What is a paralegal?
According to the American Bar Association, a paralegal is “a legal assistant or a person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.”
What can I do with a degree in Paralegal Studies?
Working under the supervision of an attorney, the legal assistant’s work product is merged with and becomes part of the attorney work product. A legal assistant may perform any function delegated by an attorney, including: conducting interviews, conducting investigations and legal research, drafting legal documents, and summarizing depositions, interrogatories and testimony. Knowledge of the legal system and ethics is useful in many other careers. A student may be able to bring valuable knowledge to job employers in many industries, giving them an edge over their competition.
Why are paralegals needed?
Paralegals are needed because of the increasing amount the complexity of laws and regulations and because of public demand for lower-cost legal services. Using paralegals increases the efficiency and reduces the costs of delivering legal services.
What are the skills and traits of a successful paralegal?
Successful paralegals are highly organized and detail-oriented. They enjoy problem-solving and can work well independently. They have excellent communication skills, and particularly, superior writing skills. They are accomplished in the use of technology. They are good at listening and following directions. They work well with the public and understand the necessity of maintaining client confidentiality.
What is the average salary for a paralegal?
According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, earnings of paralegals and legal assistants vary greatly. Salaries depend on education, training, experience, the type and size of employer, and the geographic location of the job. In general, paralegals that work for large law firms or in large metropolitan areas earn more than those who work for smaller firms or in less populated regions. In May 2006, full-time wage-and-salary paralegals and legal assistants had median annual earnings, including bonuses, of $43,040. The middle 50 percent earned between $33,920 and $54,690. The top 10 percent earned more than $67,540 (www.bls.gov).
Are there jobs currently available?
According to the Office of Employment Projections for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 22 percent between 2006 and 2016…”
What are paralegals prohibited from doing?
Paralegals may not provide legal services to the public, except as provided by law. Paralegals are prohibited from establishing attorney-client relationships, setting legal fees, signing legal pleadings, giving legal advice, and representing a client in court (unless specifically authorized by the court).
What are the job requirements for working as a paralegal?
Employers’ requirements vary widely. Some require a post-degree paralegal certificate in addition to a four-year college degree, others may accept a two-year associates’ degree, and still others may not require any formal paralegal education as long as the individual has law office experience of is willing to be trained on the job. Frequently employers seek a paralegal with a combination of formal paralegal coursework at a college or university plus paralegal experience in a law office. Strong communication and analytical abilities, plus skill in using technology applications that are common in law offices (such as Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook and legal research technology such as Westlaw) are usually preferred and may be required.
Where do paralegals work?
Paralegals work in a variety of settings, including law firms, corporate law departments, government agencies, and business organizations, including banks, title companies and insurance companies. Some paralegals also do freelance work for attorneys on special projects. Any work setting is permissible as long as attorney supervision of paralegal work is provided.
What is the job market for paralegals?
The paralegal job market is growing rapidly. Nationally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment for paralegals to grow by 22 percent by the year 2016 (www.bls.gov/oco/ocos114.htm#outlook). In Illinois, the job market for paralegals is also projected to grow by 22 percent by the year 2016. (http://lmi.ides.state.il.us/projections/statefiles/IL0616LTOcc.pdf).
However, as is noted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “this occupation attracts many applicants, creating competition for jobs.” (www.bls.gov/oco/ocos114.htm#outlook) Experienced, formally trained paralegals that have been successful in their paralegal studies classes and have strong writing and technology skills will have the best job prospects.
How does the economic downturn affect job prospects?
During recessions, demand declines for discretionary legal services (wills, real estate), and corporations reduce certain types of law-related activity. However, demand increases for legal services in other areas, such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, and divorces. Some paralegals may face layoffs and others may find themselves in more demand, depending on the nature of their work. Paralegals may fare better than lawyers during recessions because they provide some of the same legal services at a lower cost. (www.bls.gov/oco/ocos114.htm#outlook). Please note that completion of the paralegal program does not guarantee employment as a paralegal. As noted above, paralegals that are most likely to obtain jobs following graduation are those who have done well in their paralegal studies classes and have strong writing and technology skills.
What are the other benefits of being a paralegal?
Depending on the workplace and nature of the work, paralegals can experience high job satisfaction because they are frequently given a great deal of responsibility and independence in performing their work (although their work is reviewed by the supervising attorney). In addition, many paralegals meet the public on a regular basis. Paralegal jobs can offer much variety as well as intellectual challenges, and paralegals experience the rewards of serving a client’s needs as part of a legal team.
What credentials and background are important to employers when hiring paralegals?
Employers tell us that job qualifications that are important to them include a candidate’s formal education and training as a paralegal, the candidate’s experience working in a law office, and the candidate’s job skills. Strong technology skills and communication skills (written and oral) are particularly valued by employers.
What type of degree would I receive? Certificate? Associate’s? Bachelor’s?
The Paralegal Studies program at Lewis University is offered as a major and minor of the Bachelor of Arts degree.
Is this program accredited?
Lewis University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association.
Is your paralegal program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA)?
No, it is not approved by the ABA at this time, although it has been structured to be consistent with ABA guidelines. Lewis University will be submitting its program for ABA approval, as soon as it is eligible to do so under the ABA guidelines for approval of paralegal education programs.
How long will it be before an approval determination by the ABA is made?
Because there are many steps to the ABA program approval process, it can take approximately 24 months before approval can be granted.
Does the lack of ABA approval at this time put Lewis University paralegal students at a disadvantage among local employers?
No, it does not. Lewis enjoys an excellent reputation in the region and this reputation includes the paralegal program. Employers, who have reviewed our program or serve as site mentors for our student interns, express a great deal of satisfaction in the quality of the program and its ability to prepare students to work as paralegals. In addition, employers familiar with the ABA approval process know that newer programs like Lewis University’s cannot be approved until after a certain period of time has elapsed. Therefore, the lack of ABA approval does not reflect poorly on Lewis University’s program of its students.
How long will it take me to complete this program?
There are many factors affecting the length of time it will take to complete the program. Since the Paralegal Studies program at Lewis University is a Bachelor’s degree program, students must complete all requirements of the major, in addition to the requirements to complete the degree. The total number of credit hours needed to complete the degree and the amount of credit hours completed per semester both factor in the length of time to completion.
When are the courses offered?
Traditional courses are offered primarily during the day. Adult accelerated students can complete their degree in the evenings. There are some adult accelerated courses offered on Saturdays.
What is the difference between the traditional and accelerated programs?
Besides different admission requirements, the main difference between the traditional and accelerated programs is format. Traditional courses are 16 weeks in length and are offered primarily during the day. Adult accelerated Paralegal Studies courses are offered in an 8-week format and are one evening per week, per course.
Is there an advantage of the accelerated program over the traditional?
The advantage of the accelerated program over traditional is that courses are designed for the working adult. Classes are offered in the evenings, whereas traditional courses are typically during the day. In addition to evening classes, courses are accelerated in nature. Unlike the 16 week format of traditional courses, accelerated courses are 8 weeks in length. Because of the accelerated format, there are specific admission requirements for applicants into the program.
Is this program available at all campuses?
No. This program is offered at our main campus in Romeoville for traditional students. For the Adult Accelerated Degree Completion students, the major courses are offered at our regional campus in Shorewood.
Are any courses available online?
General education courses may be offered online, however Paralegal Studies coursework is not available online.
Are there opportunities for internships?
Flexible internship opportunities will be offered in order to meet the needs of students and their supervising attorney or employer.
What is the paralegal practicum that is required in the program? Will it help me gain job experience?
The required paralegal practicum, LV-401 Paralegal Capstone: Practicum is an excellent way to obtain job experience as well as experience job searching. The student works in a law office or other legal agency under the supervision of an attorney. In addition, required seminars on campus provide the students with information about creating a professional portfolio. Students are eligible to enroll in the practicum after they have been admitted into the paralegal program and have taken the prerequisites to the practicum. Instructor consent to enroll in the practicum is also required.
Will I receive assistance finding a job?
Absolutely. The Career Services Office assists students seeking employment through career consultations, resume critiques, internship postings, interview preparation, job fairs, and much more. Students should contact them as early as your first semester to begin the career preparation process.
Does this program prepare me for law school?
Absolutely. As a graduate of the Paralegal Studies program, one has the distinct advantage of knowing about legal research, legal writing, procedure and contracts which are all requirements for any accredited law school.
What are the admission requirements for the Paralegal Studies program?
It is preferred that the candidate for admission will have an Associate’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. However, to be admitted into the Adult Accelerated Paralegal Studies program, students must have at least 12 credit hours of transferable credit, must be at least 24 years of age, and have at least a 2.0 grade point average.
What if I do not initially meet admission requirements?
You are encouraged to contact the program director to further discuss requirements and opportunities to participate in the Paralegal Studies program.
How can I apply?
You may contact the University for a paper application or apply online.
Is there an application deadline?
We offer rolling admissions into the Traditional and Adult Accelerated programs. You may apply at any time.
Can I transfer credits to apply to this program?
An Admission Counselor will evaluate your previous coursework to determine the number of transferable credits we can accept from other schools you’ve attended. Please note that at least one-half of the required hours for the major or minor must be taken at Lewis University.
What are the tuition and fees for this program?
All traditional full-time undergraduate students enrolling for 12-18 hours per semester are charged a flat rate of tuition. Visit Office of Financial Aid services online for additional information.