Today, the paralegal field is one of the fastest-growing professions in the United States. Recently, the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that the number of paralegal and legal assistants is expected to grow by 15 percent before 2026, a much higher rate compared to other professions. For many years, Wegman Partners, one of the nation’s leading full-service legal recruiters, has helped thousands of law firms hire the most accomplished and professional paralegals in the US. Wegman Partners hopes to encourage those considering entering this dynamic field, and below, will provide the steps needed in order to obtain a position as a paralegal.
Paralegal Educational Requirements
There are no federal regulations in place for paralegals, and only a few states require applicants to have completed certain requirements. For this reason, most law firms will hire paralegals with at minimum an associate’s degree in paralegal studies; however, some law firms will ask that applicants possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree in legal studies.
Associates Degree: On average, it takes roughly two years to obtain an associate’s degree in paralegal studies. However, within the legal community, a growing number of employers require paralegals to possess a four-year degree. For this reason, Wegman Partners encourages those considering becoming a paralegal to look at paralegal programs at the bachelor level.
Bachelor’s Degree: Receiving a bachelor’s degree in legal studies will allow applicants to apply for the majority of available paralegal positions. According to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, law firms and legal employers are now predominantly looking for applicants with a bachelor’s degree in a law-related field.
Master’s Degree: Those who have already received a bachelor’s degree should consider continuing their education and entering a master’s program. A master’s degree in legal studies will allow applicants to study more complex legal topics such as intellectual property law, employment law, trial advocacy, and legal writing. With this additional experience, applicants are more likely to obtain a paralegal position at some of the top law firms in the country.
Complete a Paralegal Certification (Recommended)
While most employers will only ask that applicants meet educational requirements, some employers also ask that applicants have received their paralegal certification. There are a number of different paralegal certifications available through different professional organizations; however, the most well-known certifications include the Professional Paralegal certification from NALS, and the Certified Paralegal certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). Finally, applicants can also obtain the Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) certification, also from NALA.