Paralegals are legal assistants who assist lawyers in preparing for corporate meetings, hearings and trials. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, job prospects are expected to grow and competition for these jobs posts will also intensify. If you wish to pursue a career as a paralegal, the following information will put you on the right career path, and equip you with the necessary information towards becoming a paralegal.
The state of Georgia does not impose any specific educational requirements for paralegals. However, the relevant body, which is the Georgia Association of Paralegals makes recommendations that all candidates should at least have an associate degree. Better prospects are enjoyed by candidates with a bachelor’s degree in paralegal training. Regardless of the degree chosen, all candidates must enroll in programs that have gained the approval of the American Bar Association or accredited institutions. These courses offer paralegal training in areas such as legal research, legal applications, legal writing, corporate and international law.
Candidates can enroll in a paralegal programs from a community college to earn their associate degree. Industry trends in Georgia show that employers mainly hire applicants with a bachelor’s degree. In most cases, employers especially in big firms, prefer to work with legal assistants who have at least one year experience. There are also employers who may be looking for a specific legal specialty. For instance, a firm that deals with personal injury may have it as a requirement that candidates have some background in health administration or nursing.
There are also several skill sets and qualities that paralegal are required to possess, among them:
Communication skills- paralegals must have the skills to document and present their findings to the supervising attorney. This information must highlight the relevant information pertaining to a particular case, corporate meeting or a trial.
Interpersonal skills-part of the job description of a paralegal entails being in regular contact with clients and other professionals in the field. In light of this, they must have good interpersonal skills to make clients free to share personal information.
Organization skills-paralegals often deal with different attorneys in the firm who may have varied requirements. They should therefore be orderly and organized, so as not to mix information on different cases.
Research skills-they must possess good research skills because they often have to go through several case files and handbooks to get particular information.
Computer skills-they must be familiar with several computer packages to enable efficient data collection, research and documentation. Computer skills are also relevant in maintaining and organizing documents.
To improve the chances of a better job prospect, candidates are required to gain practical experience through an internship program. This can be sought in a private law firm, legal aid organizations, the office of the public defender, the corporate legal department or even a government agency. Internship programs provide students with a hands-on experience and better understanding of their duties as paralegals. Many of the paralegal schools in Georgia offer internships as part of the program. Additionally, internships provide networking opportunities. It is important to note that paralegals in the state of Georgia must be supervised by an attorney. They are not allowed to give legal advice directly to clients, or to the public.
Georgia offers several programs for paralegals to choose from. Courses are offered on campus or online, students can choose four-year degrees, two-year degrees and certificate programs. Students must check with the bar of association to get accredited schools. Some of the schools offering paralegal studies in Georgia include: Herzing University Atlanta, South University Atlanta, Athens Technical College, Clayton State University, Central Georgia Technical College, Atlanta Technical College, Darton College Albany, Georgia Piedmont Technical College, University of North Georgia, Southern Crescent Technical College, and Augusta Technical College.
Paralegal Job Outlook
The projected growth rate for paralegals in Georgia from 2012 to 2022 is 24.7 percent, this is according to the Georgia Department of Labor. There are 380 anticipated job openings every year, out of this, 230 positions are expected to come from growth in the sector, while the others will come as result of replacements in already existing positions.
Law firms are now pursuing ways of increasing efficiency, while at the same time reducing costs. To achieve this, they are expected to hire more legal assistants and paralegals. In the future, paralegals will therefore take on integrated roles. This points to a very high demand for paralegals. As of May 2014, the average salary of a fully employed paralegal in Georgia was at $49,380. The Atlanta Sandy-Springs area, and the southern region covering non-metropolitan areas have had the highest employment levels, and job prospects. In light of this, candidates who want to pursue this field should ensure that they join the job market fully prepared, with a degree and through taking advantage of internship programs to gain more experience.