Legal Assistants who have received the best education and training are the ones who receive the most desired jobs and enjoy the highest pay.
If you want to become a Legal Assistant, you will want to attend a Paralegal school.
A Paralegal program will provide you with the education you need to become the Best Legal Assistant.
5 Types of Paralegal Schools
The number of Paralegal Schools has increased dramatically over the last several years to over 1,000. Demand for Legal Assistants to fill newly created jobs continues to increase every year, so more schools are required to meet that need.
Law firms want to hire employees who are educated and trained in legal terminology, drafting documents, case management, and legal research.
These skills can only come from attending a good program.
There are five different choices to consider when deciding which type of Paralegal program to enroll in. Let’s examine all the possibilities that are available, the pros and cons of each, and you’re sure to find the right option for you.
A Paralegal certificate can typically be earned within 6 to 12 months. Some Paralegal certificate programs are available in lieu of a degree, while others are specifically for continuing education students who already have a degree in an unrelated field.
Studies are focused on a core curriculum of legal classes and you will not take as many general education classes. You are able to finish school more quickly since you are not completing a degree. Please note that earning a Paralegal Certificate is not the same thing as being a Certified Paralegal.
Admission requirements: High school diploma or GED; or for continuing education, a requirement of an AA or BA.
Time for completion: 6-12 months
Pros: Quick to complete
Cons: Lack of general education classes; may not qualify for financial aid
Associate’s Degree in Paralegal
The most popular route to become a Legal Assistant is to achieve an associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies. There are 3 types of associate’s degrees that may be available at a school near you:
Associate of Arts: An AA in Paralegal provides you with a general education degree that will include liberal arts classes in addition to Paralegal curriculum.
Associate of Science: An AS in Paralegal affords you with not only Paralegal education courses, but also technical based classes such as math and sciences.
Associate of Applied Science: An AAS in Paralegal will include a core curriculum that teaches you applicable job skills that will allow you to easily transition into the workforce.
Admission requirements: High school diploma or GED
Time for completion: 2 years
Pros: The top choice for students wanting to gain a Paralegal degree. Many programs allow you to qualify for student loans and federal grants.
Cons: Your options may be limited for transfer to a bachelor’s degree program if you choose to continue your education.
Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal
There are two types of Paralegal bachelor’s degrees: a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science. In addition to the core legal classes, a BA in Paralegal will consist of liberal arts criteria, whereas a BS in Paralegal will entail more science-based classes.
Admission requirements: High school diploma; 2-year college transfer; Associate’s degree
Time for completion: 4 years
Pros: A bachelor’s degree can help you stand out in a competitive job market over other applicants who have only 2 year Paralegal degrees; may earn you higher salary.
Cons: Amass higher amount of student loans; takes additional years to complete over Paralegal associate’s degree.
Paralegal Online Degrees and Certificates
Online schools are a growing in popularity. They can vary in structure- some will require assignments to be completed at certain dates and times, while others allow for even greater flexibility and simply require coursework to be completed by the end date of the class. Not all online programs are created equal. Be sure to carefully research the school to be certain that adequate help will be available to you when you have questions.
Admission requirements: Varies depending on degree or certificate sought
Time for completion: 3 mo – 4 years
Pros: Greatest flexibility
Cons: You need to be especially self-motivated; school may lack resources to assist you with finding internships.
There are some top-of-the-line Paralegal technical school programs out there. They offer specialized training geared toward Paralegal education. Beware though, because some programs from for-profit agencies are more worried about lining their pockets with your money that providing you with the skills you will need in the workforce. Some employers are hesitant to hire technical school graduates. Be sure to thoroughly research the institution prior to signing any enrollment documents.
Admission requirements: High School Diploma or GED
Time for completion: 3-18 months
Pros: Quick completion
Cons: May not qualify for financial aid grants; not all programs are created equal
Something to keep in mind when you are looking at Paralegal schools are whether they are an accredited program or have received ABA approval or are recognized by the AAFPE. Lack of accreditation and recognition do not automatically mean that you will not receive a great education or be able to get a good job. However, having these endorsements assures you that the school offers a top quality program.
Now that you have an idea of what your options are, you can start to make decisions to get you on the path to becoming the Best Legal Assistant.