When your career hits a glass ceiling, a dead end, or otherwise stalls out, going back to school to learn a new trade of set of skills is a smart plan of action. With distance learning and on-line degree programs, more people have more options about their education, and thus have more options for their future.
In a recent article on Yahoo! Education, one of the careers spotlighted as being desirable as a second career was that of a paralegal. According to the Department of Labor, demand for paralegals is expected to grow substantially in the next few years as employers try to increase efficiency and reduce their overhead and costs of legal services.
What is a paralegal? Well, the definition varies slightly from country to country. Basically, a paralegal is anyone who assists a qualified lawyer in the legal profession. That’s a pretty vague definition, admittedly. In Canada, paralegals are licensed and monitored by the government, and the profession is regulated. In America, the duties of a paralegal can be different from state to state, city to city, or law firm to law firm. But in essence, anyone working under the direct supervision of a lawyer is considered a paralegal.
To work as a paralegal, potential employees need to have either an AA (associates of arts, a two year degree) in paralegal studies, or a certificate in paralegal studies. A bachelor’s degree in the field is a plus, but not mandatory to get your foot in the door.
When going to school for paralegal studies, some of the courses required will include (but not be limited to) Probate and Family Law, Real Estate, Litigation, Legal Research, Corporate Law, Legal Writing and Reasoning, Technology, Ethics, Legal Procedures, Torts. A paralegal isn’t a lawyer, but the more they know about the law, the more valuable they are as an asset to a law firm. These courses are usually designed to give the student a broad general understanding of the law, its concepts, and procedures and processes.
However, since different lawyers in different fields of law all hire paralegals, getting specific knowledge in real estate law, estate planning, government law, or criminal trials (just to name a few examples) can be beneficial and help the student find a job in the future. Paralegal is such a general term, that there is a lot of room under the umbrella for different types of paralegal work.
Sound interesting? Ok, now its your turn to do some research and find out more details about the distance learning programs available, to see which one is right for you – or to see if the profession in general is a good fit.
Kaplan University offers two degrees, an Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies, and a Postbaccalaureate Pathway to Paralegal Studies Certificate.
Everest University Online offers an Associate in Science Paralegal.
Boston University Online offers a Paralegal Certificate.
Virginia College has two degrees available through their online program, an Associate of Science Paralegal Studies, and a Bachelor of Science Paralegal Studies.