In a busy courtroom, many employees work behind the scenes to make sure attorneys, clients, judges and jurors have what they need before a proceeding begins. Among those unsung heroes are paralegals, who play a critical role in the legal world.
What Do Paralegals Do?
According to the American Bar Association, “A legal assistant or paralegal is a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.”
Paralegals support attorneys in many ways. Most often, they help lawyers prepare for proceedings and trials by conducting legal research and preparing legal documents. But according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the National Association of Legal Assistants, paralegals have a long list of job duties:
- Investigating and gathering the facts of a case.
- Helping lawyers during trials by handling exhibits, taking notes or reviewing trial transcripts.
- Gathering and arranging evidence and other legal documents for attorney review and case preparation.
- Calling clients, witnesses, lawyers and outside vendors to schedule interviews, meetings and depositions.
- Attending executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, court, or administrative hearings and trials with an attorney.
Many paralegals are employed by law firms, but they might also work as part of a company’s in-house legal team, drafting employment contracts and non-compete agreements or putting together annual reports.
Paralegals in Texas
According to the State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division, to become a certified paralegal, you must take an exam administered by the National Association of Legal Assistants, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, or the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS). The TBLS can also certify paralegals in various law specialties, including personal injury law, civil trial law, family law, real estate law, estate planning and probate law, and criminal law.
While a degree isn’t specifically required to become a paralegal in Texas, a four-year degree, such as an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, can set you apart and prepare you for furthering your career if you want to become Board Certified in Texas or a Certified Paralegal.
Lamar University's Online Criminal Justice Degree
Lamar University’s online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice was designed to help law professionals earn their degree quickly — in as few as 48 months. The program offers accelerated courses and opportunities to transfer work experience and training for academic credit. And because it is fully online, you can work on your bachelor’s degree when it fits your schedule.
The degree program comprises 48 hours of core curriculum classes, 27 hours of lower-level electives, and 45 hours of advanced electives for a total of 120 credit hours. The advanced electives cover subjects such as the judicial process, the court system, computer law/ethics, technical report writing and research methods. Students in Lamar’s online criminal justice degree program will also have several internship opportunities and hands-on experience in the legal industry.
Job Outlook for Paralegals
According to the BLS, job prospects for paralegals look good overall. “Experienced, formally trained paralegals with strong computer and database management skills should have the best job prospects,” the agency said.
The BLS expects many law firms to hire more paralegals and legal assistants to boost the efficiency of their legal services and reduce costs: “Due to their lower billing rates to clients, paralegals can be a less costly alternative to lawyers despite performing a wide variety of tasks once done by entry-level lawyers. This should cause an increase in demand for paralegals and legal assistants.”
Boost your profile in the legal industry with an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Lamar University. Employers will be looking for candidates with sharp communication, interpersonal and research skills — all gained in an online bachelor’s degree program.
Learn more about Lamar University’s online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.
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