Even though a paralegal certificate is not mandatory in order to work as a paralegal, the better positions and bigger law firms demand valid certificates to prove that the candidate is educated enough and has passed the recognized examinations.
The starting Point
There are various paralegal certificate programs and not all of them require the same level of education or experience. There are also different paths available, such as two-year associate programs, and four-year bachelor’s degree programs. Some of them are short, basic programs that can take only few months to finish, and are therefore a good starting point. A good paralegal will develop his skills and gain more knowledge over the years.
Most of the knowledge will be gained “on the job”, and this is probably the most needed knowledge; however, having the certificate can help beginners to find their first job, because there is some tough competition, and just as in any other profession, the best positions goes to those with the right background.
Despite the fact that paralegals are not authorized to handle certain things like representing a client or signing certain documents, they should know the legal norms and specifics, just as their boss does. Having the certificate and going through all the courses can assure that the paralegal knows the basics and should know how to start working to get the experience. This will give both the paralegal and the lawyer the peace of mind needed when doing such important work.
In the U.S there are about 1000 colleges and universities that are qualified to give paralegal certificates. Over the past few years, since the internet became so popular, many online paralegal courses and programs have sprung up to teach young people who hope to get the desired certificate. That’s an interesting fact because they no longer need to file documents and they can learn from home, in their own free time. Many students combine the studies together with their daily job, hoping to change career and become paralegals.
There are more than 150,000 paralegals that hold a paralegal certificate in the United States. Lawyers say the number of uncertified paralegals is about double, but most of the new paralegals knock on their door with a certificate in their hands. “They know what it takes to become a successful paralegal, and having to learn a few courses is fine with them, as long as they get the highest salary they can, and as fast as possible. These days, people want to feed their children and buy the wife a few presents from time to time. If the certificate can buy these thing, so be it.”
Numerous colleges take on students and eventually award them with paralegal certificates, as long as the students meet one of these two conditions:
- Finished at least three semesters in college
- Have 36 units credits
There are 8 basic classes in legal studies before the certificate can be granted:
- Business Law
- Family Law
- Introduction to Civil Procedures
- Introduction to Criminal Law
- Real Estate Law
- Legal Research and Writing
- Legal Ethics
The certificate can also be given if applicants graduate from a course of study for legal assistants, and if they have at least six months of in-house training as a legal assistant or paralegal. In addition, applicants should have a baccalaureate degree in any field. If applicants meets all these conditions, a paralegal certificate will be granted.