Online education is a very popular option for getting a college degree, and an online paralegal degree is no exception. There are many options for getting a degree in paralegal studies, and the degree’s coursework lends itself well to computer-based learning. Paralegals command an excellent wage for the time involved in getting the degree. A paralegal degree is the key to a rewarding legal career without the demands and expense of law school.
What is a Paralegal?
A paralegal, also called a legal assistant or legal secretary, is a person who assists a lawyer in handling cases and running a law firm. In many respects, paralegals do many of the same activities that fully credentialed lawyers do, but they are unable to legally represent a client. They will spend most of their time performing legal research, contacting clients on the lawyer’s behalf, writing briefs and motions, editing work and performing other secretarial tasks.
Paralegals can find work in variety of areas and specialties. A paralegal can often be found anywhere lawyers work. Even small law firms usually employ at least one or two paralegals, and large firms may employ dozens. Paralegals may work for private law firms, companies or governments, and they are always part of a legal team.
The Job Outlook
In a time when many lawyers are struggling to find work, the demand for paralegals has increased. Since paralegals can be hired at less expense than full lawyers, they are more likely to be picked for a job when affordability is important. According the BLS, paralegal jobs are expected to grow 17 percent by the year 2020.
While the odd law firm may be willing to hire a candidate with no legal education or experience and train them on the job, gaining a degree or certification in paralegal studies online is extremely important for job success.
Most paralegals can obtain a job with only an associate’s degree. Due to the complex nature of legal work, however, a bachelor’s degree is highly recommended. In the competitive market, showing that you have the most education possible will give you a serious leg up in gaining a job with a good law firm. There is also an optional credential, such as the one provided by NALA. These credentials are not mandated, but they are another way to show your expertise in the profession. Most online paralegal degree programs meet the requirements for the credential and will help you prepare. It may be possible to obtain certification without a degree, but this is not recommended.
Paralegal studies involve many of the same types of curriculum found in law schools or criminal justice fields. Writing is extremely important for a paralegal, so English coursework is included. There will also be a variety of law-specific courses such as dispute resolution, the basics of criminal law, litigation, legal writing, and a variety of other introductory law courses. Law is a very broad field, and many online paralegal degrees give law courses as electives, allowing students to choose areas of law that interest them.
There has never been a better time to become a paralegal. The profession is broad, and the demand is high. Legal work is both challenging and rewarding intellectually and financially. The legal experience is also very beneficial to aspiring lawyers who may choose to attend law school, gain a graduate degree and pass the bar exam to become full lawyers. An online paralegal degree is the key to a rewarding career and bright future.