The career path to becoming a paralegal offers different options, but one thing they all have in common is that paralegal students usually complete an internship prior to being certified or joining the workforce. In many cases, the internship is a vital part of paralegal training. Learn more about paralegal internships, including what they entail and why internships are necessary.
Requirements to Become a Paralegal
Becoming a paralegal typically requires completing some type of formal training program. Occasionally, an employer may hire an applicant with legal experience and provide on-the-job training, but this is rare. Working in a legal firm entails learning a lot of legal jargon and complicated court procedures, so most employers prefer their paralegals have formal training. Paralegal training may be obtained by earning an associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. An individual with a bachelor’s degree in another major may complete a certificate program in paralegal studies. The training consists of coursework and an internship at a legal firm or in a legal setting.
What a Paralegal Internship Entails
In most cases, a paralegal internship involves working under the supervision of a licensed attorney. The intern will also spend a lot of time working with an advisor who analyzes and monitors the intern’s work. The advisor provides the intern with instructions on what goes on in the legal office and what needs to be done. The advisor also provides feedback to both the intern and the attorney. When the intern is not working with the advisor, he or she is working alongside the attorney.
Paralegal interns have many duties in a legal firm. They organize and file documents; conduct research on legal regulations and laws; investigate case facts; draft legal correspondence and contracts; file appeals, briefs, and legal exhibits; call witnesses, clients and other attorneys to schedule meetings and depositions. Paralegal students may also accompany attorneys into the courtroom. As an intern, much of these duties are performed under the supervision of a licensed attorney.
Why Internships Are Important
Internships are very important to aspiring paralegals. While the paralegal student learns a bulk of the legal training through coursework and classroom assignments, the internship is vital because it provides the student the opportunity or put to use the knowledge they obtained in the classroom. If the paralegal makes any mistakes, and they will make mistakes, they’re made under the supervision of an advisor or mentor, and the mentor is there to correct the intern.
The American Bar Association places the value of internships very high. As important as the theory part of the program might be, the practice part is even more important. Students in a paralegal program are required to complete a certain number of credits. The ABA recommends that paralegal students spend about three times as many hours as interns as they do in the actual classroom to get the required credits.
Becoming a paralegal can be the start of an exciting, challenging and rewarding career. The demand for paralegals continues to grow according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which predicts a 12 percent growth for these professionals by 2026. Completing a paralegal internship is not only the final part of becoming a paralegal but also the most important part.