A paralegal or legal assistant “is a person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.”
A paralegal has a limited task that can perform. He cannot represent a client on a trial or accept a case. He cannot also give legal advice. In short, a paralegal cannot perform functions that are considered as a law practice. The paralegal performs some duties of the attorney such as but not limited to conducting and interview to the client, locating witnesses, conducting investigation, legal research, and interviews, drafting legal document, correspondents and pleadings with the supervision of an attorney.
To become a certified paralegal or Certified Legal Assistant CLA, he or she must achieve requirements such as graduating from a paralegal certificate program that is approved by the ABA; “or an associate degree program; or a paralegal post-baccalaureate certificate program; or a paralegal certificate program with 60 semester hours of which at least 15 semester hours are substantive legal courses.” He can also be a paralegal if he or she has any bachelor’s degree plus a one year experience as a legal assistant with a completion of at least 15 semester hours or substantive legal assistant courses. Or he or she could have a high school diploma or equivalent to seven years experience as a legal assistant under the supervision of a member of the Bar.
If an individual want to become a paralegal through paralegal certificate program, many educational institutions are offering paralegal certificate program as a professional course. It is aimed to prepare future paralegal certificate program holders in paralegal career. The paralegal certificate program of some institutions are focused of practical skills and research while other are focused on classroom lectures while other paralegal certificate program can be acquired online.
Institutions give paralegal certificate program which covers the following topics: Legal Research, Legal Writing and Reasoning, Technology and the Paralegal, Real Estate, Corporate Law, Litigation, and Probate. Some offers the paralegal certificate program upon completion of the Introduction to Law for Paralegals, Legal Research and Writing, Civil Procedure, Torts, Contract Law, and Criminal Law and Procedure. Although it varies from institution to institution paralegal certificate program should be based on the paralegal certificate program approved by the American Bar Association ABA. A grade not lower than “C” should also be maintained to attain the paralegal degree.
Admission depends on the institution offering paralegal certificate program. Some recommend a bachelor’s degree or at least completing 60 semester credit hours, or equivalent, of general education courses for one of any accredited colleges or universities in the country, while some institutions offering the paralegal certificate program accepts applicant which has achieved at least 3.0 GPA.
Either way, entering on a paralegal certificate program is a good start in achieving a wide career in the field that needs a lot of dedication, patience, and discipline.
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