Being a Legal Assistant is about more than just having a job, it is about achieving a professional career.
Having the proper training, education, and experience are the keys to accomplishing your goal of becoming a Legal Assistant or Paralegal.
Read on to find out the steps you need to take to get on the right path to becoming a Legal Assistant, so you can begin to work towards this rewarding career.
Legal Assistant Training
Unfortunately, watching a marathon of Law & Order episodes is not going to provide you with the legal knowledge base that is necessary to perform the duties of a Legal Assistant. It is becoming uncommon for employers to hire Legal Assistants and train them on-the-job.
Once a common practice, many Paralegals who have been in the field for many years got their start this way. As the number of graduates with Paralegal degrees and certificates continues to grow, the field becomes increasingly competitive. As a result, it is much harder to begin a Legal Assisting career without a formal education.
Legal Assistant Education
It is highly advisable to attend some type of Paralegal degree program to gain the specialized skills employers are looking for in a new hire. Over the last few years, the number of choices as to how to receive that schooling has grown. There are many different options available to receive a Paralegal education.
Legal Assistant school options to explore include associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, technical schools, and certificate programs. Some Paralegal schools offer evening classes a couple of nights a week so you can still work a daytime job. There are now many online Paralegal classes offered so you can study at a time that is convenient for your schedule.
One advantage to enrolling in Paralegal school is that your school will probably have programs that afford you with an internship opportunity. A legal internship can help you to gain valuable knowledge by putting your newly learned skills to work and experiencing what it is like to work in a law office. You may even have the opportunity to participate in a work-study program where you can earn both money and school credit. An internship will also provide you with a chance to gain hands-on experience to put on your Legal Assistant resume.
Legal Assistant Experience
Obviously, legal offices prefer to hire Legal Assistants who already have some experience. It is very unlikely that you will come across a job posting that does not ask for a minimum of a year or two of prior experience.
Despite the fact that the listing probably states that previous experience is a requirement, you should not be deterred from applying anyway. You will certainly have an advantage over other applicants if you have prior law firm experience or have ever worked in any type of office. However, although it presents a unique challenge, it is possible to become a Legal Assistant without experience.
Take advantage of your school’s programs such as work-study and internship opportunities to gain valuable experience. It is possible that there may be job openings at the firms or offices you intern for, and you will have the advantage of already having your foot in the door. Even if a job opportunity does not come up while you are there, you can request a letter of reference to assist you in your job search.
If you are interested in pursuing a future in the Paralegal profession, you’ll first want to be sure you have an understanding of your attributes and whether they are a good fit for this occupation. Figuring out how many of the 10 qualities of a great Legal Assistant you possess can help you determine that.
Once again, probably the best thing for you to do is to get some type of formal Paralegal education. While you may be able to get hired without a degree or certificate, you severely limit your opportunities to advance your career and salary. Since there are so many options available to receive a Legal Assistant education, you are assured to be able to find a program that’s right for you.
Get started on your Legal Assistant training today!