The Paralegal Associate of Science degree at Newman University prepares students to enter the legal profession as a legal assistant, a profession experiencing record job growth in the United States. Legal assistants, or paralegals, can be found in an array of settings from private law firms to corporate legal departments to government agencies.
The mission of the paralegal studies program is to provide a sound program of education for the training of paralegals that is sensitive to emerging concepts of the role of the paralegal in the effective delivery of legal services, both in the private and public sectors, and consistent with the principles of ethical legal practice and legal restrictions on the practice of law by laymen; to provide a program which is responsive to the needs of the legal profession, including the paralegal career field, and which is committed to the advancement of the legal profession through more effective methods and techniques of law practice.
What is a paralegal?
In the practice of law, many tasks formerly done by attorneys are now performed by paralegals, also called legal assistants. Often these tasks can be completed more promptly, efficiently and economically by paralegals.
By virtue of education, training or experience, paralegals assist attorneys in a wide variety of tasks which may include:
- Gathering facts from clients and witnesses
- Researching cases and statutes
- Writing trial and appellate briefs
- Preparing corporate instruments
- Drafting pleadings
- Preparing trial notebooks
- Handling a multitude of procedural matters that require independent judgment, challenge and responsibility
Attorneys supervise paralegals and assume ultimate responsibility for the paralegals' work. Paralegals may not carry out duties which are considered to be the practice of law such as accepting clients, giving legal advice, setting legal fees or representing clients in the courtroom.
Where do paralegals work?
Many paralegals work in private law firms, corporate legal departments or various government agencies. They can work in many different areas of the law, including:
- Civil litigation
- Personal injury
- Workers’ compensation
- Corporate law
- Criminal law
- Employment law
- Family law
- Estate administration
- Property law
Paralegal duties vary extensively depending on the type of organization in which they are employed. Check out the USAJOBS website for job openings and salaries.
What do paralegals make?
Nationally, according to the US Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants was $46,990 in May 2012. Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 17 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.
A variety of annual incomes have been reported by our graduates. Annual starting salaries ranged from $16,000 to $33,000 with an average of $21,421. Five years after earning the paralegal degree, annual salaries ranged from $19,000 to $47,000 with an average of $29,848.
Licensure or Certification
At present, paralegals are not required to be licensed or certified in order to be employable. A voluntary certification examination is sponsored by the National Association of Legal Assistants. Successful completion of the exam entitles a paralegal to use the designation Certified Legal Assistant (CLA).
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations sponsors the Professional Advanced Competency Exam which is also a voluntary exam. Paralegals who pass this exam may use the designation Registered Paralegal (RP).
Newman University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission located at 30 N. LaSalle St., Suite 2400, Chicago, IL 60602-2504; (800) 621-7440.