How to Become a Paralegal in Florida

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Becoming a paralegal in Florida offers you a good chance at a successful career since Florida has the third highest employment level for paralegals. A paralegal helps lawyers prepare for legal proceedings by conducting research, investigating facts and preparing legal documents. Paralegals also interact with clients, interview witnesses, file court papers and prepare exhibits. While they help the legal process in many ways, paralegals don’t represent clients in court or give legal advice. In Florida, paralegals must work under the supervision of an attorney licensed to practice in the state.

Steps to Become a Paralegal

If a career as a paralegal in Florida interests you, you’ll need to take the following steps:

STEP
1

Research the paralegal profession.

Make sure you understand the typical tasks that paralegals handle before you consider an educational program.

STEP
2

Connect with professional paralegals.

Local chapters of professional organizations like the Central Florida Paralegal Association (CFPA) can help you get first-hand advice.

STEP
3

Select an educational program.

A post-secondary education that focuses on the study of the legal system shows employers you’re serious about a paralegal career and ready to work for success.

STEP
4

Get involved in the field.

Find an entry-level position or internship at a law office to gain experience. Volunteer with pro bono organizations such as Legal Services of North Florida to help you stand out.

STEP
5

Research job opportunities.

Consider different jobs since duties vary by employer. With so many jobs in Florida, you likely can be more selective in your job choices.

Paralegal Education Requirements in Florida

Paralegals in Florida do not have a minimum education requirement. However, most employers prefer a formal education that emphasizes the legal system so paralegals are prepared for their responsibilities. Options for paralegal education in Florida include:

  • Two-year associate degrees in Paralegal Studies at community colleges, colleges and universities
  • Four-year bachelor’s degrees in Legal Studies at colleges and universities
  • Post-Degree Certificates in Paralegal Studies at colleges and universities
  • Voluntary national certifications for experienced paralegals:
    • Professional Paralegal (PP) certification from the National Association of Legal Professionals (NALS)
    • Core Registered Paralegal (CRP) certification earned by taking the Paralegal Core Competency Exam (PCCE) from the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
    • Registered Paralegal (RP) certification earned by taking the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE) from NFPA
    • Certified Paralegal (CP) or Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
    • Advanced Paralegal Certification (APC) from NALA for CP paralegals who master specific courses administered by NALA
  • CP or CLA-certified paralegals who pass the Florida Certified Paralegal Examination of the Paralegal Association of Florida (PAF) are designated a Florida Certified Paralegal (FCP).
  • The Florida Bar offers the Florida Registered Paralegal (FRP) designation to candidates who meet a combination of education and work experience criteria.

Other educational options in Florida, including master’s degrees in paralegal studies, also are available via national online educators.

Paralegal Salary in Florida

The mean annual wage for paralegals in Florida is $48,680 says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

This is slightly less than the median annual national salary of $49,500. The BLS says paralegals working in major metropolitan areas may earn more, partly due to higher cost of living. Education level and years of experience practicing as a paralegal also play factors in salary. Here are some mean annual wages by Florida city:

Miami:

$52,230


Naples:

$48,230


Orlando:

$50,310


Tampa:

$49,650

Career Opportunities in Florida

With 24,430 paralegals working in Florida, the state employs the second highest number of paralegals in the U.S. The Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall metropolitan area ranks eighth among the top 10 U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest employment levels for paralegals.

job-growth-florida

Jobs for paralegals in Florida are expected to increase by 18 percent through 2026, more than twice the national average.

Final Steps

As a paralegal in Florida, you’ll have to maintain state and national certifications with continuing education requirements. The following Florida-based professional organizations can help you meet these goals as well as participate in mentoring, professional development, certification preparation and community service in the state:

  • Central Florida Paralegal Association (CFPA), an affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. (NALA) and NFPA National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
  • Paralegal Association of Florida (PAF), an affiliate of NALA
  • Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations (FAPA), four organizations who are affiliates of NALA and NFPA:
    • Northeast Florida Paralegal Association (NFPA)
    • South Florida Paralegal Association (SFPA)
    • Southwest Florida Paralegal Association (SWFPA)
    • Tampa Bay Paralegal Association (TBPA)
  • Paralegal Section ­– Orange County Bar Association

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