The terms paralegal and legal assistant are used interchangeably to designate a person who performs substantive legal work under the direct supervision of an attorney. Legal assistants must have a knowledge and understanding of legal concepts.
Paralegals perform a wide variety of tasks including, conducting interviews with clients and witnesses, gathering facts, researching the law, managing databases, reviewing, analyzing and assembling records and documents, drafting legal pleadings and discovery items such as interrogatories and document requests, and maintaining conflicts of interest systems. Experienced legal assistants often accompany counsel trial and help with documents, witness preparation, and investigative work.
For more information on the paralegal profession and the type of work paralegals perform, visit the National Federation of Paralegal Associations or the National Association of Legal Assistants on the Internet.
In choosing a paralegal program, there are many variables to consider. We believe it is particularly important to consider the program's reputation, accreditation, services provided by the program, including career counseling and job placement, the program's ties to the legal community, and the curriculum. Miramar's Legal Assistant Program enjoys an excellent reputation and meaningful ties to the legal community. This enables us to place our graduates in positions with law firms, corporations, and governmental agencies with ease.
In addition, Miramar's Legal Assistant Program is approved by the American Bar Association, a coveted distinction awarded to less that 15% of the paralegal programs nationwide. The college is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and the program is a member of the American Association for Paralegal Education. Miramar's Legal Assistant Program offers a curriculum that is challenging, practical, and interesting. Paralegal instructors are experienced attorneys and paralegals who work in the field(s) that they teach, thus providing students with up-to-date information.
It takes a total of 30 units (generally 10 classes) to complete the paralegal requirements under the certificate and degree program. An additional 30 units of general education units are required to complete the Legal Assistant Degree. Depending on how many classes and units you take in a semester will depend on your time in the program. Typically, the program is set up to be completed within 2 years.
Unless students entering the program are already in possession of a degree, the certificate option is not available to them. Miramar College requires its students without degrees to pursue the Associate Degree in Legal Assistant. As stated; the certificate option is only available to students who enroll into the program with a bachelor or associates degree.
Classes are currently $46 a unit and books average about $150 per class. Other ABA programs offer tuitions well over $6,000 or more. Miramar's Legal Assistant Program is undoubtedly the best program in town.
Paralegals–or legal assistants–are in great demand, as they can perform many of the duties that attorneys have traditionally accomplished. Paralegals free attorneys for other duties, and are cost effective for law firms and businesses.
From the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that
Employment of paralegals is expected to grow much faster than average [at least a 36% increase]—ranking among the fastest growing occupations in the economy through the year 2006—as law firms and other employers with legal staff increasingly hire paralegals to lower the cost, and increase the availability and efficiency of legal services.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this translates into an estimated 77,000 new jobs.
Paralegals are employed in private law firms, banks, corporations, insurance agencies, legal clinics, courts, government agencies, accounting and engineering firms, title companies, construction companies, and legal aid offices—in fact, almost everywhere law related work is performed. Paralegals either work with attorneys who assume professional responsibility for the final work product, or work in areas where "lay" individuals are explicitly authorized by statute or regulation to assume certain law related responsibilities.
Paralegals who work in the private sector are usually employed by law firms and corporations and often specialize in areas of law such as litigation, probate, real estate, corporate, taxation, domestic relations, or employee benefits. Paralegals who work in the public sector are often employed by non profit public law firms, state or local governmental agencies in areas such as welfare, family law, health care, landlord/tenant, disability benefits, unemployment compensation, or social security.
Miramar's Career Development Office will spend time both in group and individual sessions with students helping them tailor the best resume and cover letter possible for their job search.
In addition, our Outreach Program is designed to help you find a job anywhere in the country. Our Career Development Coordinators, utilizing our contacts with graduates and law firms, will help you plan and conduct your search. We now have graduates working all over San Diego County.
Internship opportunities are as varied as job opportunities, in law firms, government agencies, and businesses. Our Career Development Coordinators will work with you to help you find the internship that is most interesting to you and offers the best opportunity to enhance your resume for your job search.
All classes are designed to teach the practical aspects of what paralegals actually do in their chosen specialty. For example, in the Litigation class we cover issues relevant to the profession, an overview of American Law, court systems, and litigation. The course contains information on how to do interviews (interrogations), legal writing, research, how to use citations and prepare the documents required. Since the Internet has become a major resource to the profession, dozens of sites are provided for references and research projects both in the course and for future use in the profession.
Here is a list of some of the classes offered in the program:
|Required Legal Classes||Legal Specialty Electives|
|Legal Procedures||Bankruptcy||Family Law|
|Legal Research||Corporations||Federal Court Practices & Procedures|
|Legal Communication||Law Office Management||Immigration|
|Litigation I—Procedures||Criminal Procedures||Elder Law|
|Litigation II—Torts||Estates, Trust & Wills|
Paralegal salaries vary. Salaries depend on the education and experience the paralegal brings to the job, the type of employer, and the geographic location of the job. Generally, paralegals working for large law firms in metropolitan areas earn more than paralegals working for smaller firms or in less populated areas.
The Department of Labor has information on average annual pay. And by state and industry.
Towers Perrin, a global benefits and management consulting firm, also offers information about compensation in Fortune 500 companies.
NFPA prepares a salary survey that provides information on salaries, benefits, billing rates, overtime pay, raises and much more. The 2006 Compensation and Benefits Study Report is available for purchase, and the Executive Summary is available here now.
For more information on the Paralegal Program, please contact the Director of Paralegal Services, Darrel Harrison: firstname.lastname@example.org