Being a paralegal in Kansas can be a lucrative and rewarding career. In Kansas, a paralegal is defined as a person who performs substantial legal work under the supervision of an attorney. There are several routes to becoming a paralegal. Students should consider each route carefully to make the best decision for them.
Paralegals in Kansas are not required to have any education beyond high school. Many attorneys, however, expect the paralegals who work for them to have some type of advanced education. A paralegal may have an easier time finding employment with a degree or certification.
Although Kansas does not have state regulations regarding paralegals, there are guidelines set forth by the Kansas Bar Association. The Kansas Bar Association recommends paralegals be considered qualified only if they meet one of the following criteria: complete an American Bar Association approved paralegal studies program or program of similar ABA standards; pass one of the four national certification examinations; have a bachelor’s degree and one year of in-house training; or complete five years of paralegal work under the supervision of an attorney.
Certification for paralegals is optional in Kansas. However, attorneys often require their paralegals to hold certification. There are four national certification examinations for which paralegals can sit. They are as follows: Paralegal CORE Competency Exam (PCCE), Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE), Certified Paralegal/Certified Legal Assistant Exam (CP/CLA), and Professional Paralegal Exam (PPE). The requirements to sit for each exam vary. The requirements involve experience working as paralegal and education, including certification from a credentialed program, associate’s degree, and bachelor’s degree, specifically in paralegal studies or sometimes in another field if other requirements are met. There are also renewal requirements, generally involving taking classes every few years.
In Kansas, paralegal training may be on the job or formal. Students may choose from a paralegal certificate, associate of arts, bachelor of arts or master of arts in paralegal studies. People with degrees in other fields often choose to get a certificate in paralegal studies to further their education and improve their employment outlook.
Classes involve learning how to use the major law databases to look up cases, how to interview people, how to draft documents and the basics of the different areas of law.
Paralegal Schools in Kansas
Paralegal schools are varied in Kansas. Some schools are traditional colleges or universities offering associate of arts, bachelor of arts or master of arts in paralegal studies. Many schools also offer certificates in paralegal studies. Classes or entire programs may be online. Not all programs are approved by the American Bar Association, however, and some employers may require a certificate or degree from an ABA approved program. In addition to Kansas schools, there are also many national online schools.
Paralegal Job Outlook
There are nearly 2,000 paralegals in Kansas according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. This number is expected to grow as law firms try to reduce costs. In May 2012, the bureau projected a 17% employment growth rate by 2022. State growth is expected to mimic national growth.
Paralegal Salary in Kansas
The average Kansas paralegal salary is approximately $43,000. This salary is slightly less than the national average of approximately $48,000. However, the cost of living in Kansas is also lower. Paralegals in metropolitan areas earn about the national average.
In summary, the legal field is growing, and the outlook is bright for aspiring paralegals.