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What degree do I need to be a paralegal?

Judges need them, as do district attorneys and criminal defense laywers: Without paralegals and legal assistants, the legal world would not work as smoothly. Paralegals and legal assistants do a variety of tasks to support lawyers. This includes maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents. In small law firms, paralegals and legal assistants may play an essential role in the management of the firm. They can help prepare documents for signature, interact with clients, and file the right paperwork in the right place.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an associate's degree is typically required to work as a paralegal at a private law firm, city or state courts or corporate legal departments. Most paralegals and legal assistants have an associate's degree in paralegal studies, or a bachelor's degree in another field and a certificate in paralegal studies. These certificates typically take a relatively short time to complete and can often be found offered by community colleges. Extension programs of universities also frequently have part-time paralegal certificate programs (some of them partially online), and a few universities offer bachelor's degrees in paralegal studies. Classes typically include legal research, writing, civil litigation, ethics, securities law, contracts, and many other electives. There are currently only 270 paralegal programs that are approved by the American Bar Association.


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