How to gain work experience as a paralegal out of school:
If you just received your paralegal degree you may be interested to know about how you could gain some more work experience to work towards a career. Even though most graduates are looking for a career directly after completing paralegal certification schools or a specific training program, it is often paralegals that have internship experience or volunteer experience that receive full-time employment first. Here are some tips on how to find experience after you receive your certification or diploma:
Join an association:
Finding your local as well as your state paralegal Association will help you to get access to some new volunteer opportunities as well as employment resources. Joining an association can provide you with excellent representation/ resources as well as some potential discounts. Doing some research into your local Association is a great place to start at building up your network.
Accept the first offer:
Many paralegals hold out for a job offer within the field of law that they would like to be in for their entire career path. Accepting a position in another aspect of the law can be an excellent way that you can gain some experience and get some new contacts in the legal field. This could mean accepting a position at an internship, working as a receptionist or legal clerk or working in a different type of law than you would like to specialize in.
Try an internship program:
Most colleges and diploma programs do provide some type of paralegal internship program. Going into a program that provides an internship will help you get some practical experience and build up a network of legal contacts. If a college or university is willing to organize an internship with local law firms you may even get a job at the company you intern with at the end of your training.
Try a volunteer organization:
Working with a volunteer organization like Habitat for Humanity, legal aid or a local non-profit could be a great way that you could learn about new job openings and gain some unique volunteer experience for your resume.
Keep some of these top options in mind for gaining applicable work experience as a paralegal directly out of school.
What is The Difference between a Paralegal and Legal Assistant?
If you like a bowl full of confusion about the difference between a legal assistant and a paralegal, your have come to the right place. However, it won't be too exciting for most folks simply because, according to the American Bar Association both professions are judged and qualified by education, training and work experience; ergo, the ABA does not distinguish any major differences. Actually, professionals in the legal field of endeavor agree that their really is no difference. And the National Association of Legal Assistants has also confirmed that statement so now you can wipe the sweat off your forehead and smile again knowing that paralegal assistants and legal assistants should never be confused with a legal secretary who, for the most part, does not usually share the same responsibilities.
Duties Of Paralegals Versus Legal Assistants
Each will perform many of the duties an attorney would be saddled with personally. If you like tedium and legal research on a regular basis this job might be right up your alley. On the other hand being involved in drafting legal pleadings, contracts, court and legal documents as well as answering questions from legal clients, having a position as a paralegal can not only be exciting, but challenging, too. One thing, though, a paralegal and legal assistant cannot give any legal advice and they cannot sign legal documents, either; that's the job of the attorney. In terms of pay, most lawyers bill their hours much like the attorney would do with clients, but on a lower pay scale.
Training Requirements For Both Paralegal And Legal Assistants
The duties and responsibilities of both are pretty much similar. They are only labels for the same position. However, the individual must still meet certain professional standards plus having some formal training in the legal field. While a special certification is not required to become a paralegal or legal assistant, the legal firm will usually prefer some legal knowledge.
Note: The American Bar Association (ABA) does not draw a line about any differences between the paralegal and legal assistant, but will generally follow a specific guideline involving education, work experience and training for those being employed or hired by a lawyer or law firm. If you are searching for the best online paralegal certification programs in the legal field, it might be wise to insure your selection has been ABA approved by an accredited institution.
Certified Paralegal Career Path
Paralegals that come into the career field after being certified are usually assigned duties similar to the entry level lawyer. These duties include but are not limited to drafting documents, information management and transaction billing. Legal firms may decide to cut financial deficit by employing these paralegals in dual roles such as legal secretaries, legal research assistants, and even legal office assistants. As the paralegal gains time and experience, they can become Senior Paralegal in their department. This promotion will give them additional responsibilities which can include client meetings.
Large firms may employ a significant number of paralegals. This requires a system of departmental oversight with a Paralegal Assistant Manager and a Paralegal Manager. This can mean that someone who is a a Senior Paralegal has room for advancement. The Paralegal Management team will supervise all the paralegal personnel, project assistants and litigation technology department, as well as handle assigned cases of their own.
Some organizations that have a large department of paralegal personnel may also employ a Paralegal Recruiting and Training Coordinator. This person's role is to identify and engage qualified people who have both the required skills and the right attitude for a position in their firm. It is their job to hire and educate the Certified Paralegal in the protocols and procedures of that firm and help them become established.
Certified Paralegals who aspire for growth and recognition can certainly achieve it. The data at Paralegal Certification Scoop suggests that many can go so far as become Office Administrators of law offices and not just paralegal department managers. There is also a need for freelance paralegals. These are usually independent contractors who are hired for case-by-case work for legal organizations. These self-employed individuals often provide services to the public depending on their area of expertise. This can include legal advice, drafting of legal documents and legal representation.
There are many ways to advance along the career path of a Certified Paralegal. After a period of time, a paralegal who has honed their skills and built a reputation will ensure a promotion. This career path can jump start from entry level base work, build to supervisor and then launch upward into management. Given time, tenacity and hard work, a Certified Paralegal can even become a Law Office Administrator.