Author Archives: Ruth Riddle
Author Archives: Ruth Riddle
Law, by its very nature, is a field that is often rife with conflicting interests, where people's lives, livelihoods, careers, and property are constantly at stake. Being the case, it is essential that paralegal ethics be understood and followed in order to maintain maximum fairness and integrity, and to help ensure justice for all parties involved.
It is no surprise that the legal community takes ethics violations very seriously. There has been much written about ethics, in law and otherwise, because there is so much to learn and understand. Many paralegal programs have courses dedicated to legal ethics because it is paramount that paralegals are aware of the ethical standards regarding legal work. While the use of common sense and good judgement is a good rule of thumb to follow when deliberating ethics, there is still a lot of gray area where knowing and following precedents will be required for maintaining your highest ethical standards.
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), a professional organization of paralegals and paralegal associations, has a code of ethics model that covers the subject pretty thoroughly, although it is written in a very legalese manner. The PDF can be found here.
As a paralegal you are not allowed to have clients of your own, and if you try to do too much you may end up over-stepping your boundaries. Sometimes you may want to help a client so much that you begin performing tasks that only a licensed attorney may perform. As long as you are properly supervised by a licensed attorney, you can perform many tasks on behalf of the client, although some of the things you are allowed to do may vary from state to state.
You will have access to a lot of personal and private information, and it is your duty to protect the confidentiality of that information. You cannot share a client's confidential information with anyone, including their family, the judge, opposing lawyers, or the media. It can only be discussed between you, the paralegal, and the supervising attorney who represents the client and supervises your work.
In order for a client not to mistake you for a licensed attorney you must clearly indicate that you are a paralegal when dealing with him or her. It is your duty to make sure the clients you work with know your role and responsibilities in the case.
If you have knowledge of fraud, deceit, dishonesty, or misrepresentation on the part of another legal professional, it is your duty to disclose that information to the proper person, usually your supervising attorney. If the person committing the ethical violation happens to be your supervising attorney, they you may have to report the problem to his or her supervisor, another trusted attorney, or the state bar association.
In situations when you have information that, if disclosed, may prevent a client from committing an act that could result in death or serious bodily harm, then disclosing that information will override any client confidentiality rules.
Since you are not allowed to have clients of your own, you must share all information with the attorney who represents the client. You can get into serious trouble if you were to establish a secretive and improper relationship with a client that comes between a client and his or her attorney.
You must always work for your client's benefit by avoiding any conflict of interests whether legal, personal, or business related. A paralegal who works on a contract basis for several different attorneys cannot provide work for the attorney of the plaintiff and the attorney of the defendant in the same case.
As a paralegal, you will also need to adhere to the rules of ethics that apply to attorneys since you will often be performing tasks that are normally performed by a licensed attorney.
In an effort to expand the greater good, some paralegal codes of ethics call for paralegals to aspire to contribute volunteer hours to people of limited means or to the organizations that help them.
Throughout your career as a paralegal you may find aspects of the legal system that could use some reform. Whether it's lobbying politicians to pass laws that enhance victims' rights, or staying up all hours of the night to strengthen a clients case, you should should make a concentrated effort to promote fairness and justice.
There are many reasons why an attorney, or even the general public, would want to hire a paralegal. Attorneys can save money and time for their clients by delegating routine daily case work to a paralegal. Anyone can hire a paralegal to assist in filling out court forms and records, or a paralegal can also assist you with contracts and other documents, instead of having the expense of hiring an attorney. However, paralegals cannot give legal advice.
But how can anyone be sure they are hiring a good paralegal? What skills does a paralegal need to posses in order to get good work with a good salary? A paralegal assists attorneys in the law office. Most paralegals are the main support in most law offices, keeping the case running smoothly and in a timely manner, which is why having some paralegal training before attempting to get hired is a must.
Potential employers should look for paralegals that posses the skills and experience in the type of of law the employer practices. A good paralegal should have multiple skills over a broad range of duties. For example, a good paralegal knows about the law, has a good understanding of the latest technology, and has general office skills as well. Computer skills are a must these days. Many attorneys use legal software to run their office, as well as using technology in the courtroom and to prepare for trial. Knowledge of the different software programs and a basic understanding of office equipment is important to work well as paralegal.
Basic paralegal skills can be learned many ways. Online courses are available that award a certificate of paralegal studies. There are also junior colleges that offer associate degrees, and four year colleges that offer bachelor degrees. Business schools also offer paralegal training for both at both a certificate and associates degree level. A basic degree will teach the future paralegal the basics of civil and criminal law, the litigation process, and familiarize the paralegal with court documents. Basic courses such as civil and criminal litigation, legal research and writing and English courses should be taken by the potential paralegal.
It’s imperative that an aspiring paralegal have the right training for the type of paralegal a person wishes to become. For example, there are paralegals that work in real estate, criminal law, environmental law and contract law. Any reputable paralegal program will provide speciality courses that focus on specific areas of law. For example, a student can choose to take maritime law courses , that focuses mainly with boating and water law, and then work for law firms or companies that represent these types of companies and people.
Many paralegals have extensive on the job training, but have not attended college or received a certificate. Years of experience in the real world of law can be very beneficial to an attorney looking for a good paralegal. They have the knowledge of local courts and the law, and are most likely very familiar with certain niches. People that have extensive on the job legal experience also tend to have and know a large network of people within the legal community, which is always beneficial to a law practice.
What makes a person decide to be a paralegal, compared to other professions? Many paralegals say it’s because they feel like they are making a real difference in people’s lives. There are additional benefits, such as the opportunity for travel, the ability to grow within the career, and the possibility of earning a very good salary. A good paralegal will also understand that there are ethics to follow, such as keeping client confidentiality.
Starting a paralegal career begins with education and experience and a professional attitude
If you are looking for your dream job and you are interested in the paralegal field, it is important to get familiar with the paralegal job description, the wonderful opportunities this profession offers and find out why the paralegal profession is so attractive in our modern society. A paralegal’s job description can vary significantly, in large part depending on the practice area in which they work.
Litigation paralegals, who assist attorneys who handle various of court cases, may spend their time reviewing medical records, drafting motions and other court documents, completing legal and fact research, and preparing for depositions and trials. However, litigation encompasses a wide variety of different types of cases, from family law disputes, to personal injury claims, to lawsuits between large corporations.
On the other side of the spectrum are paralegals that work in transactional areas of law. These include those who work for attorneys who handle estate planning, real estate transactions, intellectual property, and in-house for businesses and corporations (although these paralegals could also handle litigation-related matters.) Transactional law often involves in-depth knowledge of a specific practice area, and although paralegals working in these areas may not encounter the last-minute urgency that’s common in litigation, they often have a high volume of detailed work to do on a daily basis. This could include tasks like completing forms, research, record keeping, preparing for meetings, drafting documents, preparing and filing reports, and communicating with clients.
At the beginning of their career, associate paralegals (0-2 years experience) will certainly be given simpler tasks to do, such as:
The more difficult and more important tasks will be assigned to experienced paralegals (2-5 years experience) as they gain experience.
Some of advanced duties of a paralegal may include:
As paralegals advance through the levels to senior paralegals (more than 5 years experience), they experience an increase in pay and responsibilities.
Sample duties for more senior paralegals include:
Although most paralegals work in private law firms, law firms are not the only employers of paralegals as we saw earlier on. In addition, a growing number of paralegals work in less traditional settings as for other types of businesses, for themselves or for temporary agencies.
One of the reasons that the paralegal profession is so popular and prosperous is the fact that the educational process for future paralegals is much shorter and less rigorous than the one for attorneys. Nevertheless, paralegal responsibilities do require specialized skills and knowledge.
Even today, an associate degree in paralegal studies with a certificate from a recognized paralegal program is required for many entry-level paralegal positions. Some law firms insist upon a 4 year paralegal degree plus a paralegal certificate.
Paralegal certification is not obligatory, but it certainly is recommended, as it represents the candidate as a dedicated and committed individual, increasing his or her credibility. The National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. (NALA) is one of the organizations that provide certification exams for “Certified Legal Assistant” (CLA) and “Certified Paralegal” (CP).
The examination that must be passed is two days long and it focuses on knowledge in the field of law, communication, ethics, human relations, analytical skills, research and interviewing techniques.
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (NFPA) provides the PACE exam (Paralegal Advanced Competency Examination), which is a two-tiered exam, with the first tier focused on the legal issues and the second one on the specialization. The National Association for Legal Professionals offers the basic certification ALS, the PP for paralegals and the advanced certification PLS.
The demand for qualified paralegals is increasing, especially for paralegals specialized in certain fields, such as real estate and environmental law. Entry level paralegals, on the other hand, should take the paralegal training and education very seriously and gain as much experience as they can, thus making their progress as a paralegal inevitable.
The benefits of becoming a paralegal are numerous. First of all, you will become a part of a rapidly developing field, with many opportunities for career advancement. Have in mind that, even though the economy and the job market have not been stable, the demand for paralegals has been increasing over the years. Also, this is considered a well-paid job, with the salary substantially increasing over the years and becoming very satisfying for experienced and trained professionals.
If one finds the legal field suitable for his or her characteristics and interests, the paralegal career may well be the place to start. The paralegal job is a wonderful way to gain expertise and experience in the legal profession and grow into a capable professional with a vast array of opportunities and career paths including an attorney-at-law!
Statistics show that the paralegal career is one of the most prosperous careers today since a very small number of paralegals are unemployed.
The job opportunities for paralegals are growing, but so is the competition, so it is recommendable for paralegals to obtain specialized paralegal education or paralegal training, as that will sharpen their skills and abilities, improve their hiring chances and provide them with a better paying job. The length and the focus of the paralegal educational programs may vary significantly. One can choose from:
These programs focus on several crucial skills for paralegals, such as organizational skills, analytical skills, communication skills and understanding the ethics. When choosing a training program, it is recommended to pick an accredited one. In order to be accredited, the paralegal educational programs have to operate at least two years and satisfy all the necessary requirements. The next step for ambitious individuals is paralegal certification.
One cannot aspire for a successful paralegal career without proper paralegal training, because employers usually prefer candidates with an associate's degree or specialized certificates in areas like business, family law, immigration law etc. They also favor the candidates with some law office experience. Law firms usually hire paralegals with at least 2 years working experience.
If one aspires to become a paralegal, he or she should certainly get familiar with the obligations and job duties that are to be expected on the job. Most paralegals work in law firms and their role in these companies is significant. They assist lawyers in case preparations, they help them prepare for trials, hearings, opening and closing arguments; the paralegals also conduct legal research, collect and present important case information, they prepare witnesses, organise legal documents, handle mortgages, divorces, wills etc. So, to sum it all up, the job a paralegal does does not seem much different than that of a lawyer.
However, there are a few things that a paralegal cannot undertake, such as present cases in court, sign documents or officially advise clients. There are job opportunities for paralegals other than working in law firms, too. Many corporations and organizations employ paralegals, where they have various legal duties, depending on the field of work.
If thinking about becoming a paralegal, it would be beneficial to develop certain characteristics which are considered important for a successful professional in this field. First of all, one has to be organized, as he or she will be expected to work on several cases simultaneously. One should be curious, very detail oriented and perform research effectively and efficiently, finding and understanding the facts. As lawyers usually have tight schedules, paralegals are also expected to successfully work under pressure and deal with deadlines.
The paralegal job is important and one should do it responsibly and reliably. Also, paralegals are supposed to be adaptable, as they will need to perform various tasks. As paralegals work with people and should help them, being philanthropic and having people skills is certainly a great characteristic.
The paralegal career is very rewarding and offers many possibilities for professional growth, as the demand for paralegals increases. It is expected that law firms will hire more paralegals to perform more of the duties of lawyers, in order to decrease costs. Also, the demand for some types of specialized paralegals is expected to increase significantly, as these fields become more popular, such as: environmental law experts, health care experts, specialists in intellectual property law etc. Banks and insurance companies show increased interest in hiring paralegals, too.
Paralegals mostly have a very satisfying income. At the beginning, the a paralegal's salary is lower, around $25,000 a year, but the income significantly increases after a couple of years of experience and, according to statistics, an average paralegal earns around $60,000 a year. When starting a paralegal career, education plays a very important role in determining one's salary. A more educated paralegal will certainly be better paid. But, as time passes one's experience and abilities become a much more important factor. An experienced and appreciated paralegal will be able to negotiate their salary terms. Competent assistants are crucial for lawyers and will certainly be given a raise in order to be kept on the job, as the law firms always compete for better qualified staff.
You should make a thorough research on how to become a paralegal and pursue your paralegal career if you find this job attractive and you find yourself suitable for it.
Request free information from any of the schools listed below. You'll find paralegal schools in Los Angeles and many of the best paralegal schools in California. Get on the road to becoming a paralegal quickly and easily and start earning what you're worth in this rewarding career field.
California paralegal schools provide the right mixture of high-quality educational training and one of the best environments for starting a successful career. With a large population in need of legal services of all types, paralegal schools in California have adapted to create flexible and strong education. From traditional day classes to evening and weekend hours, almost anyone can get paralegal training in as little as one year. You can also take accelerated paralegal studies in California if you want to start your career as soon as possible.
There are a variety of educational formats available for paralegal students. It is the only state that requires a certificate or degree from an American Bar Association approved school. Make sure to consider more than one of the ABA approved paralegal schools in California before making your decision. Students without any existing degree can pursue an Associate's degree and complete their education in two years. Those who already have a Bachelor's degree may be able to find a paralegal certificate course that compliments their existing education, which can be completed in six months to one year.
Paralegals can expect to enjoy a career working right in the middle of the legal field. Although laws restrict them from trying cases or taking on clients, paralegals are often a lawyer's right hand, working on cases, doing research, interviewing, helping with office organization, and preparing for trial. Jobs are available in everything from federal government agencies and free, community-run clinics to big business corporations with their own legal departments.
Your salary as a California paralegal school graduate depends largely on the type of employer you choose. Federal government agencies and private corporations top the list at up to $70,000 per year, while smaller, grassroots organizations offer around $30,000 per year to start. In California, private law firms are more numerous than in many other U.S. states, so there tend to be more jobs available in these types of facilities.
Of course, one of the biggest appeals of undertaking the california legal assistant program is the backdrop. In addition to the numerous career opportunities – many of which have their origins in working for movie studios, actors, and large corporations in Silicon Valley – the state is known for its youthful, vibrant feel. Whether you're looking for a place to relax and soak up the sun or you're seeking the high pulse of the big city lifestyle, paralegal schools in California offer the perfect work-life balance.
Most working paralegals in the state of New York are college graduates that come from various backgrounds and disciplines. If you don't have a legal background the best route to enter this career is through either a:
There are many community colleges in NY that offer these ABA Approved /NEA Approved Paralegal Education Programs. For students that do not live near a training school, they can complete the program online.
If you are a college graduate from another discipline but have no legal experience then the quickest route to become a paralegal in NY is by completing a paralegal certificate program.
Below you will find a list of schools, colleges and universities that offer paralegal training programs in the state of New York. These are divided in campus and online schools. Please note that some of the schools below may offer financial assistance towards the cost of the course. To find out more contact any of the schools below to learn more about their admission requirements, duration of course and financial aid:
Research shows that the min. education requirements employers prefer their paralegals to have is either:
The biggest hurdle for new paralegal graduates is the lack of work experience. To overcome this it is recommended that you volunteer with any local pro-bono, legal aid, or advocacy office to get your foot in the door so to speak.
Paralegal certification can only be obtained once you have completed a paralegal training program and/or have paralegal work experience. Having certification will definatelly help improve your chances of employability, help with promotion and an overall increase in your income. Certification involves you passing a nationally recognized certification exam such as NALA's CLA/CP or PACE's RP exams.
See Paralegal Job Description for a more detailed look at what a paralegal does.
Most working paralegals in the state of Texas have graduated from one of the four main paralegal programs available.
A paralegal certificate is the most common program to enter this profession followed by either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor Degrees in Paralegal Studies. Master Degrees being the least common.
If you already hold a degree from another discipline then a certificate in paralegal studies is quickest route to enter this profession.
Texas paralegal schools will give you all the tools you need to get on the path to a rich, fulfilling career in the legal field. With job security and satisfaction so common among legal assistants, there is no better time to get started.
Request free information from any of these paralegal training schools in Texas (see list below) to get started:
Research shows that the min. education requirements employers prefer their paralegals to have is either:
- a Paralegal Certificate OR/
- A Paralegal Certificate and/or college degree (in any discipline, preferably accounting, management, business etc.)
The most popular paralegal associations that provide certification examinations are: NALA, NFPA, NALS, and AAPI. It's important to point out that each have different eligibility requirements, along with different continuing education and re-certification requirements so further research into each is important.
Performing legal research and drafting routine legal documents pursuant to the directions of the attorney.
Assisting with trial preparation, and handling multiple legal tasks as needed by attorneys.
See Paralegal Job Description for further info on what a paralegal does.
You want that exciting new entry level paralegal job with a great salary, but where do you begin? If you are a self-starter, you are probably considering doing your certificate in paralegal studies at an online paralegal school. You’re probably asking yourself, “What are some decent and affordable online paralegal certificate schools?" This is an intelligent question with a very clear answer. Choose a school based on several criteria:
Accreditation is the main one you need to focus on: Make sure the school you choose is regionally accredited. Regional accreditation is the highest level of accreditation. There are seven regional accrediting agencies in the United States.
They include Middle States Commission, Southern Association of Schools, the New England Association and three others in different geographical areas. These seven agencies accredit all the best schools in the United States, including Harvard University (New England Association), Columbia University (Middle States) and Duke University (Southern Association).
Regional accreditation is superior to so-called “national” accreditation, which applies a less rigorous standard. The right online school will hold your hand, guide you through the entire process, and make your time as a student an enjoyable one. The first thing you’ll want to do is perform a little research.
Ask the following questions for each school you are considering:
In general you want to choose, for instance, an online paralegal school that employs attorneys with real world experience. These teachers know what a lawyer wants from a paralegal employee.
You have probably found an online directory or several directories filled with online schools. You ask yourself, which school should I look into? The sad truth is, the most popular websites are actually paid directories that provide little or no real information to the online student; they exist solely to profit from users searching online. The schools that advertise in these directories pay a fee every time a prospective student asks for information about a particular school.
The choices are many these days, and can be confusing. Today there are literally hundreds of schools to choose from. Yes, it is difficult and perhaps a little annoying to wade wade through all of the apparent choices out there. No one wants to be hounded by admissions reps from a bunch of schools. Your best option to find an online school in the profession you are interested in. Immediately check to see the school’s accreditation. If the school is not regionally accredited, move on to a school that is. There is no reason to settle for second best. Surprisingly, tuition at regionally accredited schools is sometimes lower than tuition at nationally accredited schools, so don’t be tempted to settle for second best in order to save money.
A fast way to find an online school is to do a search for the career you are interested in + “online school”. For instance, type “online paralegal school.” Of the schools that come up, choose the ones that have regional accreditation. Then look through the first couple of pages of results, writing down the regionally accredited schools that seem promising. Then visit the school’s website, read about the program you are interested in, and then contact the school. Check the school’s reputation. Call them and speak with a student affairs counselor. By following these basic steps, you will get a sense of the better schools.
Paralegals are an important part of any law firm or legal department’s staff. Sometimes referred to as legal assistants, paralegals perform tasks such as legal and fact research, drafting pleadings, contracts, correspondence, and other documents, records management, trial preparation, client communication, and many other types of substantial legal work.
In the current recession, many law firms and other paralegal employers (such as corporations and non-profit organizations) are increasing their use of paralegals. Paralegals are able to perform many of the same job duties as lawyers, but at a much lesser cost to their employer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS,) the paralegal field is expected to grow faster than average in the next few years. The BLS also states that candidates with a formal paralegal education will have the best job prospects. There are numerous different types and formats of paralegal degrees available to those who are interested in a paralegal career.
Many of those who are considering becoming a paralegal are transitioning from other careers, or have family responsibilities that hinder their ability to attend traditional on-site classes. That, along with the fact that paralegal studies consist in large part of research, writing, and computer skills, has led to an increasing number of paralegal educational programs being offered entirely online.
The completion of any paralegal program usually results in the student being awarded one of three things: a Bachelor’s degree, an Associate’s degree, or a paralegal certificate.
It’s important to carefully consider several things when deciding on a paralegal degree online, including cost, length of time the program will take to complete, internship/practicum requirements, any job placement assistance available, and qualifications of the instructions. In addition, some programs are “ABA-accredited,” meaning that they meet certain standards and have passed an evaluation process implemented by the American Bar Association.
The growing paralegal field can provide a great career opportunity for someone who is seeking a fast-paced, interesting job. The plethora of educational programs that are available, including the numerous online paralegal program options, assures that nearly anyone can find a program that meets their needs in terms of lifestyle and career goals.
One must always invest in his or her education in order to build a successful career. Obtaining a paralegal Associates Degree is certainly a ticket to success in the paralegal field.
The paralegal profession is much appreciated in these modern times. The field is evolving and the paralegals are given various tasks, making this job very dynamic. Paralegals conduct complex researches in order to find the facts necessary to put the case together. Their people skills are crucial since they interact with different individuals (clients, witnesses, experts) when trying to get the information that is necessary. The paralegal job is very detail-oriented, and hence it is quite challenging. Paralegals have an essential role in the work of law firms, so they are required to have a thorough knowledge of the legal issues and the way the legal
system functions. This is why employers prefer to hire paralegals with strong educational background.
Usually, one can obtain an Associates Degree in paralegal studies in about two years of studying. There are many such programs offered by business schools, two-year community colleges or some four-year colleges and universities, but one should be careful to choose an accredited one, whose program will be according to the recommendations of the National Association of Legal Assistants. The curriculum of these programs usually consists of general education subjects, such as English, business management, psychology, basic mathematics etc.; several subjects concerning the paralegal field, such as criminal law, legal research, legal reading and writing, business organizations, contracts etc. and some specialty courses, that the student chooses depending on the area he or she wishes to specialize in (immigration law, domestic relations, environmental law and so on).
You could obtain a Paralegal Associates Degree by attending a full time program at a college or a university, but you can also find such programs offered on-line, since today many colleges organize this type of studying, thus enabling you to get your Paralegal Associates Degree on-line. Most of these institutions offer scholarship opportunities, student loans and grants, financial aid and other financial assistance, making the Associates Degree more available for people.
There are many reasons why one should obtain a Paralegal Associates Degree . First of all, these programs will train you and prepare you for a prosperous paralegal career, providing you with knowledge and understanding of the legal environment. You will learn the skills needed on the job and you will be more appreciated by employers, thus you will be able to land a better, more significant job and maybe even be able to choose among job offers. Another reason, of course, is the fact that more educated paralegals are better paid.
The starting salary for paralegals with an Associates Degree is over $30 000 a year and this profession is among the best paid ones for employees with such a degree. Also, you should consider the opportunities that this degree offers. After getting it, you could continue your educational process and go for a Bachelor’s degree, growing into an even more qualified professional and afterwards, if you have aspirations for a career of a lawyer, even finish law school.
Also, having an Associates Degree in Paralegal studies is an obligatory criterion that one has to fulfill in order to be eligible for paralegal certification. This degree is needed for both the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) and the Certified Paralegal (CP) exams offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), as well as for the Paralegal Advanced Competency Examination (PACE) offered by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). Some of the programs have coursework that are a direct preparation for the CLA/CP examination and some even cover the application fee for this exam and by doing so, do not burden their students taking this exam with additional costs.
Dedication, commitment and hard work are beyond necessary for one to build a successful career in any field. Although very prosperous, growing and rapidly developing, the paralegal field is also very competitive. Taking your education seriously, earning a Paralegal Associates Degree and afterwards maybe continuing with your studies will certainly be a worthy contribution to a successful career.