Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools in Albuquerque, NM
Legal practice is a diverse and complex profession that appeals to a wide range of people. However, not everyone wants to devote seven to ten years of their lives to law school and passing the bar, so becoming an attorney is not for them.
Paralegals, or legal assistants as they are sometimes known, are essential members of all kinds of legal teams, from corporate white shoe law firms to immigration and family law practices to the legal departments of government agencies.
As formal schooling at paralegal schools in Albuquerque, NM can be completed in as little as two years - sometimes less - becoming a paralegal is a viable alternative for those still interested in a legal career without the time and expense of attending law school.
A paralegal is a trained professional whose job it is to assist lawyers in all aspects of their work. This could include things like legal research, legal document preparation, client liaison, and court document preparation, among other things. Some paralegals even go on to manage their own paralegal team.
New Mexico does not set any formal license requirements for individuals to work as paralegals but does mandate that they work under the supervision of a bar admitted attorney, with that individual then responsible for their actions, including any adverse legal ramifications from them.
Therefore, many employers prefer to hire legal assistants with formal education. A national paralegal certification is available too, with the most popular being offered by NALA, but to most employers completion of a certificate of degree program is more important, especially in a corporate law environment.
Paralegal Salaries in Albuquerque, NM
It is a good idea to research the earning potential - as well as the potential for advancement - of a career change before enrolling in paralegal school and deciding to pursue a career as a legal assistant.
While compensation varies between the different branches of the law and by experience and education, on average a paralegal in Albuquerque earns an average annual salary of $49,020. This is lower than the national average of $55,020, but still a respectable wage.
Brand-new paralegals will earn less of course, an average of $32,340 per annum according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics1, but the most experienced legal assistants, often those working in a corporate law firm command, on average, an annual salary of $71,000 or more.
The growth prospects for the profession are good too, with the BLS predicting a 9% growth for paralegal employment in New Mexico between 2016 and 2026. This is due, in large part, to the fact that law firms, in an effort to reduce costs without affecting the quality of representation they offer their clients, are allowing experienced paralegals to take on tasks previously reserved for junior attorneys.
Albuquerque Paralegal Schools
Central New Mexico Community College
A traditional community college serving the residents of Bernalillo County, CNMC offers both a Paralegal Studies, Associate of Applied Science degree program and a Post Degree Certificate in Paralegal Studies. The AAS program runs for two years, while the Certificate Program can be completed in 12 months. The legal component of both programs is the same, covering every basic aspect of a paralegal's job and additional training in legal research and immigration law. Graduation from either course provides students with a solid foundation of knowledge and experience - via a school arranged externship - to take into an entry level position as a legal assistant. Admission is based on past academic performance and open to those over 18 who hold a high school diploma or GED for the AAS program and an accredited degree for the Certificate program. Costs are charged on a prorated per credit basis, with the lowest fees charged to Bernalillo County residents. Almost all students pay for their schooling via traditional financial aid.
The University of New Mexico Division of Continuing Education
The paralegal program offered by the University of New Mexico Division of Continuing Education is a fixed fee, non-credit earning course that can be completed as a hybrid online and on campus program in two months of study. The cost of the program is $2,995.00 and while traditional financial aid is not available creditworthy students may be able to obtain a private student loan to cover their costs from a lender such as Sallie Mae. During the course students will be introduced to general law basics, be given and overview of the responsibilities and duties of a paralegal and an introduction to legal research via the nationwide LexisNexis system. While not as comprehensive as a degree or certificate program it does offer enough to prepare students for an entry level position with a smaller law firm. At the end of the course students can draft legal documents, conduct legal research, prepare trial notebooks and much more.
State Bar of New Mexico Paralegal Division
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm