What does a paralegal do?
Paralegals are law professionals who assist lawyers in addition to performing a wide variety of clerical and administrative roles in law firms, banks, insurance agencies, government agencies and various businesses. While lawyers appear on behalf of clients in courtrooms and at settlement proceedings, it is the paralegals that carry out the required research in cases. They also process and analyze evidence to decide its impact on legal proceedings, draft agreements, and handle all sorts of paperwork. Other duties performed by paralegals include filing tax returns, preparing various contracts, appraising property, arbitrating disputes between persons, and preparing wills. As officers of the court, paralegals work as process officers and deliver subpoenas and legal notices in addition to drawing on public records and other databases to obtain information. Owing to their knowledge of law, computer training and administrative skills, paralegals are ideal for a variety of jobs across the industry.

How can I obtain certification?
Paralegal certificate programs are a great way to start a highly rewarding career in the field of law. A number of colleges offer both on-campus and online certificate programs. Online paralegal certificate programs are preferred over on-campus programs due to a number of reasons, the biggest being the flexibility they offer to students. You can take classes from the comfort of your home or on your cell phone or iPod when on the go, at any time, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Online programs are also limited to ten or fifteen students per session, allowing you to better interact with your course instructor, something that is considered impossible in a traditional college environment. By becoming proficient in the use of digital technology and different computer software, you gain an edge over other job applicants and develop the skills and technical knowledge sought by employers.

Who issues paralegal certificates?
Paralegal certificate programs are offered by a number of bodies, including the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) which allows students to take the ‘Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam’ (PACE) and use the ‘Registered Paralegal’ designation. In order to appear in this exam, applicants must meet specific educational requirements and have a minimum 2 years of work experience. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) has established the ‘Certified Legal Assistant’ (CLA) and ‘Certified Paralegal’ (CP) certification programs. Students can take the NALA exams immediately after graduation from a degree program. The ‘Professional Paralegal’ (PP) certification is offered by the National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS) and examines students in the areas of communication skills, legal knowledge, ethics and substantive law.

What are the advantages of certification?
In order to apply for a job in most states, students must have completed one or more paralegal certificate programs. Paralegal certification not only helps you develop a better understanding of law but also adds a lot of value to your resume. While it is true that a paralegal is trained in a number of areas and can find employment virtually anywhere, employers prefer the people who have gone the extra mile and made the effort to obtain certification. Professionals who complete paralegal certificate programs also have more advancement opportunities and can move up the corporate ladder fairly quickly, and when you consider all the advantages, paralegal certification is definitely worth the effort.

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