The legal field is a rapidly growing field. As such, many people are interested in attending paralegal schools. There are so many paralegal schools it is a good idea to evaluate each school before making a decision based on the perfect school for your needs.
One of the reasons it is so hard to decide on one of the many paralegal schools is because there is not set definition of what a paralegal actually is. It is a step above a legal secretary, but many paralegals have similar positions to some legal secretaries.
It depends more on the employer and their idea of what a paralegal is though some states do allow paralegals more independence from attorneys than other states. Such as California that allows paralegals to complete uncontested divorces and other simple procedures on their own.
For this reason it is a good idea to research a number of paralegal programs. It is best to ask for details on the type of courses associated with the program. This way you can make your decision based on the paralegal school’s program courses.
Paralegal school programs include either a certificate of completion, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree. Obviously the bachelor’s degree will be a more comprehensive program giving you more than just legal courses by including general education requirements as well. This degree will probably set you above the rest and open the door to enter law school at some point in the future if that is what your goals include.
An associate’s degree can also include some general education requirements though probably not as many. It may set you above applicant’s that do not have an education or have only a certificate if the program includes the right courses. However, you may want to have a clear definition of how the paralegal degree differs from a legal assistant’s associate degree. This is just to get their explanation and ensure that your definition is close to the paralegal school’s definition.
Certificate programs give you an edge over secretaries that do not have any type of degree. Often times a certificate program is enough to get you in the door. Than it is up to you to gain experience and prove yourself as a qualified paralegal.