How to Become a Paralegal in Maine
The legal field is endlessly fascinating to paralegals and new laws and precedents ensure that there is always something new to learn. Law also must adapt to new technologies and discoveries, and lawyers often don’t have the time to keep up with it all. Paralegals are an essential resource for law offices to stay up to speed, while also staying current with the law and relevant developments. As a paralegal, your job duties may include:
- Writing memos
- Creating courtroom presentations
- Drafting briefs and motions
- Doing research on behalf of attorneys
- Preparing for court or depositions
Steps to Become a Paralegal
While there are no specific academic or certification requirements to join the profession, you should pursue specific degrees and certifications to have a higher standing in the field and increase your employment eligibility. The first step to becoming a paralegal in Maine will involve a bit of self-assessment. In some cases, individuals may be employed with no education and will receive on-the-job training, though this is increasingly rare.
Traits of Paralegals
Since they’re people, paralegals are all unique, but certain traits will help you succeed more than others. As you are deciding whether this field is for you, consider your strengths in the following areas:
- Critical thinking
- Love of law
Given the complexity of legal work, you’ll also be expected to have strong organization, problem-solving and communication skills.
If you’re looking to grow in the field, it’s important to know about the options you have to distinguish yourself and remain competitive. Additionally, furthering your education brings you closer to being prepared for certification exams. Paralegals can learn more about the legal field in several ways:
Certificate: A paralegal certificate will give you specific training in legal studies. You can likely complete a certificate in under a year. However, this route is best suited for those who already have a degree but wish to have specific legal credentials. For instance, if you are dissatisfied with the career path from your first degree, you can add this certificate in lieu of returning to school for a second major.
Associate’s in Paralegal Studies: If you have a high school diploma and wish to get started with a law firm, an associate’s degree is a great option to get a start in the field. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the standard entry-level education for a paralegal is an associate’s degree.
Bachelor’s of Paralegal Studies: With a four-year degree, your opportunities really start to open up. With the extra coursework and training that comes with a four-year degree, you may be able to take on more complex work earlier on in your career. If you’re considering a future career as a lawyer, this is also a great way to get additional experience in the law field. Furthermore, the extra years in school will hone your critical, writing and research skills to a level beyond most of your peers who are competing with a two-year degree.
What do Paralegals Do?
Paralegals can work in a variety of organizations, including law firms, or government or corporate legal departments. Depending on your place of work, as a paralegal, your duties may include:
- 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
Paralegal Salary and Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for paralegals is $49,500 and the standard entry-level education was an associate’s degree. The mean annual salary for Maine is reported to be $46,050.
The job outlook includes a 15 percent growth rate for the profession through 2026. Paralegals working in larger metropolitan areas may earn more, says the BLS. As an example, paralegals in Portland earned a mean annual salary of $48,540.
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