A person who wants to dive right in to the legal profession often looks for a good paralegal degree program to help them prepare for their new career. Paralegals provide the administrative support that attorneys need to keep pace with heavy case loads in offices that specialize in litigation and general practice work. Depending upon one’s chosen specialty and employer, a paralegal may prepare standard legal documents as well as conduct research associated with case law under the supervision of an attorney. Although paralegals are not allowed to give legal advice to the public, they must have a thorough understanding of state and federal laws to help their supervising attorneys give quick and accurate counsel. Finding a comprehensive paralegal degree program is foundational for successful paralegals, and here are some of the characteristics of a good degree program.
Endorsement By The American Bar Association
The American Bar Association (ABA) is one of the oldest and most well known professional organizations for those practicing law domestically. The ABA provides valuable industry resources for the general public, law students, lawyers and judges that identify professional development opportunities and educational programs. Law offices use the ABA to investigate the accreditation credentials of the law school programs attended by potential attorneys at their firms, and they do the same for incoming paralegals. It helps to have chosen a paralegal program that has a good reputation and that is endorsed by the ABA.
Reputable paralegal degree programs are often divided between foundational legal courses and specialized ones that are based upon the student’s interests and career goals. For example, paralegals who want to work in a law office that simply helps the public to prepare legal documentation will often specialize in general practice course work. These future paralegals learn about the specific legal procedures for real estate transactions, bankruptcy declarations, the generation of wills and estate planning. Other paralegals may enjoy the dynamic support activities associated with attorneys who carry cases to trial, and they will take litigation courses that support trial lawyers. These specializations can go so far as to incorporate case study for special interest areas like environmental and medical malpractice law.
Practical Experiential Learning Opportunities
After paralegal students complete theoretical course work in their classrooms, outstanding degree programs allow them to put their new found skills to work at real law firms. These training sessions are invaluable ways for paralegals to gain real world experience while still in school. They usually perform these supervised internships for law offices that provide public legal services for free or discounted rates to low income individuals and families.
Career Services and Assistance
Sometimes finding a job after graduation can be as challenging as completing the degree program’s coursework. However, many paralegal degree programs have career centers that help talented students quickly find just the right position. In fact, some paralegal degree programs have developed preferential hiring relationships with leading law offices through professional associations like the ABA.
Although most paralegal educational programs are of the two year associate level variety, there is enough material on legal studies for some universities to offer four year undergraduate programs on the subject. An aspiring paralegal who is in doubt about whether they have found a good paralegal degree program or not could ask the opinion of the law offices for which they desire employment about their perspectives on a school’s paralegal program.