How to Become a Paralegal in Idaho
Paralegals are a vital part of all law firms. They help prepare lawyers for court, do supporting research and even conduct some interviews and investigations. Paralegals perform many of the same tasks as the lawyers who appear before the judge, but they aren’t able to dispense legal advice, and they don’t carry the full load of legal responsibility, like attorneys do. Further, they don’t have to endure three years of law school—or the debt associated with a lawyer’s education.
In Idaho, the need for paralegals is strong. The state is growing economically, so if you are an Idahoan who is considering a new or second career path, the paralegal profession is a great place to start.
Steps You Should Follow
There are four steps every student should follow when considering a paralegal degree and career, no matter what state they live in. The steps to becoming a paralegal are as follows:
Determine Your Interest
If you are drawn to the law and the legal process as a career, then you should consider paralegal studies. But try to visit law firms and get the facts about the career and what it entails. You might be surprised at how much research the job needs, or other duties you hadn’t anticipated.
Assess Your Abilities
Paralegals read and write a lot. In fact, these two skills are essential for paralegals. You will also need strong logic skills and the ability to connect dots across large quantities of information. Paralegals also need to have good people skills, as they’ll meet with clients and conduct investigations. If you need to conduct research at court, which is likely, your ability to create a rapport with the court clerks can make your job easier.
Determine a Specialty
Like attorneys, paralegals have many areas of law in which to choose from. A few specialty areas include, but are not limited to the following:
- Family Law
- Elder Law
- Divorce Law
- Corporate Law
- Intellectual Property
Pursue Paralegal Education
Education is not an absolute requirement of the field, but if you have a focused paralegal background, you will stand out above others with a liberal arts degree or no college at all. Further, if you wish to advance your credentials, earnings and position, you will need to have a degree. You will also need to pass special certification exams that some employers require and which can boost your resume’s value.
When you embark on paralegal education, you can set any number of academic goals for your credential. Here are the usual programs and the amount of time they typically take to earn:
- Paralegal Certificate–Six months to one year
- Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies–Two years
- Bachelor’s Degree Legal Studies–Four years
- Master of Legal Studies–Two years after completing a bachelor’s degree program
You earn professional certification once you have passed a rigorous exam administered by one of the paralegal associations, either the NFPA or NALA. You will need to complete continuing education units in order to keep your credentials valid. If they lapse, you may need to re-take the exam. Whether you earn professional credentials or not, continuing education is a good idea so you stay abreast of changes in laws and regulations pertinent to your area of specialty.
National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) Certificates
- Paralegal Core Competency Exam–Once you have passed this exam, you’ll earn the respect of your peers.
- 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 Idaho firms that you not only have the education, but also the depth of experience it takes to help their firm accomplish their work successfully.
National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) Certificates
- Certified Paralegal–Once you have passed this exam, you can say that you are professionally certified by NALA.
- Advanced Paralegal Certification –This is the top certification available from NALA, and your earning this credential will demonstrate your dedication to the profession.
Paralegal Salary and Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for paralegals is $49,500 and the standard entry-level education is an associate’s degree. Further, the agency projects a 15 percent job growth rate through 2026.
Paralegals in Idaho earned a mean annual wage of $42,080, and those working in metropolitan areas, such as Boise, earned upward of $45,700 annually.
Paralegal salaries generally vary depending upon years of experience, location and education level attained.
Idaho is a fast-growing state that has an increasing demand for paralegals and legal assistants. The high-tech sector is expanding quickly there, so you might consider specializing in intellectual property, or you could work for a personal injury attorney near one of the state’s mountain ranges if you prefer smaller cities or towns.
FIND A SCHOOL TODAY
Tell us a little about yourself and we’ll connect you with schools that offer paralegal studies degree programs.