Paralegal / Legal Assistant

Paralegals serve as the backbone of thriving law practices. Successful attorneys realize that having a well-trained paralegal on staff can save hours and hours of time the attorney would otherwise have to spend doing legal research and preparing legal documents. Paralegals free up the attorney, allowing him or her to spend more time in direct client interaction as well as the courtroom. Paralegals are an invaluable component of any successful law firm.

The term 'legal assistant' is generally used to mean the same job as a paralegal. The American Bar Association draws no distinction between the two positions; neither does the NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants). The two are deemed to be synonymous, and both refer to the same job. The term 'legal assistant' could be construed to include other staff that assist an attorney, such as a legal secretary or a file clerk, but in general, the term is used to refer to a paralegal.

On a typical day a paralegal may make telephone calls to relay information to clients from the attorney, and then spend hours doing legal research on the computer. They may have to draft documents for the attorney or organize files and documents for the attorney's upcoming trial appearance. A paralegal's job is interesting and varied, and anyone interested in being involved in the legal system may want to consider this occupation.

Generally someone interested in pursuing a career as a paralegal plans to work in a law office setting. There are job opportunities outside the law office setting, however, that a paralegal may want to consider. These include working as a claims adjuster for an insurance company, working as a title examiner with a real estate business, or even conducting legal research for oil and petroleum company or a software company.

Many paralegals have obtained education in various areas of legal study. Although there are currently no certification requirements for paralegals, paralegals that choose to not obtain post-high school education may obtain a certificate of completion from a paralegal certification program. In some cases a school may call the program a legal assistant certification program. In general, employers prefer to hire paralegals or legal assistants who have obtained a degree from a university.

How to Become a Paralegal or Legal Assistant

There are three different paths that someone interested in becoming a legal assistant or paralegal should consider. The first involves attending a trade school offering certification in paralegal studies. The second is seeking an Associate's degree in paralegal studies. The third is obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in paralegal studies.


The American Bar Association has developed a set of standards in regards to paralegal programs in order to ensure that paralegals enrolled at those institutions are trained by qualified professionals and that the students are taught based upon a high-quality curriculum. Employers may expect prospective employees to have received their education through one of these ABA-approved programs, although that depends upon the individual employer.

Paralegal Certification or Legal Assistant Certification Program

There are numerous trade schools that offer paralegal certificates. These refer to verification that the student has completed some basic classes through the trade school and may be considered adequately trained to begin work as a legal assistant. Someone enrolling in a certification program may be able to finish the program in a 10 week period. Some of the skills the student will be trained in include:

- Using libraries as well as computers to conduct legal research

- How to prepare documents summarizing the legal research for the attorney

- Learn legal definitions and terminology

- Learn basic courtroom procedure

- Preparation of basic documents

Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies

An individual interested in obtaining more education than the certificate programs offer may decide to pursue an associate's degree. This degree prepares the student for working within the legal system as a legal assistant or paralegal. In order to enroll in an associate's program, the student must meet the individual school's requirements for admission, which will include having a high school diploma or equivalent. Typical associate programs take 2 years to complete. Some of the coursework a paralegal studies' student may be required to take include courses such as:

- Introduction to Legal Technology

- The Paralegal Professional

- Civil Litigation

- Introduction to Legal Research

- Introduction to Legal Analysis and Writing

- Legal Ethics

- Real Property Law

- Trusts and Estates

- Family Law

Bachelor Science Paralegal studies

For someone interested in obtaining a bachelor's degree in connection with their legal studies, pursuing a BS in Paralegal Studies could be the solution. Obtaining a bachelor's degree will take approximately 4 years to complete. The student must meet the admissions requirements of the individual college or university, which may include having a high school diploma or equivalent, presenting high school transcripts that reflect a minimum grade point average, and minimum standardized testing scores.

The student will need to complete the regular requirements for a bachelor's degree, which usually include courses in English, Mathematics, Science, Computer Science, History and others. In addition, the student will take legal studies courses such as:

- The Paralegal Professional

- Civil Litigation

- Introduction to Legal Research

- Introduction to Legal Analysis and Writing

- Legal Ethics

- Real Estate Law

- Tort Law

- Advanced Legal Writing

- Introduction to Criminal Justice

- Cyber law

- Principles of Criminal Investigation

- Introduction to Forensic Science

Professional Certification For Post-Graduates

Once a paralegal or legal assistant has entered the market, there is an opportunity for a certified legal assistant credential. The National Association of Legal Assistants offers an examination that tests basic paralegal knowledge. Upon successfully passing the exam, the candidate will be issued certification. Obtaining this certification provides a great deal of credibility to a paralegal and enhances their consideration for job placement, advancement in the field and pay increases.

Pursuing a legal career as a legal assistant is challenging and potentially very lucrative. A paralegal who has been trained in some of the newest areas of legal controversy, such as cyber law, will be a valuable asset to a law practice, business or governmental office.

Featured Schools

We found 608 schools offering paralegal degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 608 Paralegal / Legal Assistant Colleges in the U.S.

Paralegal Schools By Total Enrollment

Community College of the Air Force
Montgomery, AL  |  Total Enrollment: 378162

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Associate's
Miami Dade College
Miami, FL  |  Total Enrollment: 46834

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Minneapolis, MN  |  Total Enrollment: 45481

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
Houston Community College System
Houston, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 40929

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
Pennsylvania State University - Main Campus
University Park, PA  |  Total Enrollment: 40571

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Doctor's
University of Central Florida
Orlando, FL  |  Total Enrollment: 33713

Degrees Offered: Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's
Community College of Southern Nevada
North Las Vegas, NV  |  Total Enrollment: 29905

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
American River College
Sacramento, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 28420

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
Mt San Antonio College
Walnut, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 28329

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
Boston University
Boston, MA  |  Total Enrollment: 28318

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree

Browse All 608 Colleges With Paralegal Programs

Title City State Enrollment
Academy of Court Reporting - Akron Akron OH 98
Academy of Court Reporting - Clawson Clawson MI 244
Academy of Court Reporting - Cleveland Cleveland OH 200
Academy of Court Reporting - Columbus Columbus OH 112
Academy of Medical Arts and Business Harrisburg PA 213
Accutech Career Institute Frederick MD 241
Aiken Technical College Graniteville SC 2268
Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute Albuquerque NM 17265
Alvin Community College Alvin TX 3665
American Center for Technical Arts and Sciences Malvern PA 50
American Center for Technical Arts and Sciences Philadelphia PA 217
American Center Technical Arts Philadelphia PA 123
American River College Sacramento CA 28420
Andover College Portland ME 566
Anna Maria College Paxton MA 1255
Anne Arundel Community College Arnold MD 11761
Arapahoe Community College Littleton CO 7436
Arlington Career Institute Grand Prairie TX 383
Assumption College Worcester MA 2754
Athens Technical College Athens GA 2747
Atlanta Metropolitan College Atlanta GA 1907
Atlanta Technical College Atlanta GA 2884
Atlantic Cape Community College Mays Landing NJ 5162
Atlantic Union College South Lancaster MA 755
Austin Community College Austin TX 25735
Avila University Kansas City MO 1412
Ball State University Muncie IN 19004
Baltimore City Community College Baltimore MD 5883
Baton Rouge College Baton Rouge LA 29
Bay De Noc Community College Escanaba MI 2073
Bay Path College Longmeadow MA 800
Bay State College Boston MA 608
Beal College Bangor ME 338
Becker College Worcester MA 1166
Beckfield College Florence KY 231
Bentley College Waltham MA 5728
Berean Institute Philadelphia PA No Data
Bergen Community College Paramus NJ 11993
Berkeley College West Paterson NJ 1994
Berkeley College White Plains NY 615
Berkeley College New York NY 1640
Berks Technical Institute Wyomissing PA 693
Bevill State Community College Sumiton AL 3558
Black Hawk College Moline IL 6118
Bluefield State College Bluefield WV 2648
Boston University Boston MA 28318
Bradford School Columbus OH 191
Bradford School Pittsburgh PA 479
Branford Hall Career Institute - Branford Campus Branford CT 557
Branford Hall Career Institute - Southington Campus Southington CT 502
Branford Hall Career Institute - Windsor Campus Windsor CT 360
Brazosport College Lake Jackson TX 3855
Brevard Community College Cocoa FL 13265
Briarwood College Southington CT 518
Bridgewater State College Bridgewater MA 8839
Brookdale Community College Lincroft NJ 11552
Broome Community College Binghamton NY 5663
Broward Community College Fort Lauderdale FL 27389
Brown Mackie College Michigan City IN 200
Brown Mackie College - Merrillville Merrillville IN 87
Brown Mackie College - North Canton North Canton OH 330
Brown Mackie College - Salina Salina KS 102
Bryant and Stratton College - Albany Albany NY 723
Bryant and Stratton College - Amherst Campus Amherst NY 436
Bryant and Stratton College - Cleveland Cleveland OH 739
Bryant and Stratton College - Henrietta Rochester NY 508
Bryant and Stratton College - Richmond Richmond VA 942
Bryant and Stratton College - Syracuse North Liverpool NY 482
Bryant and Stratton College - Virginia Beach Virginia Beach VA 755
Bucks County Community College Newtown PA 8469
Burlington College Burlington VT 206
Burlington County College Pemberton NJ 6122
Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute Hudson NC 3191
Calumet College of Saint Joseph Whiting IN 975
Camelot College Baton Rouge LA 226
Canada College Redwood City CA 5273
Cape Fear Community College Wilmington NC 5470
Carteret Community College Morehead City NC 1470
Casper College Casper WY 3972
Cedar Crest College Allentown PA 1519
Center for Advanced Legal Studies Houston TX 186
Central Carolina Community College Sanford NC 4113
Central Carolina Technical College Sumter SC 2546
Central Community College Grand Island NE 7126
Central Florida Community College Ocala FL 5230
Central Penn College Summerdale PA 1224
Central Piedmont Community College Charlotte NC 14908
Central Texas College Killeen TX 14636
Cerritos College Norwalk CA 24536
Champlain College Burlington VT 2530
Charter College Anchorage AK 486
Chattanooga State Technical Community College Chattanooga TN 7873
Chesapeake College Wye Mills MD 2186
Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire WI 4503
City College Inc Moore OK 164
City University Bellevue WA 8339
Clark College Vancouver WA 8241
Clayton State University Morrow GA 4455
Cleveland State Community College Cleveland TN 3056
Clovis Community College Clovis NM 2895
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