jobs is expected to increase by 15 percent—much faster than the average job—by 2026. With the median salary coming in at over $50,000 per year, it’s no surprise that this career is attracting so many people. Here’s what you should know about becoming a paralegal.
What Do Paralegals Do?
According to the American Bar Association (ABA), a paralegal is a qualified person employed by a lawyer, law office, or other entity who performs specific legal tasks as delegated by a lawyer. In other words, paralegals provide support to attorneys, helping with specific tasks, including investigative work and document preparation. Once thought of as secretaries, today’s paralegals have an advanced understanding of the legal system and often take on heavy workloads. Day-to-day, paralegals are engaged in coordinating all aspects of client cases, performing legal research, maintaining contact with clients, interviewing clients and witnesses, and assisting attorneys before and during trials.
What Can’t Paralegals Do?
Paralegals aren’t attorneys, so you won’t actually be able to practice law. This means you won’t represent clients in court, but you will do much of the clerical work to support your firm’s attorneys. There are a few other things paralegals are not legally permitted to do:
- Accept financial consideration in return for preparing papers and documents that establish legal rights.
- Accept financial consideration for representing a client in an attempt to remedy any wrongdoing.
- Enforce rights, make claims or demands, or secure settlements, except as in service to your attorney or employer.
Paralegals are the backbone of the legal system, and becoming a paralegal is a great first step toward an advanced law degree. You would need to earn a law school degree accredited by the ABA and pass the state bar examination to become a practicing attorney.
How to Become a Paralegal
The steps for becoming a paralegal vary from person to person, but students at the Tulane School of Professional Advancement typically earn a Bachelor of Arts in General Legal Studies and an accompanying Paralegal Certificate. Those with certain degrees may be eligible to enroll in a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Paralegal Studies program, taking nine ABA-approved courses and completing a practicum for a fast track to a legal career. A minor in general legal studies can also prepare you for this career. The exact steps for becoming a paralegal will depend on your education, experience, and where you hope to study. Completing a legal studies program can also prepare you for other legal careers, including contract administrator, insurance adjuster, court clerk, and more.
Start Your Legal Studies Program With Tulane SoPA
The Tulane School of Professional Advancement offers everything busy working professionals need for a career as a paralegal. Classes are available online and in-person to accommodate your schedule. To learn more about our bachelor’s degrees and certificates in legal studies, call us at (504) 865-5555.