How to Become a Paralegal in Kentucky
If you are thinking of becoming a paralegal, you’ll be entering a career field that has an important presence in nearly every law office. Paralegals perform many of the duties a lawyer does, though they are not allowed to dispense advice to clients. There are ways to distinguish yourself as a paralegal, as you will discover below. For those choosing to practice in Kentucky, this page will help you learn what you’ll need to know.
What Does a Paralegal Do?
As a paralegal you will not have the professional liability of a licensed attorney, nor will you be able to advise clients. Here are a few of the tasks you might be asked to perform:
- Legal research
- Investigate issues pertinent to a case
- Accompany attorney at court or hearings
- Prepare briefs and motions
- File case documents with the court
- Administer case docket
- Coordinate with clients, witnesses and opposing counsel
What Skills or Aptitudes Will You Need?
Great paralegals, no matter what state they work in, have certain innate traits and interests. Assess if you have any of the following traits or abilities:
- Strong critical thinking skills
- Ability to solve logical problems/puzzles
- Attention to detail
- Research ability
- Love of reading
- Love of writing
What Education Does a Paralegal in Kentucky Need?
There is no specific academic credential necessary for the paralegal profession in Kentucky. However, employers look for paralegals that have earned a degree of certificate. There are three basic degrees or certificates you can hold which will serve you to varying degrees:
Certificate of Paralegal Studies: A certificate in paralegal studies is the best option if you already have a degree or are a seasoned professional who is seeking a change in your career path. A certificate will take somewhere between six months and a year, and will focus exclusively on the paralegal profession.
Associate’s Degree: If you only have a high school diploma and little office or law firm experience, this is the best route to start with. An associate’s degree will take two or more years to complete and your coursework will focus mainly on paralegal studies.
Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree will provide paralegal skills, such as research, writing and critical analysis, but it also gives you a well-rounded liberal arts education, which some employers prefer. In your final year of coursework, you will probably want to take classes in an area of legal specialty such as finance or accounting if you’re interested in working in corporate law, or trusts and wills.
What’s After College?
Once you graduate with a degree and start your career in Kentucky, you’ll want to add professional credentials to your resume. There are paralegal associations that administer different levels of paralegal examinations. Once you pass these tests, you’ll earn designations, which will show your employer you’re serious about your career choice and committed to excellence in the field.
National Federation of Paralegal Associations Certification
- Paralegal Core Competency Exam – Designed for entry-level and early-career paralegals, once you sit for this examination, it will verify to an employer that your knowledge meets a high standard.
- Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam – After you pass the PCCE and practice as a paralegal for a few years, you will want to sit for the PACE. These credentials will tell Kentucky law firms that you not only have the education but also the depth of experience it takes to help their firm excel
National Association of Legal Assistant Certification
- Certified Paralegal – Passing this voluntary exam proves you have met predetermined, standardized criteria. You’ll need to complete educational requirements to keep your certification current.
- Advanced Paralegal Certification – This is the top certification available from NALA, and these credentials are issued to higher grade paralegals.
Paralegal Salary and Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2019-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median salary for paralegals is $49,500 and the standard entry-level education was a two-year degree. The BLS projects a 15 percent growth rate for the profession through 2026, which is a percent higher than the national average for all occupations.
Because the cost of living is slightly lower in Kentucky, paralegals tend to earn less than the national average. The BLS says paralegals in the state earned an annual mean wage of $46,840, and as a rule, earn more in metropolitan areas.
For example, the BLS says paralegals in Louisville earned a mean annual wage of $48,770. Salaries also depend upon years’ experience in the field and level of education attained.
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