How to Become a Paralegal in North Dakota
A paralegal is a skilled legal assistant who works under the supervision of an attorney or other high-level legal professional. Paralegals may have a specialty, just like lawyers do, and focus their efforts on immigration, divorce and family, or wills and trusts law, among many others. The specific duties of a paralegal vary widely, but in most cases they will be tasked with helping prepare attorneys and clients for depositions and trials by performing the following types of duties:
- Drafting important legal documents
- Conducting in-depth legal research
- Keeping legal information carefully organized into filing systems, databases and libraries
If you have a love for the law and are looking for a career path that offers opportunities for growth and job prospects in North Dakota, find out how to become a paralegal in this state.
Steps to Become a Paralegal in North Dakota
Though some of the work of a paralegal is learned on the job, it does not mean an employee can expect to be successful in the role without an education. A legal studies education provides the basics you’ll need for success and to enter the field at least equal to other qualified candidates looking for a job. If you are serious about starting a paralegal career, these are the steps you will want to follow:
Explore the Paralegal Profession
Learn more about what paralegals actually do, and speak to a practicing professional if possible, to determine if this is the best career track for you.
Pursue Paralegal Education
Formal training in paralegal studies from an approved program will give you the foundation you need to excel in your new career.
Find Your First Job
Knowing where to look and what kind of skills to highlight will make it much easier for you to find your first job and begin building your professional standing.
Paralegal Education Requirements in North Dakota
Even though paralegal education is not formally required to begin working as a paralegal in North Dakota, it is highly recommended by the state. There are a number of paths that professionals can pursue to acquire the necessary paralegal knowledge:
- Complete a bachelor’s, associate’s or post-baccalaureate program in paralegal studies
- Complete a bachelor’s degree in any subject and supplement it with on-the-job training or other legal coursework
- Become certified through a national program
- Work for seven years in a legal setting handling duties typically assigned to a paralegal
You will also want to consider voluntarily earning a professional certification in order to show employers your dedication to the field. These respected credentials are offered by agencies such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). They offer different levels of certification based upon experience, and require you to pay a fee and pass a rigorous exam. You may also find specialized credentials through focused professional agencies.
Paralegal Salary in North Dakota
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2019-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook says the national medial annual salary for paralegals is $49,500. In North Dakota, the mean annual wage is $45,350, which is just under the national average.
Such considerations as state economy, years of experience in the field and location can greatly influence a paralegal salary. For example, the highest 10 percent in the field earned more than $66,020 in North Dakota and paralegals working in cities such as Bismarck earned $48,280 a year.
Paralegal Career Opportunities in North Dakota
As with most jobs in North Dakota, the demand for paralegals is stable but not rapidly growing. As of 2016, there were estimated to be 410 paralegals working state-wide.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the demand for paralegals nationwide will grow by 15 percent over the coming decade and require 41,000 new professionals.
Final Steps for Success as a Paralegal
Since there are a select number of paralegal jobs available in North Dakota, competition for any positions may be intense, and especially so for the jobs in high profile legal firms and companies who hire paralegals. Paralegals who want to move through the ranks, take on bigger roles and earn more money should make it a priority to pursue continuing education units and professional development throughout their careers.
Professional organizations like the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) have valuable resource to offer, including certification programs honored by most employers. Paralegals can also find support and resources through the state and national Bar Associations.
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