What You'll Need To Become a Paralegal


Choosing a career as a paralegal offers various opportunities for growth and development, as well as rewarding work experience. The demand for paralegals has risen considerably in recent years, making it an attractive career path for many. But what does it take to become a successful paralegal, and what skills are necessary to excel in this profession? This article will outline the key requirements for becoming a paralegal and provide valuable insights to help you on your journey. Keep reading to find out more.

Educational Requirements and Certification

The first and most crucial step in becoming a paralegal is meeting the educational requirements. Most employers prefer candidates with at least an associate degree, and increasingly, they are looking for those with an American Bar Association (ABA) approved bachelor's degree in paralegal studies or a related field. Earning a degree from an ABA approved paralegal certificate program can make you even more competitive in the job market.

Additionally, many employers prefer paralegals who are certified. While certification is not always required, it shows a commitment to the profession and expertise in the field. Several organizations offer paralegal certification examinations, including the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). These certifications can complement your educational background and provide an extra edge when applying for paralegal positions.

Lastly, joining professional associations such as the National Association of Scholars as a student is also beneficial to further your professional development. Membership in these organizations can provide you with access to resources, training, and networking opportunities that can help boost your career.

Develop Essential Skills

Paralegals perform a wide range of tasks and responsibilities, making it essential to have solid skills to succeed in this field. One of the most important skills for a paralegal is strong written and verbal communication. Paralegals often draft legal documents, conduct interviews, and communicate with attorneys, clients, and court personnel. As such, effectively expressing ideas and information is of utmost importance.

Moreover, paralegals need excellent research and analytical abilities. They are responsible for gathering and analyzing legal information and evaluating the relevance and strength of potential evidence. Such skills require attention to detail, critical thinking, and the ability to synthesize large amounts of information.

Technical proficiency is also crucial for a successful paralegal career. Familiarity with legal research platforms, document management software, and Microsoft Office applications can greatly improve your efficiency and productivity in the workplace. 

Gaining Practical Experience

While obtaining a strong educational background and developing essential skills are important, gaining practical experience is just as crucial for aspiring paralegals. Internships, externships, or entry-level positions can provide you with invaluable hands-on experience and exposure to the legal industry. These opportunities allow you to acquire a better understanding of the paralegal role, as well as the specific tasks and responsibilities commonly encountered.

Volunteering in legal aid organizations or pro bono law offices can also be an effective way to enhance your paralegal skills and gain practical experience. These experiences help you gain confidence in your abilities, demonstrate your commitment to the legal profession, and allow you to build a network of valuable connections.

Keep Learning and Stay Informed

Staying informed of new developments and trends is essential as the legal industry evolves. By remaining up-to-date on changes in the law, new technologies, and industry best practices, you can ensure that your paralegal skills remain relevant and competitive. Make it a point to attend conferences, workshops, and webinars regularly. Additionally, subscribe to legal publications, participate in professional associations, and engage in online communities to further your knowledge and maintain your expertise.

Continuing education is also essential for maintaining paralegal certifications. Many certificate programs require paralegals to complete a certain number of continuing legal education (CLE) credits to maintain their credentials. This helps ensure you remain current with the latest legal developments and maintain high competence in your field.

By following the steps outlined above, aspiring paralegals can increase their chances of obtaining a rewarding and fulfilling career in the legal field.