How to Become a Paralegal in Texas
Pursuing a career as a paralegal is a smart investment in your future, as careers are available in different specialties, and there is room for advancement, depending upon degree and certification earned. There is also demand for the skills paralegals have in the legal and corporate sectors. Knowing what education you need to become a paralegal in Texas is essential for pursuing a career in the legal sector.
What Does a Paralegal Do?
Paralegal roles vary by industry. Paralegals for a criminal lawyer will have different tasks than paralegals working incorporate law or family and divorce law. The general role of paralegals is similar across different areas of law however:
- Help lawyers prepare for meetings, trials and hearings C
- Collect, analyze and organize information for lawyers
- Write reports for lawyers and present
- Fact check and gather information about laws, articles, precedents and judicial decisions
- Help attorneys prepare legal arguments, motions and pleadings in advance of trial
Paralegal Education for Texas
Texas does not have licensing for paralegal education, employment or professional certification. However, the American Bar Association rule of conduct 5.3 requires paralegals be under supervision of an accredited lawyer. Lawyers are encouraged to require their paralegals to attend continuing legal education programs, pursue paralegal board certification through the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS), or earn certification through a national paralegal organization, and have membership in the Paralegal Division of the State Bar or other paralegal organizations.
Paralegals are not authorized to provide direct legal services to clients in Texas (or anywhere else). They cannot establish business relationships with clients, set fees, represent a client in court or give legal advice. Paralegals sometimes train on the job, but more and more employers are hiring paralegals who have earned a college education focused on government, law or industry specialties. In fact, most employers prefer candidates with formal paralegal training along with certification.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has approved paralegal training programs to provide certification. Obtaining formal ABA certification means these programs meet or exceed national standards. There are other paralegal programs in Texas, but these do not have ABA credentials. Online courses do not qualify for ABA certification. The ABA requires at least ten semester hours of courses in a traditional classroom.
Personal Qualities of a Paralegal
A good education is important, but personal qualifications matter as well. Paralegals should have basic understanding of the law including legal terminology, but other skills are essential.
- Computer skills for research
- Excellent reading skills
- Communication skills
- Organizational skills
Being ethical is essential. Keeping client interaction private, respecting the confidentiality of documents and not going beyond your qualifications are ethics paralegals must practice at all times.
Steps to Become a Paralegal in Texas
Here are the steps to becoming a paralegal in the state of Texas:
Get a College Degree
While there are not regulations for paralegal education in West Virginia, a college degree is useful in understanding the industry or setting in which you will work—and some employers require a degree.
Obtain a Paralegal Accreditation
Accreditation through the American Bar Association from an ABA or other courses is not mandatory, but can help you have better employment choices and success. Professional certifications are available through the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and the National Association of Legal Assistants. Both require that you pass a rigorous examination and pay a fee. There are exams for different levels of paralegal experience.
Obtain Certification in Specialties
A paralegal with a general certification will earn less pay than a paralegal with specialized certification. Some specializations you can earn as a paralegal are, in addition to the ABA paralegal certification, nurse or medical paralegal, family law, immigration and litigation.
Keep up with Credentials
Join professional organizations and pursue continuing education through online and university courses. CE units are required in order to keep certifications current and valid.
Subscribing to paralegal magazines such as Litigation Support Today and trade magazines specific to your industry can help you stay abreast of paralegal regulations and industry requirements.
Nationally, the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. (NALA), or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) are resources for paralegals. In Texas, the professional organizations are the Houston Paralegal Association and the Texas Alliance of Paralegal Associations, with local chapters.
Paralegal Salary and Job Outlook in Texas
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cites $49,500 as the median annual salary for paralegals nationally. The mean annual salary for a paralegal in Texas, according to the BLS, is $54,480.
Paralegal job growth in Texas through 2026 should be excellent, in fact the BLS lists Texas as the fourth highest employer of paralegals nationally.
The best job prospects are in metropolitan areas such as Dallas and Houston, who already have high employment of paralegal rates. Salaries are also higher in metropolitan areas, with Dallas recording a mean annual wage of $65,390 and Houston recording $61,440. It’s important to note however, that salaries may be higher due to the cost of living also being higher.
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