If you are ready to become a paralegal and work in this challenging yet rewarding career, you’re probably wondering what your next move should be. Here are ten tips for becoming a paralegal to get your started on your road to success in this field.
Decide on your education
A paralegal might not be required to have any specific training where you live, but the fact of the matter is that applicants with training behind them have a huge advantage. Whether you get a paralegal certificate or opt for a four-year degree, make sure you have the knowledge necessary to build a successful career.
Find out your state’s requirements
Your state might require a specific type of education or certification for you to work as a paralegal. Review these requirements so you don’t find yourself falling short once your education is finished.
Brush up your job-specific skills
Paralegals need to be organized, good at research and have strong verbal and written communication skills. If you’re weak in any of these areas, you may struggle as a paralegal. Use online resources and take workshops and classes if your organizational, verbal or speaking skills need to be improved.
Become more familiar with computers
Both computers and the internet are tools that paralegals use on a near-daily basis in their jobs. Check out legal resources online to become familiar with how they work, and develop or improve your other computer skills, such as spreadsheet and word processing document creation.
Find an internship
You might be able to intern at a company or law firm while you’re completing your education. An internship is a valuable way to gain experience and insight into your future job, so check with local schools and businesses to see if there are any available in your area.
Just like attorneys, paralegals can study a specific area of law more closely, and they usually choose an area in which they would like to work. Law branches include criminal, personal injury, real estate and more. You will be more marketable if you have some focused training in one or more specialized legal areas, so consider getting an advanced paralegal certificate and further education in the branches in which you think you’d like to work.
Take a look at the local job market
If you’re not sure which areas of law to get some extra training in, you can take a closer look at the paralegal job market in your area. If real estate paralegals, for example, are in demand right now, you could take some additional instruction in real estate law to take advantage of the job potential. Even if you later decide that real estate isn’t for you, at least you gained some experience to put on your resume.
Be prepared to keep learning
Both the legal industry and the paralegal segment are continually growing and changing. As a paralegal, you want to be on top of the latest law changes and legal industry trends. Keep up with everything that is going on in your field and always be ready to learn something new.
Join an association
You can connect with an instant support network by joining local or national paralegal associations. Not only does this provide networking opportunities, but it also lets you make some new friends and colleagues who may be able to answer some of your questions and offer up their own valuable experience.
Map your goals
Your career as a paralegal could hit a slump if you don’t know where you want to go. Write down all of your professional and personal goals so you’re headed in the right direction.