How to Become a Paralegal in Vermont
There is demand for the skills paralegals have in the legal and corporate sectors so considering a career as a paralegal is a smart idea. Paralegals play critical roles in helping legal teams and attorneys. If you have an interest in the law and litigation process, first knowing what education and skills you need as a paralegal in Vermont is essential for pursuing a career in the field.
What Does a Paralegal Do?
Paralegal roles vary by industry or specialization practiced. Obviously paralegals working for a criminal lawyer will have different tasks than paralegals working in a corporation.
There are still some basic duties paralegals will perform regardless of area of specialty. These may include the following:
- Help lawyers prepare for meetings, trials and hearings
- Collect, analyze and organize information for lawyers
- Write reports for lawyers and present information to stakeholders
- Vet and fact check information about laws, articles, precedents and judicial decisions
- Get ready for trial during a civil or criminal case by preparing legal arguments, motions and pleadings
Paralegal Education for Vermont
Vermont does not have licensing requirements for paralegal education, employment or registration. It is helpful for paralegals to take courses in government, law or industry specialties during their college education. Vermont does not regulate its paralegals, which allows paralegals to enter the profession with on-the-job training or education. It should be noted that more and more employers are requiring a degree or certification of paralegals they hire however. The state does require that paralegals work under the supervision of a qualified lawyer according to the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct 5.3.
Personal Qualities of a Paralegal
A good education is important, but personal skills and abilities also contribute to a paralegal’s success on the job. Paralegals should have basic understanding of the law including legal terminology, and these skills will contribute to excellence:
- Computer skills for research
- Excellent reading skills
- Communication skills
- Organizational skills
- Highly developed sense of ethics
Keeping client interaction private, respecting the confidentiality of documents and not going beyond your qualifications are ethics paralegals should practice.
Steps to Become a Paralegal in Vermont
Here are the basic steps to becoming a paralegal in the state of Vermont:
Get a Focused College Degree
While there are not regulations for paralegal education in Vermont, a college degree is useful in understanding your industry or legal sector. A college degree focused on law, your industry sector or the legal specialty you want to pursue, can help you focus and succeed with your employment and career.
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 possible by passing exams administered by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and the National Association of Legal Professionals. Different experience grades are available, resulting in different credential designations.
Obtain a 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 Your Credentials
Join professional organizations and pursue continuing education through online and university courses. Continuing education 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 up to date with 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 Vermont, the trade association for paralegals is the Vermont Paralegal Organization.
Get Paralegal Experience
Obtain professional experience as a paralegal under the direction of a qualified lawyer. Paralegals are not allowed to work independently of a qualified lawyer under the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct 5.3.
Paralegal Salary and Job Outlook in Vermont
The annual mean salary for a paralegal in Vermont, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is $50,320, higher than the national median wage of $49,500.
Salaries may be higher in metropolitan areas, and the BLS cites the mean annual wage for Burlington paralegals at $49,040. Keep in mind that the cost of living may also be higher in cities.
Paralegal job growth in Vermont is on a par with other states with the growth rate at 8.8 percent through 2026, just lower than the BLS projected national growth rate of 15 percent.
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