Paralegal Programs Charleston, SC
The law is a fascinating subject and working in it can provide a challenging but very satisfying career. For some however seven to ten years of schooling is not something they want, or are able, to undertake in order to become an attorney. There is a viable alternative though: becoming a paralegal via attending a an accredited paralegal programs in one of the many paralegal/legal assistants schools in South Carolina.
Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, are essential members of many types of legal teams, from corporate white-shoe law firms to non-profit, personal injury, immigration, and family law practices to government legal departments and more.
Since formal education at paralegal schools in Charleston, SC can be completed in as little as two years - often even less - becoming a paralegal is a viable option for those who want a career in the legal profession but do not want to go to law school.
What does a paralegal do?
These days almost everything and anything involved in their supervising attorney's practice of their particular branch of the law. Among other things, this may include legal research, legal document preparation, client liaison, and court document preparation. Some paralegals go on to lead their own team of paralegals and even manage law offices as well.
Individuals working as paralegals in South Carolina are not required to have a formal license, or a special certification, but they must operate under the guidance of a bar admitted attorney, who is then responsible for their conduct, including any negative legal consequences that result from their paralegal's actions.
As a result, many law firms tend to recruit legal assistants who have received formal training. A national paralegal credential is also available, with NALA's offering being the most common.
However, most employers value completion of a certificate or degree program, particularly in a corporate law setting, the most.
Paralegal Certificate, A.S. and Bachelor Degree Programs in Charleston, SC
There are various entry-level pathways that you can opt for when it comes to becoming a paralegal in South Carolina. Let’s look at these options.
Paralegal Certificate or Diploma Programs
The first option is for those who already have a degree.
A paralegal certificate from a technical school or a diploma from an accredited university is the shortest pathway to becoming a paralegal. These programs are often short, ranging anywhere from 2 to 6 months. Incidentally, they are also less expensive but simpler in terms of course material.
A baccalaureate is a pre-requisite.
Paralegal A.S. Degree Programs
AS or Associate of Science programs are the best way to become a paralegal. Having an associate’s degree is a requirement in many law firms while many professional attorneys also require you to have one. AS degrees are often 2 years long and are the ideal way to get started as a paralegal.
You don't require a prior baccalaureate.
Paralegal Bachelor Degree Programs
Bachelor programs can range from 4 to 6 years and are more encompassing in terms of the course material. A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement in the majority of professions (such as becoming a lawyer in a law firm), paralegals usually begin their career under attorneys or as interns in law firms without spending the time and money on a bachelor’s program.
Paralegal Schools in Charleston, SC
Listed below are the top paralegal schools in Charleston. Read on for details on what the courses they teach.
Trident Technical College
Programs: Certificate-Paralegal; AAS-Paralegal
Address: Trident Technical College, c/o Deborah Leamond, PO Box 118067 PPL - M North Charleston, SC 29423-8067
ABA Approved: Yes
Tel: (843) 574 6909
A private technical college offering a wide range of traditional two-year degree programs, Trident Technical College offers both an Associates in Applies Science Degree and a Post Degree Certificate in Paralegal Studies. Admission to either program is based on previous academic performance, with a minimum of a high school diploma or GED and 3.0 GPA required for admission to the AAS program and an accredited degree for the Certificate. The legal component is the same for both programs, and it encompasses all the knowledge needed to work as a paralegal, with an emphasis on corporate law. The program has been approved by the American Bar Association since 1993, which is a high honor for such an offering. Tuition is charged according to a student's residence, income, and family situation. The school advises scheduling a meeting with an admissions' counselor to determine yours. Most students make use of federal financial aid to pay for their education.
Technical College of the Lowcountry
Programs: Certificate-Paralegal Specialist; AAS-Paralegal
Address: 921 Ribaut Road , Beaufort, SC 29901
Delivery: On Campus
ABA Approved: Yes
Technical College of the Lowcountry is a private college offering a wide variety of two-year degree programs at affordable rates to Charleston County residents. For those interested in becoming a paralegal they offer a two-year, campus based AAS degree in Paralegal Studies that is approved by both the approved by the American Bar Association and the South Carolina Bar Association. The comprehensive program covers all aspects of a paralegal's duties and offers a special focus on the skills required to work in a corporate law environment. In addition to campus-based classwork students are required to complete an externship with a local employer prior to graduation. The cost of the program is charged on a per-credit basis and varies according to a student's personal circumstances. Most students pay for their schooling via federal financial aid and a limited number may qualify for state workforce grants.
University of South Carolina
Programs: Certificate Paralegal Studies
Address: Columbia, SC 29208
ABA Approved: No
Tel: (803) 777-0169
USC’s 100% online format is a hit with students from all walks of life. The paralegal program offers 120+ hours of learning. This is a 6-month long certificate program.
This program has some specific eligibility criteria, however. You need to have a 4-year undergraduate degree or 4 years of experience as a paralegal to qualify. This certificate is mainly to graduate from a UG background to another USC course. The total cost is $4995 including books, tuition, and materials.
Paralegal Training FAQs
Paralegal Salary Charleston SC
Completing a formal education program at one of the paralegal schools in Charleston, SC can take anywhere from six months to two years or more, and while more affordable than law school still represents a significant investment of time and money. So, in terms of salary and job prospects is it worth it?
The average annual salary earned by a paralegal in Charleston, South Carolina is, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics1, $46,540. This is lower than the national average2 of $55,020, but still a good wage.
Earnings will depend of course on the branch of law a paralegal works in and their experience level. While the top 10% of earners can expect to earn, on average, $72,000 or more, inexperienced legal assistants in the bottom 10% of earners may only earn around $27,100.
Growth prospects are good. As more firms make greater use of paralegals for cost purposes the BLS3 expects an 8% growth in jobs between 2016 and 2026.
How do you become a paralegal in SC?
You need some background and it often means education and not work experience (though some attorneys might be okay with it if you only have work experience in a legal field). A certificate or diploma is the quickest way to build this background as long as you already have a degree. However, an Associate’s degree strikes the right balance between duration and the likelihood of getting hired.
What type of paralegal is most in demand?
The most in-demand paralegals not just in South Carolina, but the entire Southeast deal in corporate matters. This category includes fields such as bankruptcy, intellectual property, litigation, and real estate. Those who wish to specialize in family law and personal injury will also be always in demand because cases in these categories are many and all year around.
How long does it take to train as a paralegal?
It mainly depends on which program you take. Once you finish a program and receive your certificate of completion (which generally requires you to score above 70% across the modules), you can start applying as an intern or assistant to law firms and practicing attorneys. This can take anywhere from 2 months to 4 years depending on which program or degree you choose to go with.
What is the best degree for a paralegal?
The Associate in Science and Associate in Applied Science is the best degrees if you wish to strike a balance. If you’re looking for the most comprehensive way to become an accomplished and learned paralegal, then going for a bachelor’s degree is recommended. On the other hand, if you just wish to get started as soon as possible, we recommend a diploma or a certificate program from a technical school or university, if you have a degree in any other discipline.
South Carolina Paralegal Resources
Charleston Association of Legal Assistants
South Carolina Upstate Paralegal Association
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, South Carolina: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_sc.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Legal/Paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm#tab-5