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A Guide to Paralegal Associations

In order to pursue a career as a paralegal, there are many things you must consider. While there are no standard requirements for working as a legal assistant or paralegal, as it varies by company and location, there are certifications and degree programs that can help you become more employable.

The first step, of course, is to earn an associates degree, which is now more convenient than ever, thanks to offerings from colleges across the country. The second step is to join a nationally recognized paralegal association. These organizations offer networking and professional development opportunities, and serve as a great resource for setting yourself apart from other candidates while searching for a job. Here are a few things you need to know about joining a paralegal association.

Get Your Credentials

Each paralegal association offers its own certification exam. While these credentials are not necessarily required in order to get a job as a paralegal, certification serves as a distinguishing factor that may put you ahead of the pack when applying for an open position. Some organizations additionally offer an advanced practice certification that allows you to specialize in a particular area of legal practice (e.g. business law, health law and administrative law).

Find Continuing Education Opportunities

One of the main functions of these organizations is to offer continuing education opportunities. Attending seminars and classes for professional development allows you to further your knowledge of legal practice issues, which can help further your career.

Networking Events

Many of the national associations have affiliate organizations in each state. These state groups organize leadership development and networking events for paralegals and legal assistants. Getting involved in your local chapter allows you to make important connections with other professionals working in the field.

Choosing the Right Organization

It’s important to research each national organization and decide which one is right for you, based on the opportunities they offer. The four main national organizations for paralegals and legal assistants are:

  • National Association of Legal Assistants – www.nala.org
  • American Association for Paralegal Association Education – www.aafpe.org
  • American Alliance of Paralegals – www.aapipara.org
  • National Federation of Paralegal Associations – www.paralegals.org

If you are interested in working as a paralegal, and are considering earning a degree, Bryant & Stratton College might be the right fit for you. Bryant & Stratton College offers an associate degree for paralegal studies, in addition to a variety of other associate and bachelor degree programs. To learn more, call 1.800.895.1738 to speak with an admissions representative.

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