How to Become a Paralegal in Michigan
Paralegals assist lawyers with a wide variety of everyday tasks. They have specialty areas just as attorneys do, so a paralegal might be specifically trained in criminal law, bankruptcy or corporate law. Typical duties might be organizing and compiling documents, researching regulations and laws, writing and summarizing the reports needed for trial and investigating case facts.
In Michigan there is no certification required to become a paralegal but most enter the field with at least a two-year associate’s degree. Since most Michigan paralegals hold at least a bachelor’s degree, you should plan on a four-year degree program in order to stay competitive with other paralegals in the field.
Steps to Become a Paralegal
In Michigan there are certain steps you’ll need to take to become a successful paralegal. Here’s a brief list of what you’ll need to do:
Choose a specialty that you want to work in.
Much like attorneys, paralegals train for a specific area of law that interests them.
Earn your bachelor’s degree.
While it’s not required, the majority of paralegals in Michigan have at least a four-year degree.
Take the national certification exam.
While Michigan does not require you to be certified most law firms will only hire paralegals who have passed the exam.
Work an internship.
You can do this during college and it will show you have experience in your chosen field.
Apply for entry level positions upon graduation.
Getting experience at a low level job will give you the credentials to apply for your future dream job.
Paralegal Education Requirements in Michigan
In theory you can become a paralegal in Michigan without any formal training but the reality is that over 45 percent of Michigan’s paralegals hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Only 27 percent are hired with some college completed and 18 percent who work in this field hold an associate’s degree, so it’s worth your while to take the extra training.
Paralegals in Michigan aren’t required to be licensed or certified but most employers require it of their paralegal staff. Passing the paralegal educational requirements and exam of the National Association of Legal Assistants will show your prospective employer that you are well educated and knowledgeable about the paralegal field. This should be your first step after you finish your degree.
Paralegals in Michigan earn just slightly higher that the median national average of $49,500, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Paralegals in Michigan earned a mean annual wage of $51,570 with the highest 10 percent in the field earning more than $76,460.
The BLS says years of experience, education earned and location play a factor in salaries. In fact, paralegals working in Detroit earned a mean annual wage of $62,880; in Lansing, $53,890; and in Flint, $56,810.
Career Opportunities for Michigan Paralegals
The job growth projection for paralegals through the year 2026 is expected to be 15 percent, which is higher than the national average or all other occupations nationally.
In fact, law firms are the largest employer of paralegals in Michigan state though there is a robust job market in automotive industry related businesses as well as insurance groups and corporations as well, some of whose legal representation may include paralegals.
Once you enroll in school you can apply for membership to Michigan’s two paralegal associations, which will give you the opportunity to cultivate valuable contacts once you earn your degree. Upon gaining employment you may be expected to take continuing education units, which are courses relating to the specific areas your employer concentrates on. These associations will be vital in helping you obtain your future education and advance in your career:
- Great Lakes Paralegal Association: The GLPA promotes strong ethics, professional attainment, and a networking platform for it’s members.
- Grand Rapids Bar Association: The GRBA opens membership to paralegals as well as all others in the field of law. They offer professional development, extensive networking opportunities, and continuing education for members on all levels.
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