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Becoming a Paralegal in Virginia

Becoming a Paralegal in Virginia

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There are around 8,730 paralegals or legal assistants working in Virginia assisting lawyers specializing in various fields from Immigration, Real Estate to Corporate and Civil Litigation. A program specializing in Legal Assistant/Paralegal is all you require to help prepare you for this career. Additional information on becoming a paralegal in Virginia can be found below.

Paralegal schools in Virginia

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Salaries

Virginia is one of the states that seem to be keeping up with the estimated salary rates for paralegals in the United States. The difference is minimal, and the rates are more or less similar to the United States rates. For example, the lowest paid paralegal in Virginia scoops about $15.21 hourly which is slightly higher than the United States rate of $14.97.

On average, however, tables turn, and Virginia has a lower rate than the estimated United States rate of $24.24. The average pay per hour for a paralegal in Virginia is about $23.89 which is a few cents down. The difference on the highest paid is not as significant as the other levels of salaries. A highly paid paralegal in Virginia gets an hourly pay of $38.94 which is just a few cents lower than the estimated United States rate.  When it comes to annual incomes, the difference is minimal between Virginia rates and the United States rates. The lowest paid paralegal gets a yearly income of $31,640 which is slightly higher than the United States rate of $31,130. The average pay for Virginia paralegals is somewhat lower than the estimated rate for the general United States.

The highest annual income for a paralegal in Virginia is somewhat similar to the United States with a difference of 180 dollars. Virginia rates low, but the difference is not as significant than other states’ annual payments for paralegals. It is clear though that the country is on the right path as far as paralegal employment is concerned.

Projected employment

With the rates showing a positive picture in the paralegal field in Virginia, the employment stats are quite significant as well. The state is not too far behind the projected employment rate of the entire United States as far as paralegals are concerned. In 2014, Virginia recorded a total of 8,730 paralegals which was expected to grow to 9,800 by the end of 2024. 

The growth marks a 12 percent change in the employment growth which is 3 percent lower the United States projection estimate. The United States recorded a total of 285,600 paralegals in 2016. With a 15 percent change, the numbers are expected to grow to about 327,400 by the end of 2026. The difference is quite significant, and Virginia is closely following the trend. When it comes to job opportunities available for paralegals in Virginia, there is a gradual growth. The state has an estimated annual rate of 300 job openings for paralegals. This is just a small portion of the 34,700 job openings for the entire United States as far as paralegals are concerned.

How to become a paralegal in Virginia

As much as one can start paralegal work without basic studies on the same, it is essential to take up a program. It not only helps you scale up the career ladder but also improves the status for ultimate service delivery. The process of practicing as a paralegal in Virginia starts by taking up a certificate or degree program in paralegal studies. 

The next step is to start work experience on attachments or paralegal jobs in law firms. At this point, one can acquire certification by sending applications and relevant documents to attain the Virginia Registered Paralegal title. The certification is renewed every two years, and a renewal fee applies.

Paralegal Programs in Virginia

Paralegal Certificate Programs ABA Approved

Associate Degree Programs ABA Approved

Bachelor Degree Programs ABA Approved

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Virginia requirements for Paralegals

Registration

Like other states, one can operate as a paralegal as long as they are under the supervision of a licensed attorney. That is through on-job training or going through a paralegal program for registration. To register as a Virginia Registered Paralegal, one has to meet a set of educational requirements and meet at least one of the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from a recognized institution and at least a year of paralegal experience.
  • A bachelor's in any field from an accredited institution, a certificate from an approved program and at least one year of paralegal experience.
  • A bachelor's in any field from a recognized institution and at least three years of paralegal work experience.
  • An associate degree in paralegal studies and at least two years of paralegal experience.
  • A certificate from a recognized institution and three years' experience in paralegal work.
  • An associate degree in any field from an accredited institution and at least four years' experience in paralegal work.
  • Five years of paralegal experience, 6 hours of CLE taken within two years before the application. Also, one of the six hours should be in ethics. 

Certification

The certification process involves filling in application forms and attaching educational and work experience proof. That is official transcripts from the institutions or a letter from the institution indicating the start and end dates of the program. Also, a diploma or the certificate offered from the institution works as well. Other requirements for certification include a letter from the attorney showing the work experience to meet the criteria. Also, a non-refundable fee of $35 applies for the certification. All the documents together with the application form are emailed to the Virginia Registered Paralegal Program's address. After receipt and review of documents and application, the certificate will be issued indicating registration by the VARP. That is after thorough scrutiny of the transcripts, work experience and other credentials attached.

Renewal

A Virginia Registered Paralegal has to maintain the status by renewing after every two years from the original registration date. Also, paralegals need to complete a minimum of twelve hours two of which have to be in ethics. They then need to complete a renewal form and attach proof of completion of the CLE hours. They also need to send a non-refundable two-year fee at least 60 days to the renewal date.

Top 5 Law Firms for Graduates in Virginia

  1. Bean, Kinney, and Korman
  2. Wilson Elser
  3. Nixon Peabody
  4. Blackingship and Keith
  5. Hancock Daniel

Virginia Paralegal Professional Organizations

Virginia Alliance of Paralegal Associations

The alliance consists of 6 associations and has been in existence since 1989. It represents over 1500 legal professionals and paralegal students across Virginia. Its main aims are to encourage constant communications and develop the profession in general.

Paralegal Association of Northern Virginia

The association is a member of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and serves paralegals in the Northern areas of Virginia. It seeks to promote the paralegal profession as well as educate paralegals students and attorney members of the association.

Tidewater Paralegal Association

The association has members from the Tidewater area of Virginia which includes paralegals, legal professionals, and educators around the city. It is an member of the National Association of Legal Assistants which seeks to promote education and professional advancement.

Local Government Paralegal Association of Virginia

The association forms a platform where local government paralegal can share ideas and information which can be helpful to the general legal profession. Members get the chance to continue with education and develop the careers in their specific areas of practice. The association is open to all paralegals working in any city, town, or government office within Virginia.

References:

1. Salary Data: Paralegals and Legal Assistants, Bureau of Labor Statistics https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/mobile/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm
2. Employment Statistics: Paralegal and Legal Assistants, New Jersey, CareerOneStop.org
3. Colleges: AAfPE https://www.aafpe.org/page/FindingProgram

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