18 Tips to Practice Paralegals Profession

Paralegals Profession: How can you work in law without completing quite as much of the education requirements lawyers must undergo?

Paralegals are individuals who work side-by-side with lawyers, organizations, and other criminal justice groups.

Paralegals often work on court cases but do not necessarily provide direct advice or advocacy for clients.

Instead, they help form the backbone of a legal argument or shed light on complicated legal scenarios.

This criminal justice career is ideal for anyone who has an eye for detail and a strong ability to perform thorough research.

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Paralegals Profession: https://www.totallylegal.com
Paralegals Profession

Paralegals Profession

Having experience as a paralegal can also help you transition away from criminal justice in the future.

Many paralegals also work on things like taxes, estate planning, and business operations.

If you know that criminal justice appeals to you now.

But that you may want to switch career paths in the future.

Becoming a paralegal can allow you to do exactly that.

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Paralegals Profession

1. Get the briefing

Paralegals, or legal assistants, assist lawyers with a variety of tasks including drafting letters.

Organizing documents, conducting research, and handling client communications.

2. Graduate from high school or pass the General Education Development (GED) exam.

A paralegal education program will require a high school diploma or GED for admission.

Some programs may not accept online high school diplomas either.

So be sure to check with the paralegal program advisor to be sure.

  • You may need a copy of your high school transcripts or the diploma itself.
  • Copies of transcripts and/or diplomas are available from your high school.

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3. Choose a paralegal program in which to enroll.

There are a few different options for getting an education to prepare you for a paralegal career.

Shorter programs are generally intended for those who already have a degree in another field or are already working in the legal field, such as in a legal secretary position.

A longer program of two to four years may be geared more toward those with no other college degree.

Employers may favor baccalaureate program graduates over others.

With the possible exception of post-baccalaureate program graduates. Program options include:

  • A two-year associate or certificate program at a community college.
  • A four-year bachelor’s degree program at a college or university, usually leading to a major or minor in paralegal studies.
  • A program from a specialized, proprietary institution leading to a certificate in paralegal studies, lasting anywhere from 3-18 months.
  • A post-baccalaureate program leading to a certificate in paralegal studies, generally lasting from 3-18 months.

Paralegals Profession

4. Look for accredited programs.

Some programs that are available that are at an accelerated pace, completed solely online.

Or offered by for-profit schools may not be accredited.

Accreditation is granted to those programs that maintain a standard of quality that is deemed worthy of effectively preparing graduates for practice in the field.

You can search to determine whether your college or university is accredited here.

  • The Nigerian Bar Association approves those programs in the country.
  • That maintain this and other standards of quality.
  • If you complete a program that is not accredited.
  • You may have difficulty finding a job, as employers will be looking for employees with degrees from accredited institutions.

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5. Complete a paralegal studies program.

The breadth of the coursework will vary between schools.

But programs usually involve learning how to conduct legal research, introduction to legal software, and more.

Many firms hiring paralegals are now seeking paralegal with specialization, especially larger firms.

 You may want to see if your program offers any specialization.

  • Not all Paralegal Studies programs are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).
  • Though your employer may not require that you be ABA approved, it will give you an advantage over other applicants. Check with schools in your area to determine whether the program is ABA approved.

6. Develop useful general skills.

Writing, time management, effective communication, problem-solving.

Decision-making, and critical thinking skills are necessary for paralegals.

These skills will serve you well in the profession.

So it would be useful to develop them to the best of your ability.

In order to be the most desirable job candidate you can be.

  • Some colleges, universities, or other schools where paralegal programs are offered may also offer courses that help with the development of these kinds of professional skills.
  • Computer skills play an important role as well, from familiarity with office suites to web browsers and email applications.

7. Get relevant work experience.

Many employers prefer candidates who have had at least one year of experience working in a legal environment.

Find a job or internship at a law office doing administrative tasks like filing or answering telephones.

Or working as an assistant to other paralegals.

  • These kinds of jobs will not only look good on your résumé, they will also familiarize you with the legal environment and allow you to gain hands-on training from professionals in the field.

Paralegals Profession

8. Get certified.

Though paralegal certification is not required by all employers, it will give you an advantage over competing candidates.

If you have already graduated with a bachelor’s or associate degree in an unrelated field.

It might be a good idea for you to become a certified paralegal.

The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers certification.

  • Many other certification programs are available that are taught by practicing attorneys and give you the hands-on skills that you can apply directly to your job working as a paralegal.
  •  These programs generally last between 6-12 months.
  • Consider taking a certified paralegal examination. This may or may not be part of your certification program. The NALA is the main organization that offers these exams.

9. Design an impressive paralegal resume.

Your resume should include a sentence-long career objective passage that explains the type of job you are seeking.

Including your desired specialization, unless you are interested in general practice.

Be sure to include your education and experience as well, followed by a passage that lists your skills.

Such as computer skills—including industry-specific software applications.

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10. Look for jobs.

Once you have achieved the proper education and work experience, you can start applying to jobs.

Check job listings in your area, and apply to various law firms and law offices.

Send your résumé, cover letter, and any other information that the potential employer requests.

Other positions may be available outside law firms, such as in corporations.

Real estate firms and title offices, public defense offices, non-government organizations (NGOs), and more.

  • The paralegal profession is very competitive, so apply to as many jobs as possible and be prepared to have many different interviews before landing a job.

11. Continue your education.

Paralegals can take additional courses or attend seminars in order to advance their careers.

Sign up for continuing legal education (CLE) courses in order to stay up-to-date with the ever-changing field of law.

Paralegals Profession

12. Understand informational interviews.

An informational interview is an informal conversation with someone working in the field you want to find a job in.

 The goal of an informational interview is to gain information and advice, not necessarily to find a job.

 However, informational interviews can lead to jobs, so take this process seriously.

13. Identify people to interview.

Reach out to people with the hope of setting up an informational interview.

If you are looking for a job in the paralegal field, try making the following contacts:

  • Contact family, friends, professors, and former employers.
  •  While these people may not be in the paralegal field, they will most likely know someone who is.
  • Try calling organizations and law firms directly.
  •  While this may feel awkward at first, it is important to put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone. Law firms and paralegal services get these types of phone calls every day; they know how to handle them and they are usually happy to entertain an informational interview.
  • Read newspapers and magazines (or their internet equivalents) to learn about companies that may be out there. Find a company that interests you and reach out.

Paralegals Profession

14. Prepare for the interview.

Once you have an idea of who you would like to contact, you will need to plan for the interview.

 Start by developing a short introductory statement about yourself, including your background and interests.

  • Follow-up your introduction with a series of open-ended questions. These questions should get the contact talking about their professional experience and the ideas they may have about potential jobs. For example, ask how they got their first paralegal job and who they worked for. If it is a local organization, ask for the organization’s contact information and if you can use them as a reference.

15. Initiate contact.

Once you have planned for your informational interview.

You should contact the person by phone.

 Tell them how you found their information and introduce yourself.

 Ask them if they have a few minutes to talk and be sure to emphasize you are not looking for a job.

 Ask if there is a convenient time for them to have a sit-down.

But be prepared to ask your questions on the spot if the person says they have time now on the phone.

Paralegals Profession

16. Conduct the informational interview.

If you set up a time to meet face-to-face, go to your informational meeting and be there early.

 Dress professionally and conduct the conversation as if it were an interview.

 Give the brief interview of yourself and then begin with your questions.

 Let the conversation flow naturally and try and take notes.

 Most importantly, be sure to ask for names and contacts of people that may have job openings or that might be willing to talk with you.

 After all, this is the reason you are there.

17. Follow-up with the person you interviewed with.

Once the interview is completed and one or two days have passed.

Send a thank-you note thanking them for the time and information.

 Utilize the information you received and reach out to the new contacts you made.

  • Be sure you stay in touch with the person you have the informational interview with.
  •  It is important to show them that you are taking their input seriously.
  • And that you are following up on their advice.

Paralegals Profession

18. More tips

  • There is no one way to become a paralegal; the requirements will vary between employers.

    Regardless, however, the more education and work experience you have.

    The more of an advantage you’ll have over other applicants.

  • Paralegals must be very organized, be able to multi-task.
  • Have strong communication skills, and be comfortable using computers and legal software.

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