The field of law can be very exciting and paralegals play a vital role! Whether a paralegal is working in a law firm, on a corporate legal team, or for a government agency, his/her job duties will vary from day to day. Daily tasks can include investigating the facts of a case, conducting relevant research on legal precedents, writing reports to help lawyers prepare for trials or drafting legal correspondence. If this type of dynamic job sounds like a good fit for you, starting an associates degree paralegal program is the best first step to launching a legal career.
But, before you get started you may want to know more about the field. Below are three things you should consider before enrolling in an online school for paralegal studies.
Online school vs. traditional school
Selecting a school is a very personal choice. Considerations should include available time, the degrees a school offers as well as personal learning styles. For many, an online degree program can be the right option because it allows for a great deal of flexibility. Additionally, at an online school classes can be taken 24 hours a day, 7 days a week which could help students balance school work with an existing job as a legal assistant or legal secretary.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment of paralegals is expected to grow by 18 percent by 2020. The driving force? Budget conscious employers recognize the value in hiring paralegals. The advantage they see is paralegals can perform a wider variety tasks at a less costly rate than lawyers. But, as job opportunities continue to grow, so will competition for open positions. The BLS suggests that because of this competition formally trained paralegals may be hired more frequently than those without training and paralegals with experience and specialization will have more opportunities in high-demand practice areas. The bottom-line is paralegals with a degree increase their chances of being hired.
Skills to Improve Employability
While earning an associates degree, paralegal students will gain several critical job skills, the ability to analyze cases and prepare legal documents. In addition to these degree-related traits, a successful paralegal career requires another set of qualities to improve an individual’s employability. Critical thinking skills, information literacy, organizational skills and strong communication skills are all highly desired by employers.
Bryant & Stratton College Online has an associate degree paralegal program that emphasizes degree-related skills as well as fosters other characteristics in students that help them gain a competitive edge in the marketplace through its Employability Series. If you’d like to learn more about earning a degree in paralegal studies visit online.bryantstratton.edu.
As a paralegal student, or as a student who needs to cite a case or a statute in a paper, you may be wondering how to get started. It may seem overwhelming to have both the Bryant & Stratton College APA Style Guide and the Bluebook sitting in front of you when you do not know which one is applicable to your paper.
The first thing you need to know is that the Bryant & Stratton College APA Style Guide controls the vast majority of your paper. It will assist you in setting up your margins, spacing your paper, and in creating the basic in-text citations and references you will need, among other things. The only time you need the Bluebook is to cite primary legal materials.
What are primary legal materials? These include cases, statutes, and administrative rules and regulations. For everything else, use the Bryant & Stratton College APA Style Guide.
How to Cite a Case in the References page:
The Bluebook will show you how to cite a case. Rule 10 in the Bluebook teaches us that the basic triad of a case citation is the volume number, the reporter abbreviation, and the page number. You need these three components to cite a case even when you locate the case online, such as through WESTLAW or via a webpage. A case citation triad looks like this: 544 U.S. 1, where “544” is the volume number and “1” is the page number. (Yes, we do mean the 544th volume on the shelf! ) [***NOTE: I am looking for some photos I took of the local law library to include here.***] “U.S.” is the reporter abbreviation. You may find reporter abbreviations in Table 1 of the Bluebook.
The next piece you need in a case citation is the parenthetical. The parenthetical tells the reader the year and may also share the court and jurisdiction of the case. A parenthetical can look like this: (S.D.N.Y. 2000) or like this: (2012).
Finally, you will need to lead off with the party names, such as Tenet v. Doe. Italicize the names; do not underline them. Use “v.” but never “vs.” or “V.” Rule 10.2 of the Bluebook goes into great detail as to how you should shorten the party names down from something like “George J. TENET, Individually, Porter J. Goss, Director of Central Intelligence and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and United States, Petitioners, v. John DOE, et ux.”
When you put these components together, a case citation looks like this:
Tenet v. Doe, 544 U.S. 1 (2005).
Once you have your case citation, it should go into the references page along with all of your other references.
How to Cite a Case as an in-text citation:
When you are discussing your case in your paper, you will need an in-text citation for it, the same as you would for any other source. For the in-text citation, simply use the party names and the date.
Tenet v. Doe (2005) has held that spies cannot sue the CIA to enforce espionage contracts.
In Tenet v. Doe (2005), the court wrote, “We think the Court of Appeals was quite wrong in holding that Totten does not require dismissal of respondents’ claims” (p. 8).
In later blog posts, we will go through how to cite statutes and how to cite administrative rules and regulations. I hope that this first part will help you to understand the role the Bluebook plays in your papers. Far from being a competing guide, it is a vital supplement that will allow you to cite legal materials in your papers in a standard, professional manner.
If you have any questions about this post, or about citing legal materials in general, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
About the Author
Brandy Kreisler has taught online for more than six years, and is passionate about legal research and writing. Ms. Kreisler holds a law degree from Texas Tech School of Law and a Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington, where she specialized in legal research.
In today’s internet-age information is so readily available, causing an increase in instances of plagiarism – especially accidental or ‘responsible’ plagiarism.
The webinar Citation: Using APA & the Bluebook Together helped attendees identify instances where citation is necessary and what reference materials to use and how to properly cite information.
Presented by Brandy Kreisler , Online Instructor at Bryant & Stratton College Online, the webinar specifically covered different field-appropriate citation styles as well as the importance of citation.
Additionally, the webinar highlighted:
Are you interested in the legal field but do not want to provide legal advice to clients? Do you love researching and preparing documents? Are you the kind of person who prefers to be “behind the scenes?” If you said yes to any of these questions, a career in Paralegal Studies might be just the thing for you. Paralegals are also known as Legal Assistants and the terms are used interchangeably.
If you are considering a career in Paralegal, you are likely wondering what steps you would need to get there. It all starts with what kind of educational background you have. Most schools offer Associate’s degrees and Certificate Programs in Paralegal Studies. The reason that your educational background matters is that most workers entering the Paralegal field have either an Associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies or they have a Bachelor’s degree in another field and a Certificate in Paralegal Studies. If you have already earned a degree in a different field of study, it is not necessary to complete another degree; you will be qualified to enter the field after completing a Certificate program.
It is important to consider accreditation when choosing the program that you enroll into. Bryant & Stratton College Online is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Regional accreditation is the highest accreditation that can be held by a college or university and it is a benchmark of quality. In addition to this, Bryant & Stratton College Online believes in preparing students to enter the workforce and consults with experts in the legal field on a regular basis when creating new courses and updating existing courses. This allows us to teach the skills to our students most desired by employers in the field by building them into our course outcomes.
If you are thinking of working for a large corporation or the government, you should consider choosing a law specialty that you would enjoy focusing on. Some of the most common specialties are Corporate Law, Criminal Law, Patent and Copyright Law, and Real Estate Law. It is important for someone interested in pursuing this career to become proficient in online computer research and legal software programs. Those who are interested in entering the legal field should also become skilled in document preparation and communicating professionally through email.
Once you have earned your degree or certificate, you should still stay current with what is happening in the legal field. A good way to do this is by joining a professional organization for Paralegals or by becoming nationally certified. Paralegal professionals have the option to test to become a Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal (CLA/CP) through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA.) This certification will make you more competitive in the workforce and being a member of the NALA will allow you to network with other Paralegals in your industry.
For more information on the Associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies at Bryant & Stratton College Online visit http://online.bryantstratton.edu/paralegal-studies/.