So, you want to work in the legal field but don’t feel quite ready for law school? Check out paralegal work. Paralegals essentially work as legal assistants to practicing attorneys. They assist with trial prep, client communication and hearings in both private firms and the public sector. As a paralegal, not only will you get to see the behind-the-scenes work of trial preparation and case research, but you’ll have a meaningful way to ensure justice for your client.
How to do it:
Most people working as paralegals have an associate’s degree in paralegal studies. For top firms or more involved work, a bachelor’s degree from a four-year university may become necessary. To take it a step further, fields like intellectual property law may require a master’s degree in paralegal studies.
2. The Certification Exam
Oh, great, more testing. Technically, this is a voluntary exam, but having the paralegal certification can very easily set you apart from other applicants in the job search. Both the National Association of Legal Assistants and the National Federation of Paralegals suggest completing a program approved by the American Bar Association.
3. Intern at a firm
We hear it all the time, “You need to get an internship. And hopefully one that’s paid!” With so many options for paralegal work, you can have your fair share of fields to look into. You can look into nonprofits, law firms, government agencies and corporations that all hire interns for the legal aspect of their work. You can even do this while still in school (can you say “efficiency”?).
4. Get to work
If you apply for a range of jobs, much like you probably did when applying for undergrad, you have a much better shot at getting a job on your level and in your desired field. If your university or community college has a career center of some kind or career counseling services, utilize them. Those services exist for you to use; don’t let them go to waste.
Working as a paralegal is a great way to dip your toe into the legal field before diving into law school. If you feel on the fence about another three years of reading, learning legal code and being put on the spot by professors, consider paralegal work. With so many areas like immigration, personal injury and criminal law, you’re sure to find something worthwhile and meaningful as a paralegal.