How to Become a Paralegal in New York
Paralegals play a vital and sought after role in the legal system. They work to support the efforts of lawyers, judges and other legal professionals by drafting documents, conducting research, organizing files–and a lot more. New York is a great state to pursue a career as a paralegal because the demand for these professionals is high, and the pay is generous compared to other states. However, in order to get your career as a paralegal off to the right start, you will need to plan accordingly.
Steps to Become a Paralegal in New York
The state of New York does not define specific requirement for working paralegals. However, there are steps to follow to fast track your career path:
Research the Profession
Learn what paralegals actually do on a day-to-day basis so that you can be certain this is the right line of work for you over the long-term. Talk to professionals already working in the field.
Get an Education
Though not strictly required, you will have a much greater chance of finding work if you have formal education in paralegal studies, typically an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Frame Your Credentials
The types of organizations that hire paralegals are frequently looking for candidates with credentials relevant to their area of the law. Determine what areas are most interesting to you, and begin collecting credentials that set you apart from other applicants. These mainly consist of professional certifications.
Paralegal Education Requirements in New York
It is likely that the State of New York will introduce formal education requirement for paralegals sometime in the future. Currently, however, they are not required by any supervising agency. Candidates who do seek out education can choose between a consolidated certification program that takes less than a year, a two-year associate’s degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree with an emphasis on paralegal or legal studies.
Earning Paralegal Licensure in New York
The responsibility for supervising paralegals is placed upon the attorney for whom they work. That employer is expected to provide instruction in legal ethics and confidentiality, and to maintain the integrity of legal proceedings by setting internal standard for paralegals. That said, while there is no set regulation, a degree and professional certification from a national agency such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), can make a difference to your employer because your law firm will know you understand the ethical boundaries of your job and will act professionally.
Professional certification is voluntary and you’ll be required to pay a fee and pass an exam in order to use the designation. Depending upon your experience, you’ll find different levels of certification.
Paralegal Salary in New York
With a median annual wage of $49,500 for paralegals nationally, New York pays their professional paralegals well. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says paralegals working in New York earned a mean annual wage of $59,300, and is the fourth highest paying state in the nation.
Prospective paralegals should take into account the fact that some places in New York may have a higher cost of living and that these higher salaries may reflect years on the job and education level attained.
Here’s a look at mean annual wages for some New York cities:
Paralegal Job Growth in New York
The BLS estimates that there are 22,210 paralegal working in the state of New York. That figure is higher than the average number of paralegals working in all states. The field as a whole is expected to grow by 15 percent through 2026.
The most popular places to find work include law firms, corporate legal departments and government agencies, but there are myriad opportunities in a wide variety of settings, industries and areas of legal specialty.
Final Steps for Success as a Paralegal
Even though demand for paralegals in New York is high, career success is not guaranteed. The best way to find a find a job faster, and advance a career quicker, is to make continuing education and professional development a priority.
Even though New York does not require it, certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) is huge asset. Participating in local professional organizations related to legal matters is also helpful. Finally, paralegals in New York are advised to keep up-to-date about changes to the state’s formal requirements for professional paralegals. New requirements and standards could soon be established that impact career advancement.
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