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Essential Skill Sets for Paralegals

Thinking of becoming a paralegal assistant? It's a great career choice, with Labor Department predictions of a sizzling 22 percent growth in jobs through 2016. Overburdened lawyers are hiring more paralegals than ever to help shoulder the workload. More than two-thirds of all legal assistants and paralegals work for law firms, with the balance landing jobs with government agencies and corporate law departments.

When signing up for classes, examine the syllabuses with care. You'll want to build a solid core of generalized paralegal skills to broaden your appeal in the job market. Once you have on-the-job experience, you may want to focus on a particular law niche, such as estates, corporate law, divorce, or bankruptcy.

Here are four essential topics in paralegal studies:

Legal Research Skills
Knowing how to employ all the resources at your disposal--in print, on CD, and online--is a critical skill in paralegal work. You'll want to know how to use the Key Number System and the Total Client Service Library, and how to locate and use primary authorities, secondary sources, federal and state statutes, formbooks, treatise research, and legal periodicals.

Stages of Litigation
Paralegal classes should include this vital overview. Detailed instruction should cover preparation and coordination of discovery, pleading preparation, depositions (preparation and digesting), and arbitration.

Preparation and Use of Legal Forms
In most cases, paralegals use templates and software to prepare legal forms. Knowing how to modify and employ formbooks is an essential skill. Learn how to prepare a full range of documents including filings, pleadings, depositions, and other relevant papers.

Legal Terminology and Court Structure
You will need to lean and master the relevant legal terms that are applied throughout the entire legal process, from both a criminal and civil perspective. Classes should cover the court structure in the state in which you expect to work, and they must highlight the distinctions between federal, state, and local court processes.

If you're looking to jumpstart your career, select from our accredited online paralegal degree options!

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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