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. Earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can be a good step toward a rewarding career in this field. In turn, working as a paralegal can provide a solid foundation for further law and criminal justice career advancement.
What Do Paralegals Do?
According to the American Bar Association, “A 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, such as:
- Investigating and gathering the facts and information regarding 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
- Drafting legal documents
- Contacting clients, witnesses, lawyers and outside vendors to schedule and conduct interviews, meetings and depositions
- Attending executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, trials and other legal proceedings 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 to further your career if you want to become a Certified Paralegal. Having a baccalaureate or higher degree is one of the requirement options candidates can complete to become a TBLS Board Certified Paralegal in one of TBLS’ eight specialty areas.
Lamar University’s Online Criminal Justice Degree
Lamar University’s online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program was designed to help law professionals earn their degree quickly. The program offers accelerated courses and opportunities to transfer work experience and training for academic credit. Students may transfer in up to 90 previous college credits. And, because this program is fully online, students can work on their bachelor’s degree when and where it fits their schedule.
In addition to general education requirements, students in this degree program complete 36 credit hours of criminal justice core curriculum classes (depending on transfer credits and previous criminal justice work experience and training). Criminal justice courses cover subjects such as court systems and practices, police systems and practices, correctional administration and ethical issues in criminal justice. Students in Lamar University’s online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program will also have several internship opportunities and gain hands-on experience.
Job Outlook for Paralegals
According to BLS, job prospects for paralegals look excellent, with 14% projected growth between 2021 and 2031 — much faster than the average projected growth of all occupations. 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 are less costly than lawyers in performing a variety of tasks previously assigned to entry-level lawyers. This should increase demand for paralegals and legal assistants.”
BLS also notes that large corporations are cutting costs by bolstering their in-house legal departments. This will likely lead to increased in-house hiring of paralegals.
Boost your profile in the legal field 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.