Paralegals work under the supervision of attorneys, performing a variety of tasks to support them, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents, both paper and electronic.
Paralegals work in all types of environments. They are found wherever lawyers are found. Many work for law firms. They also work in the legal departments of companies and for governmental organizations, such as the offices of district attorneys.
The median yearly salary for paralegals is $49,500, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In Louisiana, the average yearly salary is $45,980.
A Strong Job Outlook
Roughly 4,100 paralegals work in the state of Louisiana, according to 2016 BLS data. In fact, the New Orleans metropolitan area has the ninth largest concentration of paralegal positions in the country.
The number of paralegals nationwide is expected to increase 8 percent in the decade from 2014 until 2024.
Becoming a paralegal is highly competitive. People who want to become paralegals need to gain experience and formal training. According to the BLS, those with highly developed computer and database management experience will have an edge over others in job prospects.
How to Obtain a Job and Move Up
No specific, required job path exists nationwide. The state of Louisiana doesn’t require any specific training or education to become a paralegal. There is nothing, then, analogous to licensure for a therapist position in psychology, where the government issues licenses to practice only on the completion of degrees and exams.
However, certification is available in Louisiana via the Louisiana State Paralegal Association (LSPA). It requires the passing of an exam. Paralegals who have passed the exam can call themselves Louisiana Certified Paralegals (LCPs).
Becoming an LCP provides a means to be hired. It also offers a potential path to promotions for those already employed as paralegals.
Some institutions may offer certificates through coursework. Some institutions require people who want to take this coursework to have a bachelor’s degree and some don’t.
Finally, someone who has obtained a job as a paralegal may move up by becoming a Louisiana Certified Paralegal. This progression requires the successful completion of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal exam and the Louisiana Certification Exam. The latter tests knowledge of the law in the state of Louisiana.
Paralegals who have not yet completed this step must have one of several qualifications before doing so, including a combination of a bachelor’s degree (which can be in any subject) and one year of experience as a paralegal.
How a Bachelor’s Degree Can Help
If you want to be a paralegal, one of the steps to make you competitive is the completion of a bachelor’s degree. The online Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice program at Louisiana State University of Alexandria offers an overview of the criminal justice system that could help paralegals in the performance of their duties.
CJUS 3025, Ethical Leadership in Criminal Justice, for example, offers a look at leadership and ethics in the criminal justice system. CJUS 2132, The Judicial Process, examines the role, function and structure of the courts and how they relate to the environment of criminal justice.
You can take these courses at your convenience for three credit hours apiece. The BS requires 120 total credit hours to complete. An online degree program allows you to continue to work as you learn.
Learn more about the LSUA online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program.
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