How To Choose The Right Paralegal School Or Program

Read these seven tips for choosing the best paralegal school for you.

person sitting on bench outside college campus building

Paralegal Program Overview

With close to a thousand paralegal schools at locations in every state, as well as distance learning and online paralegal programs, future paralegals have plenty of options to find a paralegal school that meets their specific needs.

Your choice of paralegal school may depend on a variety of factors. If you want to specialize in one area of the law, you can find paralegal schools that offer coursework focusing on your area. Or, if you want to enter the field quickly, many programs provide a good foundation in law and legal research that you can complete in as little as a few months.

Here are some factors to consider when evaluating paralegal schools.

1. Program Accreditation

Find out if the paralegal program has accreditation by the American Bar Association or other regional accrediting body. Many non-accredited paralegal schools are dedicated to training competent paralegals, and not all markets have local schools with accreditation.

If the school is not accredited, it’s important to know whether it will fulfill the requirements to qualify for certification. Also talk to potential employers about the importance of accreditation; if school accreditation is important to them, you need to consider that before you choose a paralegal program.

2. Length of Study

Paralegal degree programs range from as little as three months to two years. Shorter certificate programs are appropriate for those who already have degrees or who have previous legal experience, perhaps by working as a legal secretary. Longer associate’s or bachelor’s degrees may be more desirable for recent high school graduates or others without a secondary degree.

Legal studies programs offer a certificate, associate’s, or bachelor’s degree, and differ from criminal justice programs—where your focus is specifically criminal law—and paralegal programs, which focus on application of the legal process—by giving you an education in civil, administrative, and criminal law.

3. School Location

Laws vary from state to state, and there is a definite advantage to attending a paralegal school in the location you want to work. It also gives you the chance to become familiar with state and local laws, as well as make contacts for future job hunting.

4. Flexibility

Paralegal schools offer a variety of options to suit students’ needs. You may need a paralegal program that allows you to work while completing your coursework, one that offers evening classes, or one that has both full-time or part-time study options.

If family or work obligations are a concern, you may need a program that offers online or home study courses. In addition to lifestyle flexibility, attending paralegal school part time allows you to spread the cost of your education over a longer span of time.

5. Curriculum and Faculty

Do the focus and philosophy of the paralegal school match your needs and interests? Is the faculty made up of practicing or former lawyers and paralegals? Both are important considerations.

6. Paralegal Internships

Find out if the paralegal program provides a variety of internships. Internships give you the opportunity to gain some real work experience, learn which areas of the law interest you most, develop contacts, and gain school credit.

If you are interested in a particular specialty area, ask the paralegal school’s guidance counselor whether they have placed students in law firms or other organizations that focus on your area of interest.

7. Career Services

Make sure you select a paralegal school whose faculty and staff are just as committed to helping you find a job as they are to teaching. The school should be able to tell you what percentage of its graduates take a certification exam and what their job placement rate is.

A good paralegal program not only prepares you for your paralegal career, but also helps you find that first job as a successful paralegal.

The Important Duties of a Paralegal

The paralegal plays an important role on any legal team. They help support lawyers during trial and to prepare for cases. The paralegal is the heart of a law firm as they are taking on more duties formerly given to legal secretaries and entry-level lawyers.

The increase need for paralegals and legal assistants is partially due to an increase in incarceration and the need for Internet savvy individuals. Become a paralegal or legal assistant and start a rewarding career helping others while being an integral member of a legal team.

Paralegal Duties

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers prepare for hearings, trials, and corporate meetings. Paralegals use computer software for managing and organizing the increasing number of documents collected during a case. Paralegals investigate cases, conduct research, organize documents, gather evidence, summarize reports, draft correspondence, get affidavits, file legal documents and communicate with people involved with the case.

Paralegals’ Increased Duties

Paralegals and legal assistants are increasingly performing not only traditional paralegal duties but also some of the tasks previously assigned to legal secretaries. Also, paralegals can be a less costly alternative to lawyers despite performing a wide variety of tasks once done by entry-level lawyers.

Growth Rate of Paralegal Jobs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 10 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Many things are increasing the need for paralegals including an increase in incarceration and the Internet as a tool for research.

Increase in Incarceration

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the incarceration rate of prisoners in US jails has increased four times since 1972. The total number of prisoners in 2012 was 2.23 million, the highest in the world. The biggest increase has been seen in federal prison where they house people for federal crimes including robbery, fraud, drugs, weapons and immigration. This increase in incarceration has spurred the need for more legal assistance, lawyers, public defenders and paralegals.

The War on Drugs

One of the main drivers of the increased incarceration rate was the war on drugs that has changed legislation causing harsher penalties for drug abusers. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, trends in drug arrests grew sharply in the 1980s, when the federal government declared a war on drugs. “The number of people behind bars for nonviolent drug law offenses increased from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000 by 1997.” In the late 1980s, a political hysteria about drugs led to the passage of severe penalties that rapidly increased the prison population. We still see the effects of these harsher prison sentences today. This increase in drug arrests helped drive the need for legal assistance and paralegals.

Internet and the Law

Nonprofits and government entities have put almost all of the raw materials of American law online. Google is making that law easier to find. With more access to legal regulations and law, paralegals are expanding their skill set to Internet professional.

The increase of virtual law firms has also spiked the demand for paralegals. Much of what the virtual law firm needs is research, administrative support and client interface. More companies like Legalzoom and RocketLawyer have pushed the envelope on virtual law firms and the increased need for paralegals.

Both companies are usually hiring paralegals to join the company. What the paralegal position does at Legalzoom:

  • Thorough review and analysis of commercial contracts.
  • Implementation, management, and maintenance of the company’s contract management system.
  • Ability to review, understand, and synthesize common contract provisions.
  • Maintenance of legal department forms and contract clause library.
  • Work closely with technology, finance, and marketing to initiate, negotiate, and complete contracts and administer other legal department operations.
  • Craft summaries and communications for core corporate functions.
  • Assistance with production and organization of subpoena response materials.
  • Monitoring and assistance with regulatory filings
  • Assistance with regulatory compliance, due diligence, and legal support for our finance team
  • Letter preparation and event coordination

Final Thoughts

Now is the time to learn about the duties and responsibilities of paralegals. Whether it be the increase in incarceration rates or the increase in technology, there is a growing need for paralegals that will continue over the next 10 years.

Interested in learning more about the duties of a paralegal or legal assistant? The lawyer Paralegal Education diploma and degree programs in paralegal studies provides students with the theoretical and practical knowledge and the legal skills necessary to perform many paralegal functions including research, writing, investigation, and interviewing.  Paralegal studies students gain knowledge of the paralegal and legal assistant’s role in areas such as tort law, litigation, criminal law, civil law, real estate, bankruptcy, wills/trusts & estates, and domestic relations. Theoretical and practical knowledge of how a traditional legal office operates on a day-to-day basis is also included as part of the training.  Contact us today to learn more about becoming a paralegal or legal assistant.

Get to Know About Importance of Paralegal Services

Paralegal Services

Many have this idea that paralegal is equivalent to a lawyer. The real fact is not that. Paralegals are more like the assistant to the lawyer. They don’t have the authority to offer legal advice, as many may believe. However, they are trained to do many tasks which a lawyer normally doesn’t perform.

By assigning duties like drafting documents, performing legal research and writing, proofreading, or bookkeeping to the paralegal, the lawyer can take more time out and concentrate on other projects. Thus the lawyer can devote a maximum of his professional time to more crucial topics. This further helps in saving costs too since the paralegal’s time is usually billed at a much lower rate than the attorney’s.

Paralegal staffs work for lawyers who cover varied and huge practice areas. Thus law firms or legal professionals who handle fields like litigation, bankruptcy, family law, foreclosures, probate, and estate planning, collections, business/corporate, personal Injury, securities law can definitely benefit by hiring paralegal services.

Such services can be broadly divided into two parts, based on skills and specialization: There are certain paralegal services which are voluminous but demand low-end skills.

On the other hand, certain tasks are of qualitative nature and demand legal knowledge to a certain extent. Few common paralegal responsibilities include completion of forms, document management, proofreading, bookkeeping, data entry, title search and also extending legal editing and publishing supports.

Some of these tasks may appear very simple but the fact is that each service demands maximum concentration and seriousness. Employees of a busy law firm may find it difficult to handle these responsibilities on their own. This is one reason why the concept of outsourcing certain legal tasks has gained huge support from USA based law firms and legal advisors.

The recent economic slowdown is another reason why many US law firms have opted for outside services rather than investing on own infrastructure and resources.

While the US-based attorney usually charges an approximate of $200 -$300 on an hourly basis his counterpart from the offshore team charges quite a nominal amount of around USD 75-100 per hour. This straightaway results in saving up to 50%-90% of the cost which is really an impressive amount!

Thus hiring legal attorneys from the outsourcing company seem quite a practical and economical approach. Not only the law firm saves money but it can be sure of the best standard service within the limited time frame.

Importance of Paralegals in Investment Firm

paralegals in investment firm

Highly successful investment companies don’t just create large profits for the business itself; they also ensure that each investor has a healthy-sized portfolio.  There will always be highs and lows in the investment market, but proving that you have knowledgeable staff and secure methods will help you to retain your clientele.  In addition to hiring attorneys to review and revise business contracts as needed, there has to be a support system in place to deal with the day-to-day dealings.

 

Perhaps you don’t need several lawyers, legal interns, paralegals, and legal secretaries to work at the helm of your company, but a well-trained legal professional with a degree in paralegal studies is essential.  Realize that investment firms are bound by frequently changing regulations.  Merely having the presence of a trained paralegal on your staff could keep your investment firm out of hot water while simultaneously benefitting its stable growth.

So Why Are Paralegals Essential In the Investment Industry?

Every day in the investment industry, there are new deals negotiated, analyzed, and finally agreed upon. If you are comfortable in the boardroom, you can imagine how well-adjusted legal professionals may be in their offices ensuring that all of your investments go according to plan. Think of your expert paralegals as the players on your team who are capable of watching over everyone else while still being able to perform up to the task. Since they work together with your managers and attorneys, they are aware of what you are currently doing and what your investment firm wants to accomplish.

Tailoring Your Offerings to Clients from a Legal Point of View

If you want to begin offering new investments to clients, you first need to be certain that your ideas do not violate investment laws or trade rules. Whether your firm works in real estate investment or international trade there are various nuances to be addressed and satisfactorily dealt with before you can start to make new offerings to clients. Let your attorneys on staff deal with the larger issues, but also have your paralegals go over all of the finer details. You don’t want a misspelling or grammatical error to change the context of your investment offerings or to change the meaning in one of your business contracts.

Knowing About Changes in Investment Law As They Occur

While your investment firm needs to have an expert attorney to keep you informed of changes in investment rules and regulations as they are proposed and implemented, paralegals also have a stated purpose. If you have petitions that need amending, your paralegals will be able to make the appropriate revisions and get them to your lawyers so they may be submitted expeditiously. Remember that even staff attorneys can have periods of time in which they are unavailable. If they have many different tasks that they are responsible for, having paralegal graduates who obtained their degree can enable them to eliminate all potential oversights and keep your business running within the confines of the law.

 

If you are going to hire attorneys that understand fundamental investment regulations and have resumes to back up their expertise, you need paralegals that are also experienced. The legal professionals that you have working at your investment firm need to be capable of working within strict timelines (deadlines), as well as used to working with many different accounts. You will be able to keep all of your investment firm’s clients satisfied if they know that all parts of your company work on equal levels.

 

Here at ParalegalEducation.com, our Paralegal Studies graduates earn their Associate in Applied Science Degree after completing an 18-month program consisting of various law and general education courses, hands-on lab assignments, and a 300-hour externship. This ensures our students are fully prepared and successful as they begin their new careers in any area of the law they choose.

8 Steps to Opening Up A Legal Services Business of Your Own

Becoming a paralegal says something about a person. No, not just “I like being verbally abused by lawyers all day.” It says you have some ambition, some drive. You like to work independently and you enjoy learning new things and managing projects. You’re not afraid of details and thrive under pressure.

In short, you have all the right qualities to become a small business owner.

And you picked the right field for it, too. Statista estimates that the entire legal services industry in the United States generates more than $250 billion in revenue, expected to increase to $288 billion by the end of 2018.

There’s a catch, of course; paralegals cannot practice law, so the most natural type of business to be in is one you can’t open.

But a law practice isn’t the only sort of firm in legal services, and the alternatives are becoming more and more widespread. The rise of Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs) is a doorway to business ownership for paralegals.

Today, you can start your own firm in a niche such as:

  • Document review
  • Litigation support
  • Discovery and e-discovery
  • IP management

As a contracted specialist, you won’t be practicing law, but you can enjoy the freedom and potential that come with being a business owner… as long as you follow these five important steps.

 

  1. Find The Niche

    Your niche is going to determine a lot of things about your business: who you market it to, how it operates, what kind of money you will make. But it’s going to depend a lot on your own strengths and what the local market demands.

    Is it going to revolve around things that you have already been doing as an employee, or are you going to strike out in a new direction? Will you jump onto a current trend in legal services, like e-discovery, and try to ride it to riches, or will you invent the next big thing on your own?

    These are big questions and will probably take up most of your planning hours when you are first thinking about your business.

    Don’t waste those hours. Daydreaming is great but does your market research, too. Base your ideas not only on your inspiration but ground them in where the numbers lead you as well. You’ll find the right combination of lucrative and compelling after you have put enough thought into it.

  2. Network, Network, Network

    It’s great that you’re going out on your own, but don’t think for a minute that means you won’t need other people. You’ll rely on contacts in the legal community for everything—referrals, references, staffing recommendations, you name it.

    So it’s a good idea to get out there early and start making those contacts. It’s never too soon to start. Even while you’re in school, fellow students, instructors, and internship interviewers are all good people to get to know. You never know where they’ll end up, or how you might be able to help one another.

    Networking is a two-way street, so you need to be prepared to offer your own efforts in return. But when it pays off, it pays off for everyone, so think of it as a necessary investment.

How To Become a Paralegal: Steps, Jobs & Salary

The paralegal profession is competitive and exciting with a wide range of careers and specific fields from which to choose. Education and training requirements vary by region, field, and between companies, but usually involve a minimum of two years of post-secondary study, sometimes culminating in an associate degree, as well as experience. Students can also earn certifications, a bachelor’s degree and even a master’s degree in paralegal studies. This comprehensive guide includes information and data on education and training as well as key facts about salaries, job prospects and more.

Steps to Become a Paralegal

Step 1
Select a Specialty

Though most paralegals work as generalists in a legal firm, some choose to specialize for a particular employer or sector of law. For instance, corporate paralegals work with attorneys to handle contractual issues such as shareholder agreements, stock option plans and employee contracts. Litigation paralegals work with attorneys that take on cases through the civil or criminal trial system. Choosing a specialty as early as possible allows students to take courses that are relevant to career goals.

Paralegal specialties include:

  • check-circle iconCorporate paralegal
  • check-circle iconLitigation paralegal
  • check-circle iconEstate planning and probate paralegal
  • check-circle iconFamily law paralegal
  • check-circle iconImmigration paralegal
  • check-circle iconIntellectual property paralegal
  • check-circle iconReal estate paralegal
  • check-circle iconDebt and bankruptcy paralegal
  • check-circle iconFreelance paralegal
Step 2
Complete the Necessary Level of Education

Associate’s Degree: The most-common educational path to becoming a paralegal includes an associate’s degree. These two-year programs are offered through community colleges, universities, or online, and teach the basic skills and knowledge required of an entry-level paralegal or legal assistant.

Bachelor’s Degree: A four-year bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies may be a requirement for paralegal positions with major law firms, government legal departments or in corporate law. Those who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field can consider earning a paralegal certificate, which can take several months to complete.

Master’s Degree: If you want to take your studies further, some colleges offer master’s programs in paralegal studies. Master’s degree holders can find success in highly targeted fields, such as intellectual property law and certain specialties in corporate practice. Master’s graduates can also become teachers of paralegal studies.

Step 3
Pass the Certification Exam

Though certification for paralegals is voluntary, earning one can distinguish individuals from other job applicants. Some employer may require certification. Regardless, national surveys consistently show that certifications such as Certified Paralegals (CP) and Certified Legal Assistants (CLA) are used to determine and measure applicants’ abilities and skills.

Paralegal organizations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants offer the CLA and CP certifications, which require passing a test and then pursuing continuing education. The credentials have been recognized by the American Bar Association as a designation that marks a high level of professional achievement. The CLA or CP credential has also been recognized by over 47 legal assistant organizations and numerous bar associations.

Step 4
Intern with a Law Firm, Corporation, Nonprofit, or Government Agency
Individuals could also opt for an internship while pursuing a degree program to gain experience and have more opportunities for applying what they’ve learned. Many employers look favorably upon job applicants who take internships during their college years.
Step 5
Begin an Entry-Level Job
Students who apply for a range of positions and use their school’s career placement services have an increased chance of finding work as a paralegal. Entry-level positions will give students an opportunity to begin practicing the techniques learned in school and allows for increased responsibilities down the road.

What Does a Paralegal Do?

Paralegal Career Basics

Many paralegals work full-time in private firms, government agencies or corporate legal offices. They handle a broad range of administrative and research duties under the supervision of attorneys. For example, during the course of a day, they may organize and maintain legal files or draft documents, deliver or retrieve documents from the courthouse and conduct intensive legal research in preparation for court. Paralegals also investigate the background facts of cases, organize evidence and documents for attorneys to review, accompany lawyers to court, and manage schedules with witnesses and experts. Specific responsibilities can vary greatly, depending on the department, office or firm in which a paralegal works. Those who work for large firms might handle only one phase of a case, while those in smaller firms could work a case from beginning to end.

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Paralegal Salary Per State

Paralegals work full-time and earned a median wage of $52,920 in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent of paralegal jobs pay $85,160 or more per year. Those who work for larger firms or in larger cities tend to earn more than paralegals who work for small firms. The highest annual wages were found in the federal government, followed by finance and insurance, then local governments.

Top 5 Highest Earning States/Areas for Paralegals

STATE ANNUAL MEAN WAGE, BLS 2020
District of Columbia $83,330
California $66,250
Washington $63,050
Colorado $62,950
New York $62,530

The map below shows details of the 10th, 50th, and 90th percentile earners for each state.

Paralegal Job Growth and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, projects paralegal employment to rise by 10 percent by 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Over 35,000 jobs will be added to the profession by 2029. Many large corporations will hire paralegals, with a new focus on hiring in-house counsel rather than retaining outside law firms. Paralegals with very strong computer skills should see the greatest opportunities.

To see more on employment or job growth for paralegals, select a state below.

Employed ParalegalsAlabamaEmployment 2010Employment 2020025050075010001250150017502000225025002750300032503…
1.97%
Avg Annual Growth
90
Avg Annual Total

5 States with the Highest Employment for Paralegals

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Online Paralegal Schools

Finding a school that offers a quality education with the flexibility needed to maintain a career and busy schedule can be difficult. Luckily, there are several online paralegal programs to choose from. As you sift through the options, keep the following criteria in mind.

Overview of Paralegal Degree Levels

Students pursuing a degree in paralegal studies have many academic options. From certifications and associate degrees to bachelor’s and even master’s degrees, students are able to earn a basic or in-depth education based on their interests and career goals. Each subsequent level of schooling brings additional qualifications and skills, so it is important for students to consider what will be required of them in their chosen field. Paralegal degrees can be earned on campus, as well as online.

Below are some scenarios that show which educational options might be best for the student in that scenario. If more than one box is checked, it means either option would be beneficial or possible.

CAREER GOAL AND/OR EDUCATIONAL NEEDS ASSOCIATE BACHELOR’S MASTER’S ONLINE
I want to gain a solid understanding of the paralegal field and establish a foundation for further education if I choose to continue in the future. check-circle icon
I work a full-time job and/or have other responsibilities that would prevent me from being a full-time student, but want still want to pursue a degree in paralegal studies in order to advance in my career. check-circle icon check-circle icon check-circle icon
I work as a legal secretary or paralegal but want to further my skill set and knowledge so I have more opportunities in the future. check-circle icon check-circle icon
I want to take an accelerated program and earn a quality degree as fast as possible. check-circle icon
I know I am interested in a career as a paralegal and I want to earn a quality degree that will give me a competitive edge. check-circle icon check-circle icon

Different levels of degrees are available in paralegal studies. As the degrees advance, so do the curricula, skills, knowledge, and potential career opportunities. Below is a breakdown of each level to help prospective students decide which degree is right for them and their career goals.

Certificates and Associate Degrees

Earning an associate degree in paralegal studies gives students a strong understanding of the basic principles of the field as well as general education in math, science, social science, and English. Because an associate degree typically takes two years, about half the time it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree, AS or AAS degrees tend to be a more affordable and quick way to get a foot in the door for a legal career. Paralegal topics that are covered in most associate degree programs include introduction to law, legal research and writing, civil litigation, and legal ethics. Elective courses allow students to gear their education in the direction of their personal interests, ranging from criminal, environmental, and employment law to tax law and domestic relations.

Certificates are earned through the study of paralegal core and elective courses without the required general education courses, and can be earned anywhere between one semester to two years, depending on the program and the student’s pace.

Detailed below are descriptions for some of the courses required for associate degrees and certificates in paralegal studies, as well as industry skills earned in the classes.

Introduction to the Law

Provides a basic understanding of the law and the American justice system, and introduces the student to legal terminology and areas of law which will be studied in greater depth later in the curriculum.

Paralegal Skills and Knowledge Gained

  • check-circle iconUnderstanding of the role of the paralegal in a legal office
  • check-circle iconUnderstand basic aspects of American law
  • check-circle iconBegin practicing legal research and writing

Legal Research, Writing, and Civil Litigation

Teaches students the processes and techniques necessary for handling cases from beginning to end. Arguably the most important course in paralegal education.

Paralegal Skills and Knowledge Gained

  • check-circle iconDetermine jurisdiction and venue
  • check-circle iconInitiating and commencing a lawsuit
  • check-circle iconClient counseling
  • check-circle iconInvestigation techniques and the discovery process
  • check-circle iconDrafting summons, complaints, motions, briefs, and pleadings
  • check-circle iconSettlement techniques
  • check-circle iconUnderstanding of the trial process

Professional Responsibility and Legal Ethics

Covers the basic principles of practicing ethical law for paralegals and lawyers.

Paralegal Skills and Knowledge Gained

  • check-circle iconUnderstanding of the regulations of attorney and paralegal conduct
  • check-circle iconUnderstanding of conflicts of interest, unauthorized practice of law, malpractice, and confidentiality, plus disciplinary measures
  • check-circle iconHandling law office finances, including client funds, advertising, billing, and fee splitting

A Four-Year Degree

A bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies (offered as a Bachelor of Science from most schools) is earned upon completion of 120 credit hours, generally taking students about four years. Coursework includes required general education classes, core paralegal courses, and upper division legal courses.

After achieving a bachelor’s degree, graduates will have an intimate knowledge of the responsibilities of a paralegal, and know the techniques and processes necessary to assist lawyers in cases. Graduates are qualified to begin careers as paralegals in law offices, corporate legal departments, government agencies, and non-profits, or to pursue further education. Specific skills acquired include drafting and editing legal memoranda, motions, and other basic legal and court documents; ability to apply a wide variety of legal concepts to given tasks; and ability to perform advanced legal research and discovery tasks.

Below are some example classes students will encounter during their bachelor’s education.

Criminal Law

Outlines the definitions and elements of crimes against persons, property, and various legal defenses available to defendants.

Paralegal Skills and Knowledge Gained

  • check-circle iconUnderstanding of the basic constitutional safeguards and procedures involved from arrest through trial
  • check-circle iconUnderstand the prosecution process for any type of crime
  • check-circle iconUnderstanding of the application of state and federal sentencing guidelines

Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights

Overview of the various types of intellectual property, how to protect against infringement, and what defenses are available for infringement both in the U.S. and abroad.

Paralegal Skills and Knowledge Gained

  • check-circle iconRecognize the different types of IP
  • check-circle iconRecognize the various types of infringement
  • check-circle iconAbility to apply defenses and remedies for infringement

Legal Document Preparation

Teaches the practical skill of drafting, editing, and otherwise preparing legal documents through hands-on practice.

Paralegal Skills and Knowledge Gained

  • check-circle iconDraft sales and service contracts, real property contracts and deeds, wills, limited partnership or LLC operating agreements, prenuptial agreements, and other legal documents

Specialties in Paralegal Studies

Just as lawyers choose an area of law in which to practice, paralegals may choose a specialty or concentration during their schooling. Students who choose a concentration will take classes specifically geared to aspects of that concentration, and will focus largely on learning about that area of law and mastering skills relevant to the specialty.

Below are some of the most common specialties for paralegals.

Corporate

Estate Planning and Probate

Family Law

Immigration

Intellectual Property

Advanced Education

The educational options available to students after they achieve a bachelor’s degree include earning a post-baccalaureate certificate, a graduate certificate, or a master’s degree in paralegal studies. While it is not always necessary that paralegal professionals complete education beyond a bachelor’s, each advanced program offers different credentials and skills and prepares graduates for increased opportunities and responsibility.

Type of Certifications

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate

Graduate Certificate

Master’s Degree in Paralegal Studies

Skills Gained at the Graduate Level

Complex Research Skills

Proficiency in Document Preparation

A Magnified Understanding of Law

Team Contribution

Strong Sense of Professionalism

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Paralegal Credentials

Paralegal positions don’t require a standard set of credentials. Instead, paralegals can pursue a handful of voluntary certification programs throughout the nation. Some of the most common certification programs for paralegals include (but are not limited to):

National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)

NALA offers the Certified Paralegal (CP) credential program, which signifies that a paralegal can provide high-quality services to firms and corporations.

National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)

The NFPA offers two paralegal certification programs:

check-circle icon The Paralegal CORE Competency Exam (PCCE): A certification for new and early-career paralegals with a bachelor’s degree in a related field.

check-circle icon The Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE): A certification for paralegals further along in their careers who want to further advance their careers.

Association of Legal Professionals (NALS)

The NALS offers several different certifications for paralegals and aspiring paralegals:

check-circle icon Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) is for students and entry-level professionals

check-circle icon Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) and Certified Legal Professional (CLP) are for paralegals with at least three years of legal work experience

check-circle icon Professional Paralegal (PP) is for students graduating from an ABA-approved legal studies program or those with five years of experience

Considerations for Paralegal School

Program Length

Faculty with Extensive Paralegal Experience

Accreditation

Career Placement and Internship Services

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Skills of a Successful Paralegal

Certain skills and character traits make some individuals naturals for a career as a paralegal. In addition to solid legal knowledge and understanding, a successful paralegal will have the necessary credentials and be proficient in using the tools and technologies utilized by law firms and legal departments.

Being responsible for such a wide variety of tasks requires paralegals to be very organized and skilled at multitasking. Those who have an extreme attention to detail and who enjoy working as part of a team, often behind the scenes, are ideal candidates

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Excellent research skills

Professionals must be able to effectively conduct research as well as evaluate and analyze law sources in order to apply theories and principles to issues and cases. Research often also includes conducting interviews and investigations.

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Communication skills

In addition to research and analysis, paralegals must also be able to draft correspondence and legal documents in a clear, concise and accurate manner. Additionally, paralegals interact efficiently and sometimes assertively with many different people, from lawyers to clients to witnesses to court personnel.

Tools and Technology for Paralegals

Some paralegals also function as office managers, conducting various administrative tasks to ensure that everything in a law office or firm runs smoothly on a daily basis. In order to do this, paralegals should have knowledge of legal administrative systems, billing practices and accounting systems. Computer literacy is also important as law offices become increasingly reliant on electronic databases, legal forums, and legal software for administration and conducting legal research.

Below are just some of the technology systems paralegals may encounter in the workplace.

Accounting Integration MyCase, CosmoLex, Actionstep, PracticePanther Legal Software, HoudiniESQ, CasetrackerLaw
Billing and Invoicing RocketMatter, BillQuick Legal, AbacusLaw, Amicus Attorney, Advantage Law, Knowify, BigTime Software
Case and Client History CoCounselor, Clio, Gavel, Case Manager Pro, LegalXGen, Needles Case Management, CaseSync, EveryClient (Legal)
Client Database Acumin by Dexco, BHL Insight, CaseLode, LegalTrek, MyCase, AbacusLaw, BigTime Software, Clio
Document Management CosmoLex, CoCounselor, HoudiniESQ, Amicus Attorney, CasetrackerLaw, Best Client Practice Management

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Related Public Service Careers

When you choose to become a paralegal, you will gain skills and education that could serve you well in related job opportunities. Related occupations such as claims adjusters, occupational health and safety technicians, secretaries and administrative assistants, or social workers performing as witness advocates could be a perfect fit for those who choose a career path similar to that of a paralegal. The average salaries and projected job growth for these related occupations according to the BLS are as follows:

Lawyer

  • Job Growth: 4%
  • Salary: $126,930
  • Education and Training: Doctoral or Professional Degree

 

Judge

  • Job Growth: 2%
  • Salary: $124,200
  • Education and Training: Doctoral or Professional Degree

 

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

  • Job Growth: -9%
  • Salary: $40,990
  • Education and Training: H.S Diploma or Equivalent

 

Witness Advocates (Social Workers)

  • Job Growth: 13%
  • Salary: $51,760
  • Education and Training: Bachelor’s Degree and/or Master’s Degree, State Certification

 

Insurance Claim Adjusters

  • Job Growth: -6%
  • Salary: $68,130
  • Education and Training: H.S. Diploma, Vocational Training, or Bachelor’s Degree

 

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

  • Job Growth: 4%
  • Salary: $72,530
  • Education and Training: Bachelor’s Degree

 

Mediators

  • Job Growth: 8%
  • Salary: $66,130
  • Education and Training: Bachelor’s Degree

 

Post-Secondary Teachers

  • Job Growth: 9%
  • Salary: $80,790
  • Education and Training: Master’s or Doctoral Degree

 

What Do Related Occupations Make?

Understanding what related occupations earn can help current and potential students and graduates get a better idea of what they can expect to earn if they pursue a career as a paralegal or transition to another field. Related occupations will perform similar administrative duties as paralegals such as document preparation, filing, and organization in legal settings such as:

  • Law offices
  • Corporate legal departments
  • Courtrooms
  • Government agencies

Educational Information for Paralegals

Regulation of Paralegals

The only state that currently regulates paralegals directly is California, which adopted regulation in 2000 that requires persons using the titles “paralegal,” “legal assistant,” and the like to meet certain educational/experiential qualifications and to meet continuing education requirements. For details, see the law at California Business and Professions Code, Sections 6450 through 6456.

In 2012 the  Washington State Supreme Court issued an order adopting the “Limited License Legal Technician” Rule to conduct limited practice in only specified areas of law upon meeting certain educational/experiential qualifications as well as continuing legal education requirements. For details, see Rule 28 of the Admission and Practice Rules, and Rules of Professional Conduct.

In 2018, the Utah State Supreme Court launched the “Licensed Paralegal Practitioner” to conduct limited practice in only specified areas of law upon meeting certain educational/experiential qualifications as well as continuing legal education requirments. For details, see rule 14-802 of the Rules Governing the Utah State Bar, and Rules Governing Licensed Paralegal Practitioner 15-703.

Paralegal Certification

Certification is a process by which a non-governmental agency or association grants recognition to an individual who has met certain predetermined qualifications specified by that agency or association. It usually involves passing an examination drawn up by the sponsoring organization and meeting specified educational and/or experiential requirements. The American Bar Association does not certify Paralegals. Paralegals may not represent themselves as “ABA-certified paralegals,” because the ABA’s approval applies to the paralegal education program rather than to the individual paralegal.

Presently, there is no mandatory certification examination for paralegals anywhere in the United States. However, the certification issue has been a subject of considerable interest and debate for the past several years among paralegal associations, bar associations and some legislatures. For a variety of reasons, some of these organizations support certification while others are opposed to it.

The National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. (NALA – The Paralegal Association), headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, began sponsoring a certification examination (Certified Legal Assistant) in 1975, which is now known as the Certificate Paralegal (CP®).  NALA also offers advanced specialty exams (APC®). For information on the exam, eligibility requirements, and more, please visit NALA’s web site.

The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (NFPA™), formed in 1974, offers the Paralegal Advanced Competency Examination (PACE®) to become a Registered Paralegal (RP™) and the Paralegal CORE Competency Exam (PCCE™). For more information on exam, eligibility requirements, and more, please visit NFPA’s web site.

NALS. . .the association for legal professionals, has been sponsoring voluntary certification for over four decades which include an Accredited Legal Professional (ALP), Certified Legal Professional (CLP) or Professional Paralegal (PP).  For information on the exams, eligibility requirements, and more, please visit NALS’ website.

The American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. offers the American Alliance Certified Paralegal (ACCP). For information on eligibility requirements and more, please visit AAPI’s website.

Financial Aid and Career Services

The American Bar Association does not provide financial assistance to individuals interested in enrolling in paralegal education programs. Inquiries pertaining to financial aid, such as scholarships, loans, and grants, should be directed to the program director or financial aid office of the institution you plan to attend. Also, the American Bar Association does not provide placement or career services assistance to paralegals, nor does it maintain lists of law firms or other agencies that employ paralegals.

Paralegal Educational Programs

At the present time the American Bar Association has identified more than 1000 institutions across the United States which offer formal paralegal education programs leading to either a degree or certificate. However, the listing in our web site directory includes only the paralegal education programs that are ABA approved.

Programs are offered by two-year community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and business and proprietary schools, some of which are freestanding institutions devoted solely to providing this type of training. Since entry into the paralegal field is open to a wide range of individuals with diverse educational backgrounds and previous work experiences, the length of programs and their admission requirements vary considerably from one institution to another.

A candidate’s personal qualifications for admission into a paralegal education program are very important. Applicants must be able to write clearly and communicate effectively and must possess a high degree of motivation and analytical reasoning capability. Candidates should also be responsible, mature individuals who are sincerely interested in pursuing a career as a paralegal.

Prospective students should be informed that paralegal education is not the equivalent of a law school education. Graduates of paralegal programs are not qualified or eligible to take the bar examination. Academic credit for paralegal courses is not transferable for advanced standing in law school.

Additional information on paralegal education is available from the American Association for Paralegal Education. Please visit AAfPE’s web site.

Brief descriptions of the most common types of paralegal education programs available follow:

Associate Degree Programs

Two-year associate degree programs are offered by comprehensive community colleges and some four-year degree-granting institutions. Although a substantial majority of community colleges have an open-door admissions policy, many of the paralegal education programs offered have adopted more selective admission criteria for entry into paralegal studies. Paralegal programs require a considerable amount of study and outside class assignments, and are necessarily taught at a sophisticated level. Additional screening methods which may be utilized include test scores on college-level entrance examinations, special verbal aptitude tests, writing samples, letters of recommendation and personal interviews. The curriculum in an associate degree program consists of a combination of general education, electives and legal specialty courses. The legal specialty courses are selected by educational administrators and faculty members in consultation with members of the legal community. Trends, needs, and changes in the local legal community therefore affect course requirements in legal specialty areas. Ordinarily, an associate degree program provides students with the requisite skills to perform in the legal environment as generalists. Students receive instruction in several different legal specialty areas. Legal specialty courses commonly offered in such programs are legal research and writing, introduction to paralegalism and law, contracts, torts and insurance, business law, estate planning and probate, corporate law, litigation, criminal law, family law, real estate and legal technology. Paralegal programs in community colleges may lead to an Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, or Associate in Applied Science Degree. A growing number of community colleges offer a certificate option for four-year college or university graduates.

Baccalaureate Degree Programs

A number of colleges and universities have developed four-year baccalaureate degree programs with a major or minor in paralegal studies. Curriculum requirements include general education, electives, and legal specialty courses. The four-year program normally encompasses both generalist and specialist courses. The generalist courses are similar to the offerings in an associate degree program. Usually the courses taken during the last two years of the program are more in-depth and advanced and allow a student to concentrate in one or more areas of legal specialization, thereby developing special expertise in those selected areas. Some of the four-year programs offer or require courses on the management and administration of a law office.How to Become a Paralegal: A Guide to Paralegal Education | Best Colleges |  US News

In general, a four-year program provides students with a sound liberal arts education and legal specialty training in several areas, thereby enabling them to choose from a wide number of employment opportunities in various legal settings as well as private law firms. Paralegal programs in four-year colleges or universities may lead to a Bachelor in Science or Bachelor in Arts degree. They are found in many different disciplines, including Political Science, Criminal Justice, Human Services and Business and are sometimes in separate Paralegal or Legal Studies Departments.

Certificate Programs

Non-degree certificate programs are offered by universities, colleges, business and proprietary schools. Some certificate programs are offered for academic college credit and some are not. A certificate program usually offers only legal specialty training. If the general education component is not offered as a part of the program, such programs require applicants for admission to have completed one and one-half years of college or more. Some certificate programs are restricted to only college graduates whose academic record displays a high level of achievement. Classes may be offered full-time during the day or on a part-time evening basis. The length of the program may range from four or five months to two years. Some programs offer legal specialty training and some have a general practice curriculum that includes specialty training. Legal specialty concentrations most often offered are litigation, estate planning and administration, real estate, and corporations.

Internships

Many paralegal education programs include an internship as a part of the curriculum. The internship enables a student to utilize skills acquired in the program and to gain practical on-the-job experience. Internships are available in a variety of settings including private law firms, offices of a public defender or attorney general, banks, corporate legal departments, legal aid organizations, and many government agencies.

Home Study and Web-Based Programs

The American Bar Association does not approve correspondence or home study programs and does not provide information on home study programs. The American Bar Association Guidelines for the Approval of Paralegal Education Programs do allow approved programs to offer some paralegal coursework through web-based electronic delivery and other means of distance delivery.

ABA Approval of Paralegal Education Programs

In 1974 the American Bar Association established the first Guidelines for the Approval of Paralegal Education Programs and in 1975 approved the first group of paralegal education programs. The ABA Guidelines were developed to promote high standards of quality for the education of paralegals. The Guidelines have been revised several times since their initial adoption to keep pace with changes in the utilization of paralegals and in higher education.

To become eligible for ABA approval, a program must have been in operation for at least two academic years and have graduated students and must fully satisfy all requirements of the ABA Guidelines. A directory of ABA Approved Paralegal Education Programs is maintained on the website. New programs are approved semi-annually, at the ABA midyear and annual meetings.

Programs seeking ABA approval are required to submit a self-evaluation report which is intended to provide a comprehensive description of all program components with emphasis on the following areas: organization and administration, financial and other resources, advisory committee, educational program, faculty and program leadership, admissions and student services, career services, library and physical plant. As part of the ABA evaluation process, an initial on-site visit is conducted by a two-member team comprised of a representative of the ABA Standing Committee on Paralegals Approval Commission, an experienced paralegal or an educator from another paralegal program. The inspection provides an opportunity to verify information provided in the self-evaluation report and to acquire supplementary information essential to making an evaluation. Each inspection includes the following activities: meetings with the program director, administrative officials of the institution, members of the advisory committee, faculty members, students and graduates, and staff of career services, admissions and counseling offices, review of various documents such as course outlines, faculty evaluations, graduate employment records, student files, observation of classes in session and if offered online, and an inspection of the library, off-campus sites, and facilities. Once approved, programs go through the full evaluation process every seven years, and submit a regular interim report between visits that are monitored by the ABA Standing Committee and its Approval Commission.

Seeking approval from the American Bar Association is a voluntary process initiated by the institution offering the program. Therefore, the lack of approval does not necessarily mean a paralegal program is not of good quality and reputable.

Benefits of Becoming a Paralegal

You may already know that the paralegal profession offers you the opportunity for a challenging and well-respected career, but there are additional advantages to the field you may not have considered. If you’re contemplating a career change or you’re seeking a promotion within the legal field, now is a good time to weigh the many personal and professional benefits of becoming a paralegal.

Becoming a Paralegal Offers You Career Longevity

It Offers You Career Longevity

As you pursue the paralegal profession, you will be standing on solid employment ground. In fact, job prospects are outstanding. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the paralegal field will grow by 17 percent through 2022 nationwide, much faster growth than for many other occupations.

It Will Pay You Well

According to salary.com, the average annual salary for paralegals in Tampa ranges from $47,652 to $60,842. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the national annual salary for paralegals is $52,180, with the highest average annual salary ($80,470) and highest employment rate in Washington.

Paralegals working for the federal government tend to make the most ($64,650 on average), and those working for state government tend to earn the least ($46,810 on average). Also, according to NALA, the National Association of Legal Assistants, paralegals who work for large firms with multiple lawyers tend to earn more than those at smaller firms.

It Sticks to a (Mostly) Predictable Work Schedule

When a trial or filing deadline looms, it is possible you will have to work more than 40 hours a week or a Saturday here and there, but you certainly will never have to be concerned about the graveyard shift. This is a tremendous benefit if you seek a career with a healthy work-life balance or if second- or third-shift work would make child care and family life a challenge. Paralegals work a standard workday. If you are a paralegal working for the government, you usually will have a day off whenever the courts are closed.

It Offers You the Prestige of Professional Certification

Paralegals can enter the field through formal education, on-the-job training, or a combination of both. Although the Florida Bar Association’s definition of a paralegal does not stipulate a college degree or specific certification, many firms seek and pay higher salaries to paralegals with formal credentials.

  • Certified Paralegal: For this designation, you must pass an exam offered by NALA.
  • Florida Certified Paralegal: If you pass the CP exam, you become eligible to sit for the Paralegal Association of Florida exam.
  • Florida Registered ParalegalQualified paralegals can seek this voluntary designation from the Florida Bar.

It Provides You Recognition and Advancement

With hard work and outstanding experience, you can expect career advancement within the paralegal field. Your firm or agency could promote you to paralegal director, litigation support manager, or paralegal supervisor, roles that bring increased salary and responsibilities.

One more fun element of recognition: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared an official Paralegal Day (in 2019, it was recognized on Oct. 23), which surely could earn you a long, laudatory lunch from your employer.

It Offers You the Potential to Be Your Own Boss

The gig economy is taking hold even in the legal field, with more and more law firms outsourcing work to paralegals who are independent contractors rather than staffers. Two common scenarios for law firms to hire a remote paralegal:

  1. With large legal departments that maintain a staff of paralegals, you may find freelance work during busy seasons (such as tax season) and when staffers are on vacation or take leave.
  2. With small legal departments that cannot justify the cost of keeping a full-time paralegal on staff, you may find work as a remote or temporary paralegal to manage the workload on an as-needed basis.

These staffing needs line up nicely with the results of UpWork’s annual Freelancing in America survey of 6,000 workers. For the 35 percent of the U.S. workforce who freelanced in 2019, the study found that it is not just temporary gig work that is on the rise: 28 percent of freelancers in all fields work full time as independent contractors, not staff employees. That trend appears to be on the rise, even for paralegals. If you like the idea of flexible self-employment, the paralegal profession is a strong contender.

It Presents You with a Variety of Career Specializations

Not only can you choose to work in almost any category of settings that are not law firms – banks, corporations, nonprofits, hospitals, government, judges’ staff – you can seek experience and certification in several areas of specialization, allowing you to mold your career to suit your personal interests and skills, as well as market demands.

  • Family law paralegal: Suitable for those who are adept with emotionally delicate situations, your work will regard custody disputes, the preparation of pleas, and drafting correspondence.
  • Intellectual property paralegal: Appropriate for those with project management skills and an interest in marketing (you often will help marketers in creating trademarks), your work will focus on copyright and trademark law, patents, and other intellectual property concerns.
  • Litigation paralegal: Ideal for those who like a fast pace and the high stakes of the courtroom, your work will be concerned with preparing for trial, overseeing discovery, and interviewing witnesses.
  • Real estate paralegal: A good choice for paralegals who hold a real estate license, your work will center on reviewing and filing documents, coordinating schedules, and handling correspondence related to zoning, transactions, and foreclosures.
  • Immigration paralegal: An excellent fit for bilingual paralegals, your work will focus on helping immigrants deal with visa applications and petitions related to deportation.
  • Corporate paralegal: Excellent for paralegals who prefer to be behind the scenes rather than interacting with clients and the court, your work will relate to research and reviewing contracts.
  • Estate and probate paralegal: A perfect fit for a paralegal who is good with numbers and has compassion for those dealing with end-of-life issues, your work will focus on wills, estates, distribution of property, deeds, and inheritance tax.

A Paralegal Certificate Presents You with a Variety of Career Specializations

It Suits Your Skills (and Adds New Ones)

Paralegals can be generalists or specialists, but all paralegals have a core set of skills. If you don’t match up with all of these qualities, training for and working as a paralegal will help you hone them.

  • You love writing and editing: Paralegals must draft flawless documents.
  • You’re organized: Paralegals prepare and maintain files.
  • You’re computer savvy: Paralegals with mastery of Word, Excel, Westlaw, and LexisNexis have a leg up when job-hunting.
  • You’re good with numbers: Paralegals often deal with tax issues, financial records, bankruptcy, amortization, the calculation of damages and settlements, and forfeitures, so math skills matter.
  • You love a deadline: Paralegals feel energized by a filing deadline or court date.

It Enables You to Serve the Public

Helping others is the essence of paralegal work. You will help your lawyers prepare cases, and you will help clients through difficult experiences in the legal system. If you are interested in the law because you are passionate about social justice, you might be a good fit for family law, immigration law, probate, bankruptcy, or environmental law. If you are interested in criminal law, you might consider working for a public defender.

We invite you to explore USF’s Paralegal Certificate Program, an exceptional course of study taught exclusively by sitting judges.

Tips for paralegals to improve client communication

The need to improve client communications is a challenge that many law firms find themselves faced with over the course of their practice. And as the central source of information, paralegals are often the main point of connection for clients, legal professionals, and court staff,

A study published in 2016 by the American Bar Association (ABA) found that 36 percent of the malpractice claims filed against attorneys from 1997 to 2007 were the result of miscommunication with clients. To address this issue, one of the best things that law firms can do is improve client communication. And this can require effort from the entire team.

5 Tips for Paralegals to Improve Client Communication | USF Corporate  Training and Professional Education

Enhancing paralegal-client communication

As the team member who typically has the most frequent contact with clients, paralegals are often called upon to act as a liaison between the client and the attorney. Paralegals answer questions and provide guidance and support to clients many times as a case proceeds toward resolution, particularly at the initial client interview, throughout the discovery process, and during trial preparation.

Paralegals can facilitate the understanding of complex information and avoid misunderstandings by following simple rules to improve client communication:

1.  Allow clients to speak for themselves…

and listen closely to what they have to say, relaying important information back to the attorney. Clients who don’t want to bother their attorneys with a lot of questions often feel more comfortable speaking with paralegals, particularly to obtain status updates and progress reports.

2.  Talk with clients in plain English…

not legalese, ensuring that they feel confident in their understanding of the details. Clients often look to paralegals for greater clarification of complex legal concepts that may be only briefly mentioned in legal proceedings and meetings with attorneys.

3.  Return phone calls as soon as possible.

Because attorneys are often mired in the details of a case and do not have time for extended phone conversations, paralegals can build client confidence by keeping the lines of communication open.

4.  Show courtesy and respect…

Client Satisfaction Strategies for Paralegals - Work Better Tips & Tutorials

in all client communications. Keeping topics professional and focused on the details of the case, if possible, avoiding personal conversations.

5.  Keep the details of a client’s case confidential.

An attorney’s obligation to keep client information confidential extends to the paralegal. Although it should go without saying, don’t talk to your clients about their case in public places; if you receive case-related text messages from clients, delete them immediately; and never reference your client’s case on social media.

6.  Repeat important information to clients in different ways…

and as often as necessary. Legal terms and concepts are difficult for most laypeople to grasp, and explaining them numerous times in various ways, preferably through the use of examples, can lead to greater client understanding of the procedures involved in their case.

7.  Provide clients with regular and periodic status updates…

on how their case is progressing. Frequent communication helps to reassure clients that there are no drastic issues with their case, while also building their confidence in the attorney and the entire legal team.

8.  Send copies of all documents to the client promptly…

with a breakdown of important points, if possible. Clients like to see concrete evidence of the work that is being done on their case, and pointing out critical events can be extremely beneficial in helping them understand that progress is being made.

9. Never give legal advice, and make it clear you are not a lawyer.

If you are relaying legal advice, make sure that the client comprehends that it comes from the attorney, not you. Clients often do not understand the part that each member of the legal team plays in their case, and you might be called upon to explain your role.

10.  Never make promises you can’t keep…

5 Tips for Paralegals to Improve Client Communication | USF Corporate  Training and Professional Education

such as when a case will settle or the potential value of a case, even if the client tries to press you to do so. The client might rely on these statements, creating a potential ethics problem for your attorney, and for you as well.

Paralegals are not attorneys, yet their work product is merged with and becomes part of the attorney work product for a client. If a paralegal uses effective communication skills, particularly with clients, this will improve the working process of the whole team, and further enhance the client’s relationship with the entire law firm.

The Advantages and Benefits of Public Service Work

Although there is a huge gap between the private sector and public interest salaries, public interest jobs offer a number of key advantages over private practice. Below are six advantages of public service work.The Advantages and Benefits of Public Service Work

Furthering the Public Good

A primary reason lawyers and others undertake public interest or pro bono work is to further the public good. Helping underserved people, groups, and causes can provide a feeling of personal satisfaction and achievement that you might not gain defending large corporations in private practice.

Public interest work can allow you to achieve greater goals beyond earning a paycheck, such as working to effect societal change, supporting an important public cause, or providing equal access to justice for needy individuals and organizations. In fact, the lowest-paid lawyers (typically those doing public interest work) report the highest levels of happiness.

Public interest and pro bono work also provide the opportunity to become involved in your local community by performing public service activities of a legal and non-legal nature. For students, it is sometimes easier to find internships with public interest employers than with law firms and for-profit organizations, who tend to hire on a very limited basis for summer jobs. And it’s sometimes possible to get funding for your public interest summer job from your law school or from a nationwide public interest organization, such as Equal Justice Works.5 Reasons You Should Take a Job in Public Sector Procurement - Public Spend  Forum

Valuable Work Experience

Law students, new lawyers, paralegals, and other legal professionals can gain valuable work experience through internships in the public interest sector or via pro bono work in law school. Such experience is important at a time when jobs are scarce; many employers do not have the time or resources to train new attorneys and legal personnel.

Since small firms want to hire candidates who can hit the ground running, and large firms often funnel substantive legal work to experienced associates, working in the public interest sector can help you gain the work experience you need. Public interest work is a great stepping stone to private practice and employers appreciate a commitment to public service.

Better Work-Life Balance

Public interest jobs typically offer a better work-life balance than law firm jobs. Nine-to-five work days, flexible schedules, and part-time opportunities are common in the public interest sector. Unlike private practice, individuals employed in non-profits, the government, and legal service organizations are not under pressure to meet high billable hour quotas, gain face-time with partners, or spend free time on client development activities. The work culture is often more relaxed because the focus is on service rather than profit.

Exposure to Multiple Practice Areas

When you join a law firm, you are typically assigned to a specific practice group. However, public service and pro bono work can help new grads explore a variety of practice areas while performing valuable work. At a legal service organization, for example, you might assist with a variety of cases ranging from landlord/tenant and immigration issues to child custody and civil rights. You will gain valuable insight and useful knowledge in the procedural and substantive issues surrounding many areas of law.

Mentoring and Networking Opportunities

If you are a student or a new graduate, public interest and pro bono work can also help you gain mentors, networking contacts, and job references. While law firms and corporations are often focused on the bottom line, public interest venues are less focused on profit.

Therefore, they may offer more time to develop mentoring relationships and contacts. And taking on a pro bono project organized by the local bar association can be a great way to meet practicing attorneys in areas of particular interest since they often volunteer to serve as mentors to newer volunteers.

Recognition and Honors

Lawyers have an ethical obligation to provide public service and give back to the community. This duty also extends to some other legal professionals, such as paralegals. Many law firms and legal organizations recognize and honor lawyers and legal professionals who have demonstrated leadership in their community by engaging in public service and pro bono activities.

Hiring managers also appreciate a commitment to pro bono and public service work. Therefore, this type of work experience can be a resume booster.