How to Become a Paralegal in Rhode Island
Becoming a paralegal is a great way to get involved with the legal profession without having to complete a lengthy and expensive law degree. Paralegals support the efforts of attorneys and other legal professionals by drafting documents, conducting specialized research and carefully maintaining files and databases of legal documents. The standards required to work as a paralegal in Rhode Island are relatively low, and demand is projected to be high for at least the next decade. Learn what you will need to do to get started.
Steps to Become a Paralegal in Rhode Island
There are several ways to begin a career as a paralegal in Rhode Island. In all cases, aspiring paralegal professionals will want to follow these steps in order to achieve their goals:
Explore the Paralegal Profession
Learn as much as you can about what paralegals do on a daily basis so that you can determine if this is a job that you will thrive in for years to come. Speaking to a practicing paralegal can be very helpful.
Get Education and Experience
The more training you have in paralegal studies before you start looking for your first job, the more appealing you will be as a candidate, and the more comfortable you will feel once you are given important responsibilities.
Chart Your Career Trajectory
Having a plan for your career can help you eliminate a lot of setbacks and frustrations. Begin thinking about the types of employers you would like to work for, and where in Rhode Island, such as in a city or in a small town law firm. Is there a particular area of law you’re interested in? Pinpointing a specialty will help you define your future education goals.
Paralegal Education Requirements in Rhode Island
Technically, it is possible to begin working as a paralegal in Rhode Island without any formal education. However, since this is an important and specialized form of work, most employers will only hire paralegals who have completed a certification or degree program. Degrees focused on paralegal studies are available at the associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree levels.
Earning Paralegal Licensure in Rhode Island
Since Rhode Island has not established formal regulations for the paralegal industry, professionals can start working without attaining any kind of licensure. That eliminates some of the hoops that other professionals have to leap through, but it also means that the competition for available paralegal jobs can be intense. In general, the candidates with the longest list of professional credentials, such as a degree and NALA certification, could be offered the most appealing opportunities.
Paralegal Salary in Rhode Island
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the current national salary average for paralegals is $49,500, with the top 10 percent in the field earning more than $80,260.
Paralegals working in Rhode Island held a mean annual wage of $56,090, says the BLS, with the top 10 percent in the state earning over $77,360 yearly. Paralegals employed in the city of Providence earned a mean annual wage of $56,160 says the BLS.
Paralegal Career Opportunities in Rhode Island
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 1,220 professionals employed as paralegals in Rhode Island, which, considering the size of the state is an impressive amount. The demand for paralegals nationwide is projected to grow by 15 percent through 2026, adding 41,800 new paralegals to the field.
The demand in Rhode Island specifically is projected to be much higher, with growth estimated at 11.9 percent, perhaps due to its proximity to many larger metropolitan areas such as New York City and Boston.
Final Steps for Success as a Paralegal
After earning a degree or certificate and finding your first job, you will need to be proactive about keeping current and advancing your career through continuing education and professional development. Professional organizations for paralegals like the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) can be huge assets.
Both offer a variety of professional, voluntary certification programs—which require passing a rigorous exam—as well as resources to help ambitious paralegals learn new skills and specialties. The state and national Bar Association also have a lot to offer paralegals who are committed to personal and professional excellence. In addition to seeking out training and education, paralegals are advised to network with other legal professionals and attend conferences and meetings.
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