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The most recent paralegal study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that nationally:
Florida Bar studies have similar findings, but all of the
national paralegal organizations agree that to be employable in this
exciting field, your starting point is a solid paralegal education. St.
Petersburg College is proud to offer its American Bar
Association-approved and regionally accredited program for your
To be admitted to our Bachelor of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies degree program, you need:
We prepare you to work as a paralegal or legal assistant, a job that is expected to grow faster than average.
Paralegals are instrumental in the daily operation of the many
entities and offices that practice law, including law offices, corporations and
governmental offices. Organizational skills remains one of the highest
attributes a paralegal can maintain.
For many years, paralegals have assisted attorneys in every aspect of
their practices, but there have been few defined standards. This is
changing rapidly and Florida is one of the states leading the way.
Paralegals are not licensed attorneys. A legal
assistant or paralegal is 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
All of SPC's paralegal programs are approved by the American Bar Association.
Paralegals are not licensed attorneys. A legal assistant or paralegal is 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.
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Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, are a
distinguishable group of persons who assist attorneys in the delivery of
legal services. Through formal education, training and experience,
paralegals have knowledge and expertise regarding the legal system and
substantive and procedural law which qualify them to do work of a legal
nature under the supervision of an attorney. (This is the American Bar
The terms are used interchangeably, much as the terms lawyer
and attorney are used interchangeably. Every state, including Florida,
regulates the practice of law through a licensing procedure. In all
states paralegals/legal assistants are prohibited from practicing law
without a license to practice law. There is no licensing procedure for
legal assistants at this time although the Florida Bar has proposed a
scheme of voluntary regulation for eligible paralegals.
Today, most paralegals are trained in training programs in
community colleges and 4-year schools. (In the past, many paralegals
were trained on the job.) There are both public and private legal
assisting programs. Most of the community college programs are A.S.
degree programs which contain a component of general education courses
but which are principally devoted to legal specialty courses. The B.A.S.
degrees include more general education courses as well as more focusing
on critical thinking and communication skills as they are utilized in
the law. Employers are often looking for paralegals who have graduated
from college programs approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).
Attending a college with successful job placement services and gaining
experience through internship programs are a big help in launching a
Although there is no licensing for paralegals in Florida,
passage of a voluntary national certification exam called the Certified
Legal Assisting Exam administered by the National Association of Legal
Assistants adds to your credibility as a professional.
Those with a bachelor's degree are eligible to sit for the
examination upon completion of fifteen credit hours of PLA prefixed
The American Bar Association approves paralegal educational
programs which satisfy its strict quality guidelines. An institution's
curriculum, faculty, administration, academic resources, student
services, and library facilities are evaluated as part of the ABA
The most obvious place to find paralegals is in the
traditional law office. Although this career is relatively new, having
emerged since the 1970's, today firms of all sizes regularly employ a
variety of paralegals. Government offices use paralegals as do private
companies. Sometimes the paralegal works in the corporate counsel's
office and sometimes the paralegal hires the outside attorneys for the
Under the supervision of a lawyer, a paralegal may analyze
legal issues; investigate and evaluate facts; prepare pleadings,
contracts, forms, legal memoranda, and other documents; interview
clients; assist in case management; and perform other duties to assist
the lawyer in the delivery of legal services to clients. Areas of
practice include litigation, business/corporate, real estate, trusts and
estates, family law, criminal law, tax, bankruptcy, immigration,
environmental law, collection, employee benefits, computer law,
intellectual property, securities, entertainment law, and workers
Paralegals can be found interviewing clients or witnesses,
preparing documents, conducting legal research, preparing exhibits for
trial, probating estates, closing real estate transactions and an
endless list of other activities. Just as there are an infinite number
of ways to practice law, so there are an infinite number of ways to be a
Generally speaking, a paralegal works independently under the
supervision of a lawyer or senior paralegal and uses knowledge of legal
concepts and procedures. A legal secretary, on the other hand, assists
attorneys and paralegals with tasks which do not require knowledge of
the law. Many legal secretaries also perform some paralegal duties. An
individual must graduate law school and be licensed as an attorney in
order to practice law as a lawyer. Lawyers supervise paralegals and
legal secretaries and are ultimately responsible to the client for the
quality of the legal services delivered.
As a simple example, a paralegal may draft a will based on
applicable law and the needs of the client. The attorney reviews the
will and makes any corrections. The legal secretary produces a final
version of the will ready to be signed by the client.
Starting salaries in this area are between $27,000 and
$32,000 depending on the size of the firm, your skills and your ability
to market yourself.
The U.S. Department of Labor projects that paralegal will
continue to be one of the fastest growing occupations in the new
For centuries, all law-related work was performed by
attorneys. However, as the amount of legal work has exploded in recent
times, lawyers have had to become more efficient by using paralegals
wherever possible. This process of transferring many legal tasks from
attorneys to paralegals is expected to persist indefinitely, continuing
to generate demand for qualified paralegals.
Successful paralegals have strong reading, writing, and
listening abilities, are disciplined workers, and are very attentive to
detail. Computer knowledge is a necessity in most legal offices today. A
general interest in law and the legal process is also important.
Nobody types any more, but everyone (even the lawyers) has to
know how to make the computer generate documents and charts and
Try these websites for the two large national organizations:
...or find a paralegal and ask him or her about their job.
Chances are they love it and would be thrilled to talk about their
To find out more about an Associate in Science or a
Bachelor's in Applied Science in Paralegal Studies at St.Petersburg
College's ABA approved program contact 727-791-2557 or email Scott.firstname.lastname@example.org.
St. Petersburg College P.O. Box 13489St. Petersburg FL 33733-3489727-341-4772