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By Thea Theresa English

Starting your career as a paralegal

If you want a legal career but do not wish to become a lawyer, you can become a paralegal. The good news about this field is that you won't need to attend a four-year university. You can enroll at a community college and earn a certificate or associate's degree in paralegal studies. In addition, you're likely to receive on-the-job training once you are hired at a law firm. The working hours for paralegals are also flexible.

Advantages of being a paralegal

Depending on the law firm, years of experience, and location, you can earn a decent income as a paralegal. On average, paralegals earn up to $50,000 annually and this makes for a comfortable living. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the number of paralegal jobs is expected to grow by 28 percent between now and 2018. Paralegals also challenge their brains regularly due to the constant research they perform on the job.

Make sure your paralegal program is approved by the American Bar Association

When choosing a paralegal program at a certain school, you need to make sure that the program is approved by the American Bar Association. You can visit the ABA's website to look at which paralegal programs are approved in your state. This approval legitimizes your education and employers are more likely to see your certificate or degree as valid.

Courses you will take while studying to be a paralegal

Each paralegal studies program is different but some of the courses you will take include law and ethics, business law, law and the media, legal writing, intellectual property, and family law. While taking these courses you should also obtain real-life work experience through an internship or as a regular job as a paralegal's assistant. This makes you a well-rounded student.

What paralegals do

A paralegal's responsibilities include gathering research for various cases, meeting with the lawyer's clients and visitors in general, organizing important documents for the lawyer, preparing summaries for reports, and scheduling interviews with those involved in a certain case. Paralegals might also obtain affidavits that could be used in court as evidence.

I obtained my degree in paralegal studies. How do I find work?

Start by contacting your professors from school and inquiring about any openings at law firms that they are aware of. Another idea would be to utilize social media to locate old classmates who are now paralegals. Upload your resume to their email addresses and they might pass it on to the hiring manager. You can also network by joining a local professional organization tailored for paralegals. Or you can walk into different law firms and leave your resume with the staff.

Keys to success as a paralegal

Now that you have worked as a paralegal for a few months, it would be wise to seek out mentors at the firm to help you improve in your work. Take continuing education courses on the subject and research the latest trends. Pay close attention to details and ask questions if you are unclear about certain tasks.

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