Ideally, the American Bar Association amended in 1997 that for an individual to qualify to be a paralegal, education, training as well work experience are the very components that should be used to qualify individuals looking forward to becoming paralegals. Affirmatively, the paralegal profession is one that is very competitive as well as exciting without forgetting the fact that it has an extensive range of specialty that paralegals can choose from. It’s also very crucial to understand that both education and training vary in requirements from one area to the other which brings us to a very common question; how many years does it take to become a paralegal?
Paralegal in Depth
Before we get to know how long it takes to qualify to become a paralegal its much important to get to understand what paralegals do in-depth, their various specialties as well types of paralegals and that way we also get to understand the types of education associated with paralegals and lastly the length of the education.
What Paralegals Do
Ideally, just like lawyers, paralegals can decide to specialize in a certain area within the legal field, a decision that ultimately determines their actual daily tasks. Nonetheless, despite their actual areas of specialty, their roles or rather duties stand to be the same. Generally, paralegals are responsible for assisting lawyers among other legal professionals to successfully complete litigation. In other words, paralegals help lawyers to conduct an extensive as well detailed research concerning a particular case; they help in organizing all relatable facts as well as informed in regards to a particular case. They also assist with taking down witness statements as well availing affidavits, investigating the facts of a case, they can also meet with clients in the absence of the attorney only to read the instructions of particulars of the case and not to offer advice. For those paralegals working within a corporate setting, they will normally assist with legal business transactions, composing employee contracts, preparing financial reports, and generally assisting the attorney with various legal tasks.
Various Paralegal Specialties
In most instances, a large number of paralegals are generalists in the sense that they do not specialize in a certain area within the legal field. For example, corporate paralegals normally work with their lawyers to solve contractual issues such as employee contracts, shareholder contracts, or even stock option plans. On the overall, some of the specific paralegal specialties incorporate; litigation paralegals, estate planning/probate paralegals, family law paralegals, freelance paralegals, debt/bankruptcy paralegals, personal injury paralegals, intellectual property paralegals, labor law paralegals just to mention but a few.
Types of Education
- Associate Degree: In relevance to the American Bar Association, the minimum education level a paralegal is supposed to have is an associate degree and which happens to be the most common educational background of becoming a paralegal. Some of the learning objectives for an associate degree include; legal research and writing, paralegal ethics and professional responsibility, legal terminology, and the US court system, how to conduct the interview as well as legal investigations.
- Bachelor’s Degree: In the recent times, employers as well attorneys are considering paralegals with a bachelor’s degree and more so with major law firms, government legal agencies or departments, as well in corporate law. Some of the spearheading objectives of having a bachelor’s degree incorporate; the foundation of paralegalism, advanced topics in legal ethics, advanced skills in conducting research, advanced issues in constitutional law, interviewing and presentation skills among other learning objectives.
- Master’s Degree: This type of degree is basically for those paralegals with the interest of taking their studies as well profession in another level. Some of the learning objectives for a master’s degree incorporate intellectual law property studies, advanced corporate practice, advanced legal writing and research, business law, civil practice skills, legal research, comparative justice, mergers and acquisitions, and US legal system.
How Many Years does it Take to Become a Paralegal?
After an in-depth understanding of paralegals, understanding how long it takes to become a paralegal will be much easier. For an associate degree, one will require at least two years to successfully complete the program which is commonly offered in community colleges, in universities as well on online arrangements. For those pursuing a bachelor’s degree, it will take them a minimum of four years to successfully complete the program. Lastly, we have the master’s degree which takes a minimum of one year that is on a full-time basis, but if one plans to pursue the master’s degree on a part-time basis, then it will take them about two to three years to successfully complete the program.
To this end, what these degrees intend on doing is to extensively train an individual for paralegal work and at the same time prepare paralegals to be more adaptable as well flexible to the dynamics of the legal world. As indicated in the text above, online degrees are also available for anyone who wants to balance their professional work and studies. In most cases, many associate programs are offered online by different institutes as they extend to distance learning options where individuals can enroll to become paralegals.
Conclusively, having an in-depth understanding of what paralegals do, as well what their education entails gives you a much clearer picture of how long it takes for one to become a paralegal.
Additionally, it’s also important for paralegals to obtain certifications so as to stand out from other job applicants. One of the best things about certification is that it is voluntary with some of these certificates been Certified Paralegals (CP).
Certification helps determine as well measure a paralegal’s abilities as well skills, again; certification is normally approved by the American Bar of Association to mark a high level of professional achievement.