Paralegals play an important role in any legal proceedings by performing research, preparing documents, gathering evidence and a host of other tasks. They work behind the scenes to ensure cases flow smoothly from start to finish. Although certification is not required in order to work as a paralegal, it can nonetheless benefit you in a number of ways. Here are some advantages to becoming a certified paralegal that make it worth considering.
Paralegals need a certain amount of legal expertise to perform their jobs effectively. Becoming certified is one way to demonstrate you have the knowledge needed to excel in this career. Being able to demonstrate your knowledge is especially important if you have no previous job experience, since many attorneys cannot afford to take time out of their busy schedules to train paralegals.
Paralegals also work alone a great deal of the time, and therefore may not be able to obtain assistance from someone else. Knowing a paralegal is knowledgeable gives a lawyer a sense of security in knowing things are being handled properly whenever he or she is away from the office.
Better Job Opportunities
Becoming certified is one way to stand out from among other applicants, and can therefore go a long way toward helping you find employment. In fact, competition is often so fierce at bigger law firms that hiring managers refuse to consider applicants who are not certified. Even in smaller firms, a certified paralegal will likely be looked on more favorably than someone who is not certified.
Certification can be especially useful if you plan to become a freelance paralegal who works as an independent contractor. Freelance paralegals often work remotely, which means they are not directly supervised. As such, attorneys must have confidence in their abilities, which is why they turn to certified paralegals first when outsourcing work.
Keeps Skills Sharp
Certification exams for paralegals are very intense, which means you’ll need to do a great deal of studying to prepare for one. Not only that, but you’ll also need to continuously update your knowledge if you are to renew your certification. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) requires paralegals to undergo recertification every five years. To be eligible, you must:
- Undergo at least 50 clock hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE)
- Have at least five hours of ethics training, (can be included in the 50-hour CLE requirement)
- Sign an affidavit stating you have not been convicted of a felony
- Pay a recertification fee of $125
Since continuing education credits are needed for certification renewal, you’ll be constantly refreshing your knowledge by attending training courses. Continuing Legal Education courses cover various practice areas, so you can further specialize in a particular type of law after becoming certified as well.
Attending CLE courses will allow you to network with other professionals in your field who can provide you with much-needed advice and support. Certifying agencies such as NALA also host special activities, and regularly publish newsletters and job postings to provide you additional opportunities to grow as a paralegal.
Prepare to Become an Attorney
Many paralegals eventually go on to attend law school and become attorneys in their own right. Passing a paralegal certification exam will prepare you to take the rigorous Law School Admission Test (LSAT), which is required before admission.
As you can see, there are a number of definite advantages to becoming a certified paralegal. Before taking a certification exam, you should first complete the right training program, which will prepare you for the unique tasks you perform in a law office. For help in finding the right training program, please contact us.