Paralegal certificates are one option available to you, if you intend to join the paralegal profession. While some individuals choose to complete their training before entering the profession, others pursue their educational objectives while working in the field. In most cases, admission into a paralegal certificate program requires the completion of an associate or bachelor’s degree prior to admission. Unlike associate and bachelor degree programs which focus on both legal specialty and general education courses, certificate programs focus more on intensive training for individuals who already possess college degrees.
A certificate program allows you to develop a solid legal knowledge base that prepares you for entry-level positions in the paralegal field. Certificate programs are also a good idea for individuals with a degree in a different field who wish to make a switch to a paralegal career. The training from certificate programs prepares you to perform substantive legal work in the public or private sector. Certificate programs are issued by business and proprietary schools, colleges and universities. While some certificate programs offer courses that count towards college credit, others do not. It is best to confirm from the program of your interest about transferability of courses as this can facilitate your educational development. The duration of certificate programs varies, with many programs taking a few months or up to 2 years to complete.
While coursework varies from one program to the next, core paralegal courses typically include introduction to the legal system and paralegal profession; substantive areas of law; legal research; legal writing; litigation; and legal ethics. These courses allow students to develop specific paralegal skills. They learn how to take a case to trial, file pleadings, how to summarize depositions and how to draft motions. Students also get the opportunity to build essential skills that allow clear communication of legal concepts and practices. Ethics courses teach students about various concepts and principles that govern professional conduct. Students also learn how crucial it is to uphold high standards of integrity and professionalism, in all aspects of their work.
Non-legal electives may include computer applications in legal work, accounting and business communications. Paralegals work in highly automated work environments. Knowledge of computers, associated technology and software products allows paralegals to engage in communication, research and other work processes more efficiently. This enhances their administrative and organizational skills, which boosts work performance. Accounting and business communications teach students how to efficiently handle the business aspects of legal work.
An internship is a standard component in the curriculum of certificate paralegal training programs. Internships allow students to develop hands-on experience in legal matters. Completion of an internship also helps to boost your marketability as it indicates to employers that you possess vital practical skills for the profession.