The educational qualifications for becoming a paralegal vary depending on the training path you choose. Many colleges offer associates or bachelors degree programs in paralegal studies. These programs typically include classes in legal research and legal applications of computers along with an array of other academic subjects. For those already holding a bachelors degree in an unrelated field, you can earn a certification in paralegal studies. Certification programs may take no more than a few months to complete. Some law offices also hire applicants with no paralegal education and train them on the job. These applicants generally hold a degree in another subject related to the law practices of the hiring firm.
Good communications skills, both verbal and written, are one of the most important qualifications for becoming a paralegal. Much of the job will consist of documenting and presenting legal research. Closely related, extensive research skills and computer skills are also essential. Additionally, a successful paralegal will need to be highly organized because you'll often be working on multiple cases at the same time.
Prior work experience in a law firm, or even just experience in any office setting, can be important in landing a paralegal job. Paralegal degree programs often offer internship opportunities at law firms or government agencies where students can practice their technical skills and gain valuable experience. Employers may also hire college graduates with no legal training, but who have experience related to a specific legal specialty, such as tax preparation, criminal justice, or health care.
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