Have you ever had a vision of yourself working in the legal field, but do not see yourself as a lawyer? Did you know most work behind the scenes of the best attorneys there is a paralegal or legal assistant conducting much of the leg work. For example, it is the paralegal who is conducting hours and extensive case research, it is the paralegal who filing court documents to have the case heard in the court of law, it is the paralegal that is often setting the clients up for success to be heard in court.
What is a paralegal (legal assistant)?
The paralegal profession has multiple meanings, according to the American Bar Association (ABA)
, “he or she must be a person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed by any institution that performs specifically delegated substantive official load for which an attorney is responsible.”
The National Association of Legal Assistance (NALA)
explains, “they are a distinguishable group of persons who assist attorneys in the delivery of legal services. Through formal schooling, preparation and skill, legal assistants have knowledge and expertise regarding the legal system and procedural law which qualify them to do work of a legal nature under the supervision of an attorney.”
Considering the definitions given by the American Bar Association (ABA) and National Association of Legal Association (NALA), you will be assisting the attorney in his or her cases so being knowledgeable in the judicial process will prove helpful in organizing case law.
Below are suggestions on how to become a paralegal (legal assistant):
1. Do your due diligence and research educational programs either in your local community or online schools that offer legal assistance or paralegal courses. Most schools are online and offer fast track ways to complete the degree plan fairly quickly.
2. While not necessary, find out if the schools legal curriculums are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) finding one that does means they will teach to standards so you get the most out of your learning experience. If the school of your choice does not, it is okay, so long as they are accredited.
3. Typically, most paralegal programs are less then one year, as they are certificate based degrees. However, you can go as far as attaining a bachelors degree, even a masters of legal studies.
4. While most certificate programs dose not have any specifics to specialties, you can find that many of the paralegal associations mentioned above will give you other ways of learning specifics such as, litigation preparations or real estate case laws, etc.
5. It would also be suggested that you join an association like the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) through a Certified Legal Assistance (CLA) designation. It will be an advantage on your part as it will authenticate your diploma. Being involved with an association also means you are serious about your craft and willing to to assert yourself as a subject matter expert.