It is relatively easy to become a paralegal in Texas comparing to other states. Any attorney may hire someone to do this work. In fact, over 50%, of practicing paralegals, received on-the-job training according to the 2010 State Bar of Texas Department of Research and Analysis Report. This same report shows 44% of paralegals currently hold a certificate. A paralegal can be certified by the state of Texas and can even be certified as a specialist in two of six categories. The best news is yet to come; salaries are high, and 28 % more paralegals will be needed in the future.
The Certification Process
To become certified as a paralegal in the state of Texas, a person needs to have education, experience, submit an application with supporting documentation, pay the fee and pass a four-hour test. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization offers special recognition in civil law, criminal law, estate planning, family law, personal injury and real estate law to people with five years or more of experience in these fields. Three of the five years of paralegal experience must be in Texas.
Education and Work Experience Requirements
Although education shortens the time frame, work experience counts. Required education includes:
- Graduating from a paralegal program approved by the American Bar Association,
- Having an Associates or bachelor’s degree or post-baccalaureate certificate in Paralegal Studies or 60 semester hours in a program with 15 hours involved in legal related course work.
- Having a bachelor’s degree in any field with one or more years of hands-on experience or complete 15 hours of legal coursework or
- Working for seven years in the field, possessing a high school diploma and taking 20 hours of continuing education.
Successful employees develop skills in communication, reading, writing, computers, and organization. These highly trained individuals interact with clients, attorneys and the court system. Being able to communicate clearly and concisely verbally and in writing is as important as analyzing data and organizing it. Over 80% of the paralegals are employed in litigation, personal injury or family law areas.
American Bar Association Training
Schools accredited by the American Bar Association offer three levels of training. These courses include mandatory internships to give graduates real life experience. The first level covers ethics and legal concepts, research and analyzing the results, legal formats, and civil litigation. Graduates understand the rules, the attorney’s roles, and the trial preparation process.
Students are completing the second level learn computer generated forms and online research techniques, contracts, and different business organizations. Interviewing and recognizing causes of action in civil litigation give students skills needed in this marketplace. Graduates also draft documents.
The third level deals with family law, wills and probate and criminal law and procedures. These students can specialize in the field or fields they want. They understand the child support process, community property implications, conservatorship requirements and procedures and the process for filing divorces. Of course, students draft wills and handle probate issues. The Texas law of intestate succession is covered. In-depth education on the Texas Penal Code and court processes allow graduates to research, interpret laws and help attorneys plan courses of action.
Paralegals work anywhere as long as they are under the direct supervision of an attorney. Although over 71% of these experts work for law firms, other businesses need their help. Any corporation or business with an in-house legal department hires these trained professionals. Employers include airlines, banks, governments, hospitals, insurance companies and retail chains.
Summary: How to Become a Paralegal in Texas
To recap, anyone can become a paralegal in the state of Texas. The employee just goes to work for an attorney who trains him or her. When paralegals get a certificate whether it is issued by a nationally recognized organization or the state of Texas, they gain marketable skills that are rewarded by their employers.