How to Become a Paralegal in Hawaii
Paralegals are a vital part of any law firm. They handle much of the research, writing and administrative aspects of a case. In fact, a paralegal does many of the same tasks as a lawyer, but does not have the legal responsibilities associated with that profession, such as giving legal advice to clients and representing them in legal proceedings. Most any lawyer relies heavily on paralegals in the office to handle the massive load of work needed to successfully complete a case. In fact, these days there are firms comprised of a few attorneys and a huge team of paralegals.
Though it’s small in size, Hawaii holds the distinction of being the fifth best paying state in the nation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here are the basics on how to become a paralegal in Hawaii.
How to Become a Paralegal in Hawaii
Determine Your Interest
Becoming a paralegal begins with a passion for law, writing, research and even investigations. If you are drawn to logical problems and enjoy difficult reading, then you might have a latent interest for law. You might pursue work in a law firm to help you decide if this career path is for you. There are many positions in a law firm that don’t require a specific degree, such as work in the docket department, reception or in the mail room. Any exposure will help you make a sound decision.
Assess Your Qualities
If you have a deep interest in paralegal work, you probably have some of the qualities it will take to thrive. Some of those qualities include critical thinking skills, writing ability and a passion for research and the thrill of uncovering truths. To help develop your innate abilities, try to read as much as possible. You could research court cases, including not only media reports but the actual court documents.
Find a Specialty
Depending on the school you attend, you may be able to focus on a specialty area. When you graduate with a specialty, your job search will have a focus and drive that many others do not have. You can look to your personal life to determine what sort of specialty most intrigues you. The list of possible specialties is nearly endless, but some you might consider include, but are not limited to these areas of specialty:
- Elder law
- Wills and Trusts
- Personal Injury
Pursue Paralegal Education
In Hawaii, there aren’t many physical campus programs available for budding paralegals. The good news is that there are programs available online. This opens up so many more opportunities, as you can research and pursue the exact program you desire rather than settling for what is available in Honolulu. Once you start your education, you can go as far as you desire. You might start with an associate’s degree, but you can continue your education all the way to grad school and earn a master’s degree if you want to manage a law firm or other paralegals.
Though Hawaii does not have a specific paralegal licensure process or any requirements that paralegals register with the state, you can enhance your resume with certifications earned through the Hawaii Paralegal Association. This is an independent association with ties to the state bar association that offers two certifications that will help you prove that your credentials are valid and that you are a highly qualified paralegal. There are two certifications:
- Paralegal Core Competency Exam – Once you have passed this exam, your resume will stand above the pack. This will verify to an employer that your education meets a higher standard, and the initiative it takes to study for and pass the exam will be lauded.
- Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam – After you have passed the PCCE and practiced as a paralegal for a few years, you will want to sit for the PACE. These credentials will tell Hawaii firms that you not only have the education, but also the depth of experience it takes to help their firms thrive and win case after case.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual pay for paralegals is $49,500 and the typical education level for entry-level paralegals is an associate’s degree.
The growth rate for the profession is also quite good, with 15 percent expected growth through 2026.
The BLS says the mean annual wage for paralegals in the Hawaii/Maui/Kauai non-metropolitan area is $47,400.
Hawaii Job Opportunities
Hawaii’s shipping industry, as well as a tourism industry that relies on watercraft, makes it a great place to practice your knowledge of maritime law. This area of specialty is quite rare, so if you can hone your skills and knowledge set in this area you are sure to be in high demand from top firms who are retained by shipping companies or other water-dependent industries.
Once you become a paralegal in Hawaii, you will want to join the Hawaii Paralegal Association. Membership will provide you with opportunities for further learning with legal seminars, networking opportunities, a newsletter and a special job listing board for members-only. When you become a part of your chosen profession, you will have made a long-term investment in yourself, as well as in the legal health of the state of Hawaii.
FIND A SCHOOL TODAY
Tell us a little about yourself and we’ll connect you with schools that offer paralegal studies degree programs.