Paralegals are individuals who assist lawyers in the delivery of legal services. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), a legal assistant, or paralegal, is a person qualified by education, training, or work experience. They are employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency, or other entity and performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.
The responsibilities of a paralegal ranges from understanding legal terminology as part of on-the-job training to drafting legal briefs and reports, managing the office, putting to use his writing and computer skills, and interviewing potential witnesses. Paralegals also conduct legal research and attend executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, court or administrative hearings, and trials with the attorney. There are degrees and courses available for prospective paralegals, from four-year bachelor's degree to a two-year associate's degree or certificate programs from trade or vocational schools.
There is a heavy demand for paralegals in law firms, so the paralegal degree has high job opportunities in private and public law firms, corporate law offices, and even government agencies. Responsibilities and earning potential are gained through experience with a paralegal degree and with an on-the-job training course under a lawyer. Paralegals have an earning potential of around $38,000 annually with law firms, while those working with federal agencies can make $60,000. The salary is directly proportional to the size of the office you work with and your experience.
The cost of an online, one-year degree range from $4,500 to $14,400, while the cost of a six-month diploma degree ranges from $2,700 to $4,500, depending on the college you choose. A four-year bachelor program costs around $40,000 and a two-year associate program costs around $20,000. There are also various certificate programs available that cost around $10,000. Certain universities also offer individual courses for students which are less expensive than the whole comprehensive degree.
The National Paralegal College is one of the most notable colleges in the United States that offers paralegal degrees. Some of the others which offer online paralegal degrees are Globe University/Minnesota School of Business, Santa Barbara College, The George Washington University, and Virginia College.
Testing & Preparation
Essentially, the requirement for signing up for a paralegal degree is a high school degree or an equivalent. Each college has its own norms and methods of selecting students for the program, mostly done by its admission examination or by the academic record of the student. Some schools require candidates to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), depending on the degree program, and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) if you're an international student. They may further be required to take the appropriate levels of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). Signing up for a master's degree requires the candidate to have the appropriate bachelor's degree and relevant experience or certification. Further, a paralegal practitioner should have finished the Certified Legal Assistant program, the certifying (CLA) examination of the National Association of Legal Assistants.
Every school has its own ways of providing financial aid to its students. The Justice Center Tuition Waiver Application provides for financial assistance for this degree at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. The Vincent W. & Mary Root Outstanding Paralegal Student Award also provides for a special scholarship for deserving students.