Importance and Benefits of a Certificate in Paralegal Studies
The legal domain has exceeded its boundaries. The unregulated profession is not merely confined to few registration requirements or licensing. However, there is enough room for a professional certificate to excel and to reach the standard of employer demands. Here is when a paralegal certificate comes into play.
There is no denying that a paralegal certificate plays a vital role when it comes to expanding legal expertise and knowledge. A paralegal is an important part of any legal team, providing assistance to deal with a wide range of legal tasks.
Not only does he/she support attorneys prepare for legal cases, but also manages and organizes documents, summarizes reports, conducts research and performs many other tasks like these.
A paralegal is not less than the heart of any law firm. Paralegals have now taken responsibilities that are at par with entry-level lawyers and legal secretaries. This is one of the reasons why paralegals or legal assistants have become important to run a legal firm successfully. Besides this, the increased demand for internet savvy people and increase the rate of incarceration in the past few decades have increased the need for paralegals.
Referring to this, a paralegal has become an emerging career opportunity for individuals who want to choose it as a long-term career option. Paralegal studies certificate, in this regard, is the one way an individual can begin or pursue a rewarding career in a legal team.
If you are a law student and do not have much knowledge about paralegal requirements or how to get a paralegal certificate or what are paralegal education requirements this article might help you. Before we plunge into the details of paralegal studies certificate, understanding what a paralegal is important.
What is a Paralegal Profession?
Role of a Paralegal
Since 1960, the development of this profession, paralegals are considered an integral part of various legal processes. It is because of paralegals that attorneys and legal servants are able to improve their work efficiency and performance.
From effective delivery of the case trails to gathering evidence for a case, paralegals help attorneys deal the cases with more focus and vigilance by freeing them up from trivial tasks. Paralegals also provide support in court proceedings, trial practices, and planning laws and are indispensable members of law firms.
According to the Labor Statistics Bureau U.S, paralegals have an extensive job description. Typically, they are legal assistants who help attorneys prepare for hearings and trials. Handling corporate meetings, these legal assistants manage and organize things through computer software. Not only this, they investigate cases, collect evidence, draft correspondence, communicate with clients, and summarize reports.
What kind of an Environment does he/she work in?
According to a recent survey, paralegals are performing the duties that were previously assigned to different legal secretaries. Surveys also highlight that many people consider paralegals a good alternative to costly attorneys.
They can also be entry-level lawyers. That is why paralegal work in a formal environment as legal attorneys do.
Certificate in Paralegal Studies
What are the Different Options for Getting Certification?
Paralegal certification has certain educational requirements as an individual can get into different paralegal certificate programs. Most of these certificates are included in post-baccalaureate programs. To put it simply, these programs are for students who have a bachelor’s degree.
Those with associate degrees can also qualify for certified paralegal exam. The interesting thing is that students do not necessarily have to choose paralegal studies to get into certificate programs. They can opt for it with degrees in political science, business, or fine arts. The main subjects have to be Math, Social Sciences, and English with developed communication skills.
Paralegal professional certification program is offered by professional paralegal organizations. All of these institutes are nationally recognized and offer accredited online paralegal certificate programs. These three major programs include:
The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- Certified Paralegal (RP)
- Advanced Certified Paralegal (RP)
The Association for Legal Professionals (NALS)
- Specialty Certification (SC)
- Professional Paralegal (PP)
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- Registered Paralegal (RP)
- Core Registered Paralegal (CRP)
The aforementioned organizations require individuals to complete or continue their legal education. Plus, the organizations administer a standardized assessment in order to evaluate a paralegal’s knowledge and skills. Their objective is to assess the competence of an individual to become a legal assistant. These paralegals programs are approved by (ABA) and universally valued and recognized.
Here it is important to understand that paralegal certification is optional as a number of paralegals are working successfully without earning any professional designation. However, this does not relegate the significance of earning a professional credential.
Appearing in a certified paralegal exam is definitely a sound investment. It distinguishes a certified paralegal from his/her co-workers and colleagues.
What can You do with such a Certificate?
As mentioned earlier, certified paralegal programs offer a specialized track for people seeking career opportunities in various specific legal fields. For instance, if you want to become an ecologist, a certificate in environmental paralegal studies may open the doors to many opportunities.
In the same vein, law impacts everything including medical facilities, insurance and various other medical areas like drugs. Individuals with nursing degrees can apply for a nursing paralegal certificate program.
There is no doubt that paralegal certificate programs can benefit many individuals who aspire to work as paralegals, and also people who want some career change. The program facilitates many fields as well and provides a good opportunity to people considering law school as an option.
Following are the points you need to consider before applying for a paralegal certification program to evaluate whether it fits your goals or not:
- Do you want a post-baccalaureate program or technical certificate?
- Do you want a program offering knowledge for a specialized track?
- Have you studied paralegal in your undergraduate program? If yes, then what new ground does this paralegal program cover? Does it allow you to expand your knowledge?
- Do legal studies offer legal research, writing analysis, technology, and substantive law?
How long does it take to get a Paralegal Certificate?
If you have enrolled for an associate degree in professional paralegal certificate program, typically the program lasts two years, covering four semesters. Bachelors program, in paralegal work, is designed as an four-year program, covering eight semesters.
On the other hand, the paralegal certificate program is designed for one year, covering a maximum of two semesters. It also depends on the program you choose. Many current programs require eighteen to forty-five credit hours that are delivered in a part-time schedule, depending on the requirement of the program structure and layout.
Generally, law firms require applicants to acquire some professional experience after finishing college. Particularly, experience in administrative work while applying for a paralegal degree is considered an attractive quality.
Available Paralegal Certificate Programs
Online Paralegal Certificate Programs Approved by the ABA
Programs approved by American Bar Association (ABA) hold high level of prestige and legitimacy. Given below are few top-ranked online certified paralegal programs approved by ABA.
- NALA’s CP (Certified Paralegal Program)
- NALS Specialty Certificate Program
- Georgetown Paralegal Study program
- Paralegal Training Program (PTP)
- Paralegal program By TU College
Overall, choosing paralegal as a profession is a good option for people who want to enter the legal field. Aforementioned details cover the major aspects of this profession.