How to Become a Paralegal in Minnesota
Paralegals are saviors for many law firms, as they perform a wide range of tasks in support of attorneys. Depending on the field of law the attorney works in, a paralegal may also specialize, researching relevant regulations and laws pertaining to a case, investigating the facts behind a criminal charge, compiling and organizing documents the attorney requires, and writing or summarizing reports to prepare a lawyer for an upcoming trial.
Although paralegals in Minnesota have no licensure or educational requirements it is a competitive career field so you should plan on earning at least an associate’s degree—preferably a bachelor’s degree—in order to qualify for the best job openings. While not required by law, most attorneys prefer to hire paralegals who have passed the national exam and earned at least an associate’s degree. In fact, around half of all paralegals have a four-year degree or higher. By comparison, those with an associate’s degree make up only 18 percent of employed Minnesota paralegals.
Steps to Become a Paralegal in Minnesota
There are specific steps you can take to become a paralegal in Minnesota. Here’s a quick list of what you’ll need to do:
Choose a specialty.
Just like lawyers, paralegals should find a niche to concentrate on. Criminal law, corporate law, and bankruptcy law are three examples of the many choices.
Complete your degree.
Although a degree isn’t required by Minnesota law in order to become a paralegal most working in the field hold a bachelor’s degree.
While it isn’t required most employees prefer to hire those with paralegal certification because it shows the depth of their knowledge.
Work in an internship.
This may be part of your bachelor’s degree program; if not, you should consider interning at a legal aid office to gain valuable experience.
Apply for an entry level job.
Working at a low-level job is usually the final step in gaining the experience you’ll need before applying for your dream job as a paralegal.
Although Minnesota state law doesn’t require licensure, the majority of law firms prefer to hire those who have passed the certification process. By meeting the educational criteria and passing the exam given by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), you’ll become certified and gain an edge in the field when the time comes to apply for jobs.
NALA offers voluntary certifications, including a paralegal certification designation and an advanced paralegal certification. Professional credentials require passing an exam and paying a fee. You’ll also need to take continuing education units to stay current and keep your certification valid. CEUs are a good idea anyway, because the law and its regulations change constantly.
Paralegals in Minnesota earn more than the national median average of $49,500, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), earning a mean annual wage of $55,640.
Keep in mind that those in the higher earnings tiers are typically those who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Location and years of experience may also be a factor to salary, for example, Minneapolis paralegals earned $57,850 annually according to the BLS.
Career Opportunities in Minnesota
Most paralegals work for law firms and in Minnesota the highest concentration is in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Other employers include state government offices, financial institutions, and insurance agencies. Major corporations also hire paralegals; Best Buy, 3M, and Target are all based in Minnesota. Often a new paralegal will find work in a smaller law firm or corporation in order to gain experience in their area of specialty.
Final Steps: Paralegal Associations in Minnesota and Continuing Education
Once you enroll in a paralegal education program you can join associations dedicated to supporting paralegals and providing opportunities for networking. Professional organizations will also give you guidance on continuing education if you decide to choose an area of specialty. Minnesota has two associations paralegals can join as students and later upgrade membership upon graduation:
- The Red River Valley Paralegal Association serves western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota and promotes the professional development of the field. They also offer a place to network with others who share your career choice.
- The Minnesota Paralegal Association holds regular events focusing on specific areas of the field, continuing education, and networking opportunities.
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