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Paralegal Certification

The role of paralegals is in important, since they assist attorneys with a variety of legal and litigation processes. In fact, mostly it is the paralegal that performs the task of dealing with clients and processing paperwork through the court system. With an increasing demand for these roles, a certificate in paralegal is becoming important to begin a rewarding career.

Program Details

A certificate in paralegal program may be completed in six months. There are two methods of study available that may meet the needs of students who have busy schedules. An online program provides students the option to avoid commuting to campuses for classes and opportunity to study at their own pace. A hybrid program is a combination of both classroom instruction and online study.

Requirements

The main requirement for enrolling in a paralegal certificate program is a high school diploma or equivalent. The candidate should also possess basic word processing and web search skills, and is required to have access to a computer and the internet.

Structure

A typical curriculum may consist of two required courses and 4 electives with a total of 8 semester units and 360 hours of instruction. The two required courses are Essential Paralegal Studies I and II. The elective course choices include Paralegal Business Law, State Law, Criminal Law, Family Law, Intellectual Property Law, and Tort Law. Taking all of the required courses is important for completing the program. Although the program may last for six months, students could complete their course requirements in a maximum of one year’s time from enrollment. A certificate is awarded to those who maintain a minimum overall grade point average (GPA) of 2.0. Those achieving a GPA of 3.7 or higher are awarded a certificate with distinction. This type of course structure is typical for many programs, but there could slight variances for each program offered by different institutes.

Career Prospects

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment rate of paralegals is expected to increase by 18 percent from 2010 to 2020. As employers aim to improve their efficiency in legal areas, more demand is expected for paralegals in future. There are mainly two types of paralegals: corporate paralegals and litigation paralegals. Corporate paralegals assist lawyers in preparing company documents and contracts; whereas, litigation paralegals conduct research for lawyers, and organize and maintain data for use at trials and dispositions.

Salary

According to the BLS, the median annual salary of paralegals was around $46,000 as of May 2010. Generally, paralegals who work for large law firms earn more than those working for smaller firms. Those working for law firms, corporations, or government agencies usually work full time. Also, paralegals placed in law firms are often required to work overtime to meet deadlines.

For increased career growth, paralegals could specialize in various areas of law such as litigation, corporate law, criminal law, employee benefits, intellectual property, bankruptcy, personal injury, immigration, family law, and real estate. In addition, with professional experience, paralegals could assume various supervisory roles, such as managing team projects or overseeing the work of other paralegals.

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