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How to Become a Paralegal Online: Everything You Need to Know

Have you always wanted to break into the field of law as a paralegal? According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), between 2020 and 2030, this field will experience moderate growth at a rate of 12 percent. How do you become a paralegal online?

Becoming a paralegal requires you to first have the necessary skills, training, and credentials. By enrolling in an online university, you can obtain an associate or bachelor’s degree, learning critical job skills along the way such as database management, civil litigation, electronic discovery, and contract law.

This guide will answer all your questions regarding how to become a paralegal online. You’ll learn more about what responsibilities this role entails, what paralegal skills you need, and how to find a suitable school for your paralegal education!

What Is a Paralegal?

What exactly are we talking about when we refer to a paralegal?

A paralegal is a legal science professional who works with lawyers, chartered legal executives, barristers, and solicitors. They are not lawyers, but paralegals still serve critical roles in any legal office.

Most importantly, the paralegal acts as support and assistance for a lawyer. They can choose to focus on specific law areas, or they may specialize in a multitude of areas. A paralegal will work in a department at the law office.

The specialties a paralegal may choose to focus on include probate law, estate planning, intellectual property law, corporate law, real estate law, criminal defense law, or family law.

Paralegal Duties

The duties of a paralegal vary from office to office and even from day to day. The department the paralegal is staffed in as well as the area of law the paralegal chooses can also dictate what their job responsibilities will be.

Keeping that in mind, here is an overview of the basic duties expected of a paralegal:

  • Communicating with clients and sometimes acting as a liaison between the lawyer and the client
  • Progressing cases
  • Interviewing clients and witnesses
  • Administrative support
  • Working with attorneys during live trials
  • Creating legal documents (often basic legal documents)
  • Managing projects
  • Producing reports
  • Drafting motions and pleadings to go to the courts
  • Managing documents
  • Negotiating with clients or witnesses
  • Doing case research and/or investigations

If you’re a paralegal supporting an attorney, then you may spend part of your time in a courtroom and also time preparing for court. Your work will center around drafting motions and pleadings, doing case research, and working closely with the attorney so they’re fully prepared for the court proceedings.

You’ll also stay busy writing up legal documents, managing incoming documents, and communicating with the attorney’s client pool.

You could be one of a team of paralegals. The bigger the law firm, the larger the paralegal staff, which can sometimes be into the hundreds.

If you’re part of a team that large, you can rest assured that your job role would still be unique. Each of the paralegals on the team serves a critical function.

Smaller law firms may have smaller paralegal staffing levels, relying on only several paralegals to do various job duties. This may require you to wear many hats and learn new skills.

Paralegal Skills

The desired skills of a professional paralegal are not uniform across every law office considering the wide range of duties a paralegal might fulfill. That said, the following skills will only make you a better paralegal, so they’re worth focusing on:

  • Work well under pressure
  • Strong analytical thinking
  • Excellent researching abilities
  • Good teamwork
  • Able to focus on small details
  • Knowledgeable about law
  • Excellent at communicating verbally and non-verbally
  • Very organized

What Qualifications Do I Need to Become a Paralegal?

Although college degrees aren’t required, they augment your education and your knowledge of the law, so they’re always recommended. Also, many college degree programs provide you with specialty training in electronic discovery, plus you can pick up on the above skills that will make you a better paralegal right out of the gate.

You may be interested in obtaining your associate degree or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. Upon graduating, you can apply for paralegal job roles such as litigation clerk, legal assistant, legal support specialist, or legal analyst.

You can also work in specialist roles like discovery paralegal, litigation paralegal, or corporate paralegal.

During your time obtaining your associate degree, you’ll learn critical job skills, including managing electronic databases, indexing legal reports and litigation, preparing evidence, and launching investigations.

We especially recommend an online paralegal education through a college like Bryan University. The Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies program combines book learning with hands-on experience to make you a better paralegal upon graduating.

After obtaining your associate degree, you can begin applying for paralegal jobs. If you wish to further your education, then you can work towards earning your bachelor’s degree.

You’ll learn even more of the skills that government agencies, insurance firms, and corporate legal departments value in their respective paralegals.

If you choose Bryan U’s Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies and Litigation Technologies program, you’ll gain access to the E-Discovery Lab for Software, Simulation & Applications (aka ELSSA).

ELSSA puts you in a real-world, interactive environment where you’ll have to use your skills and technologies to tackle the obstacles that come up in the real working lives of paralegals.

Do I Need a Certification to Become a Paralegal?

You’ve begun researching paralegal certifications and there are so many! From the Professional Paralegal or PP cert to the Advanced Paralegal Certification (AACP), and Certified Paralegal (CP), where do you start?

We’d suggest obtaining your CP certification through NALA (the National Association of Legal Assistants), one of the top paralegal associations. NALA has more than 45 years of industry excellence, so earning your CP cert through this organization would be a shining contribution to your resume.

NALA has eligibility requirements for the CP certification. You must have completed or enrolled in a paralegal program, have at least seven years of professional paralegal experience, or completed a bachelor’s degree (does not have to be in law).

To earn your CP certification, you must pass a two-part exam that tests both your paralegal skills and knowledge. The two tests are not taken at the same time. Usually, aspiring paralegals will start with the Knowledge Exam, then the Skills Exam. You will receive your Certified Paralegal certification through the mail if you pass both tests. The cert lasts for two years before you’re required to renew.

To do that, you must enroll in continuing legal education or CLE courses for up to 12 hours, two hours of your education which must be dedicated towards ethics courses.

Bryan University’s associate or bachelor’s paralegal programs can put you on the road to CP certification. Part of your continuing education involves CP exam prep. Plus, as a student, Bryan U will pay for your first exam attempt!

How Long Does It Take to Become a Paralegal? Online vs. Offline Education

If you’re ready to become a paralegal, you might have one question – how long does it take?

Since paralegals can go in so many different career directions, there’s no one set timeframe to become one.

If you pursue only basic education such as an associate degree, then you might be able to start working in less than two years. Those who commit to further education at the bachelor’s degree level could launch their careers in less than four years.

If you decide to become a paralegal online, you could graduate even faster. Online universities such as Bryan U fast-track a student’s time in academia, propelling students towards graduation faster.

Our stacked programs make it easier to work your way first towards your associate degree and then your bachelor’s degree should you decide to pursue it.

Ready to Kickstart Your Paralegal Career Today?

Working as a paralegal is an exciting, rewarding career field that’s steadily growing. If you’re ready to take the next step and enter this field yourself, Bryan University is the online college for you.

Your courseware and books are covered in the cost of the program tuition, making college a cost-effective choice.

By enrolling in the Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies or Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies and Litigation Technologies program, you’ll learn following our dynamic experiential learning model called DeXL.

The DeXL learning model combines computer-based learning with a rich curriculum. You’ll work in electronic learning platforms like Cerego, and with individual coaching meetings, you’ll feel supported on your educational journey to become a paralegal. These programs include the above education features as well as interactive weekly online events. These events may be workshops, coaching sessions, or listening to industry speakers. At Bryan U, you’ll gain the skills and education you need to become a paralegal from the comfort of your home!

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