Gain Certification By Completing A Paralegal Program
Paralegal program qualifications are not needed to enter this fascinating profession and become a trusted ally of an attorney at law, but they can certainly help to establish your credibility so that you have a far greater chance of winning the position you want. Paralegals come from every conceivable background, but if you have no demonstrable administration experience it will be harder to convince an employer that you are the right person to look after their affairs. Gaining the qualification and the certificate which you get from completing an educational program answers all of the employer's questions before they are even asked.
The program you enter will tell you exactly what is involved in the day to day workings of a paralegal, and also give you skills which can be used in secretarial roles within the legal profession. Although paralegals aren't secretaries, there is a considerable overlap in the job descriptions and in the skills which are needed for each position. The main difference is that paralegals are attached to one specific attorney, and carry out work which that attorney does not have time to complete by themselves. Delegating work allows an attorney to concentrate on direct interaction with clients, and consequently to provide a better service.
A program for training paralegals needs to start from the beginning assuming little or no knowledge of the job and the tasks which will be completed, as paralegals come from extremely diverse backgrounds. Most will have an office and administration background, either in the corporate sector or in government or charitable organizations, but others will simply be attracted by a way into the legal profession which does not require four years of study at a university, and which can still allow the paralegal to earn a salary comfortably ahead of the average.
The entire purpose of taking a paralegal program is to gain a qualification from an accredited school, as that will allow you to become certificated by one of the independent organizations overseeing the legal profession. This is not a license in the sense that you are required to have it before you can practice, but it can certainly open doors for you. The independent bodies are the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). Once you have this certification, you will have something to put on your resume which will convince employers of your worth.
The study program will still demand a significant contribution of time and money. It will take two years to go from starting the course to receiving the certification, and these can be spent at a college or by learning at home through the Internet. Online learning is the preferred choice for many studying to become a paralegal, as it can be done without sacrificing an existing job or career, and without having to move away from family and the rest of your life. As most of the course material is theory based in can easily be learned in this way.
There has been some controversy caused by the possibility of people going through the paralegal program and then offering advice to people on how to conduct their own legal affairs. It is possible that we will soon see a tightening up of the legal profession, with paralegals also needing to be licensed. This may have some small effect on someone trying to break into the profession from a standing start, with no certificate or qualification, but it is not likely to be a problem for anyone who is certificated by one of the major independent bodies. Licensing should be automatic for those who have completed the paralegal program.
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