There are many paralegals who are able to land the position with a certificate alone; the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) certificate to be exact. The job was created in the 1960s, and at that time there was a list of training requirements and a certification process was developed. Colleges then developed degree programs for the role of the paralegal, which separated this position from that of a legal secretary. Paralegals are more involved with legal case preparation, case research, and drafting court documents.
In paralegal studies, colleges offer associate’s bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Online institutions provide these and certification programs for the aspiring paralegal, and completion can take nine to eighteen months. Some of these programs require internships. If you are interested in breaking into the business, certification might be a means for you to do so.
Only a handful of institutions offer paralegal studies at the master’s level. These are more geared for individuals who want to teach paralegal studies. A majority of individuals interested in this career opt for the associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
The typical associate’s degree program in paralegal studies requires core courses in liberal arts along with paralegal courses. Some of the liberal arts topics covered are science, mathematics, social science, English language and literature, and American history. A bachelor’s degree program in paralegal studies will have similar requirements, only more credits will be needed.
Classes related to paralegal studies may include legal writing, case research, torts, law office management and the judicial system. An associates degree online would take less than two years, which is the normal amount of time this level of degree would take at a community college.
The accelerated learning programs online for the bachelor’s degree level may take two to three years to complete, as opposed to the four years a traditional college would normally require. As with the associate’s level, there will be a core of liberal arts and a number of paralegal studies electives. A more thorough background is provided with a bachelor’s degree.
Kaplan University has a paralegal studies department that offers both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. Their bachelor’s program has four separate options: general paralegal studies, or a paralegal bachelor’s degree with a specialty in alternative dispute resolution, office management, or in personal injury.
Some law firms have raised the education level required to begin as a paralegal, since the career has become more popular. While certification might help an individual obtain an entry level position with a law firm, those with college degrees would be employed with more case-related responsibilities. There are certain law firms that require a bachelor’s degree from the beginning.