How to Become a Paralegal in Louisiana
Paralegals are a vital part of the legal profession. They perform some of the same duties as the lawyers who employ them, but they don’t have to undergo years of law school. There is no strict academic requirement for paralegals in Louisiana, however, given the nature of the work paralegals perform and the fact that employers tend to hire paralegals who hold a degree, makes a case for getting an education. Keep reading to learn how to become a paralegal in Louisiana.
How to Become a Paralegal
Here’s an overview of your education options in paralegal studies:
Certificate: If you have a degree, but now wish to pursue paralegal work, this is an excellent route. A certificate generally takes between six months and one year.
Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies: If you have a high school diploma and want to work in the legal field, an Associate’s in Paralegal Studies can help you achieve your goal. An associate’s degree will provide you with specific legal courses, but will also require that you take core courses. Those core classes will help you advance as a reader and critical thinker.
Bachelor’s Degree: A four-year degree is probably the best choice if you have the time and resources. Since the majority of new paralegals only have an associate’s degree, when you tell a firm that you graduated with a bachelor’s, you may command a higher salary—and more responsibilities. Accredited online courses are available for those who need to keep working or tend to other responsibilities.
What Paralegals Do
Once you become employed in a law firm in Louisiana, you may find yourself performing tasks that include, but are not limited to the following:
- Draft briefs and motions
- Maintain case dockets
- Interview witnesses and clients
- Create courtroom presentation materials
- Research case law and pertinent topics
As a paralegal, you might want to pursue a specific area of law. Depending upon what you’re interested in, you might choose to practice your paralegal skills in a law firm that specializes in one of the following areas:
- Family Law
- Bankruptcy Law
- Environmental Law
- Wills and Trusts
- Immigration Law
- Corporate Law
- Intellectual Property Law
You’ll want to take classes in your specialty area, so, for example, if you choose corporate law as a specialty, you might study finance and accounting on top of general paralegal studies classes.
There are a number of credentials you can earn as a paralegal to set yourself apart from the competition. There are two main paralegal associations that offer professional certification:
National Federation of Paralegal Associations Certification
- Paralegal Core Competency Exam – Once pass this examination, your employer will acknowledge your professionalism and dedication to your career.
- Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam – After you pass the PCCE and practiced as a paralegal for a few years, you will want to sit for the PACE. These credentials will tell Louisiana law firms that you not only have the education, but the depth of experience it takes to help a law firm succeed.
National Association of Legal Assistants Certification
- Certified Paralegal – Passing this exam allows you to say that you are certified by NALA, which issues this credential to entry-level and early-career paralegals.
- Advanced Paralegal Certification – This is the top certification available from NALA, and these credentials are issued to paralegals who have worked in the field for a longer period of time.
The Louisiana State Paralegal Association has its own certification, the LCP. Once you pass the exam, you will have special credentials that distinguish you from legal assistants within the state. Further, you can maintain membership in the LSPA and enjoy personal and professional benefits.
Paralegal Salary and Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for paralegals nationally is $49,500 and the standard entry-level education is a two-year degree. The BLS projects a 15 percent job growth rate for the profession through 2026, which is higher than the national average.
The BLS says paralegals in Louisiana earn a mean annual wage of $44,960 and those working in large metropolitan areas may earn more. As an example, paralegals working in New Orleans earned $47,080 and those in Shreveport earned $48,430.
Become a Louisiana Paralegal
If you are ready start a career path that will enrich your life and the lives of others, then you’ll want to start researching accredited online paralegal degree programs. Your future as a Louisiana paralegal starts today!
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