Paralegals in Georgia
A paralegal is a professional who assists lawyers in the delivery of legal services. They are an integral part of the legal system, performing a wide range of tasks such as research, drafting legal documents, and assisting in trial preparation.
If you are considering a career in the legal field and live in Georgia, becoming a paralegal is an excellent option. In this article, we’ll go over the steps you need to take to become a paralegal in the state of Georgia.
Becoming a Paralegal in Georgia
In order to become a paralegal in the state of Georgia, one must first obtain a post-secondary education in paralegal studies or a related field such as criminal justice or pre-law. Gaining practical experience through internships or volunteer opportunities in legal settings is also highly recommended.
The first step in becoming a paralegal in Georgia is obtaining a post-secondary education. Most employers require paralegals to have at least an associate degree in paralegal studies or a related field such as criminal justice or pre-law. However, some employers prefer to hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree. This is because a bachelor’s degree program usually goes more in-depth in legal research, writing, and analysis than an associate’s degree program.
Associate degree programs in paralegal studies usually take two years to complete. They provide students with a solid foundation in legal research, writing, and analysis, as well as a general education in other subjects such as math, science, and English. Curriculum in these programs will typically include courses in legal research, writing and analysis, civil litigation, legal ethics, and legal technology.
On the other hand, a Bachelor’s degree program in paralegal studies takes four years to complete and offers a more in-depth and comprehensive education in the legal field. These programs also provide students with a general education in other subjects such as math, science, and English.
In addition to the courses provided in associate degree programs, students will also be exposed to advanced legal topics such as contract law, intellectual property law, and international law.
There are many colleges and universities in Georgia that offer paralegal programs. Some popular programs in Georgia include associate degree in paralegal studies at Georgia Perimeter College, bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies at Georgia State University and Clayton State University, and online paralegal program at the University of Georgia. These programs are designed to prepare students for the legal field and provide them with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel as a paralegal.
In addition to traditional brick-and-mortar educational programs, there are also online paralegal programs available for students in Georgia. These programs offer a flexible schedule and can be completed at your own pace, making them a great option for those who are working or have other commitments.
After completing your education, gaining experience in the field is crucial for becoming a successful paralegal in Georgia. Many paralegals gain experience through internships or volunteering in legal settings. These opportunities provide a hands-on understanding of what the job entails and also help to build a network of contacts in the legal field.
Internships are a great way for students to gain practical experience while still in school. Many universities and colleges offer legal internships to their students, and you can also find them through local law firms, legal aid organizations, and government agencies. These internships are usually unpaid, but they offer valuable experience and the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals.
Volunteering is another way to gain experience as a paralegal. Legal aid organizations and pro-bono clinics are always looking for volunteers to assist with their cases. This is an excellent opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a legal setting and to make a difference in your community.
Additionally, gaining experience through a paralegal externship program is also a great way to jump-start your career. These programs provide students with the opportunity to work in a legal setting while still in school. Students will work under the supervision of an attorney and gain hands-on experience in the legal field.
Another important step to consider in becoming a paralegal in Georgia is obtaining a certification. Obtaining a certification demonstrates a commitment to the profession, and it can also increase your chances of getting hired. There are two main certifying organizations for paralegals in the United States: the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).
To become certified by NALA, you must have completed a paralegal program from an accredited institution, or have at least two years of legal experience, and pass the Certified Paralegal Exam. NALA’s Certified Paralegal Exam covers a wide range of topics including legal research and writing, ethics, litigation, and other areas of law.
To become certified by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), you must have completed a paralegal program from an accredited institution, or have at least two years of legal experience and pass the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE). The PACE exam covers legal research and writing, litigation, ethics, and other areas of law.
Obtaining a certification can be beneficial for your career as a paralegal in Georgia. It demonstrates a commitment to the profession, and it can also increase your chances of getting hired. It can also open up new opportunities for advancement in your career and increase your earning potential.
Networking and Job Search
Networking is an important aspect of finding a job as a paralegal in Georgia. Attend legal events and conferences in your area, and reach out to local law firms or legal organizations to inquire about job openings.
Job search websites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor are great resources for finding job openings in your area. It is important to have a strong resume and cover letter, highlighting your education, experience, and any relevant certifications. Tailor your application materials to the specific job you’re applying for and don’t hesitate to reach out to your network for help.
Continuing Education and Professional Development
Paralegals are expected to stay current with changes in the law and legal procedures. Continuing education courses are offered by various institutions, such as Georgia Association of Paralegals and NALA, to help paralegals stay informed about developments in the field. A
Joining professional organizations such as the Georgia Association of Paralegals and the Atlanta Bar Association can provide access to resources and events that will help you stay current in your profession.
How Long Does It take to Get a Paralegal Certificate in Georgia?
The time it takes to get a paralegal certificate in Georgia can vary depending on your educational background and experience. If you already have a post-secondary education in a related field such as criminal justice or pre-law, it may take less time to get a paralegal certificate.
If you are starting from scratch and need to obtain an associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies, it will take two or four years respectively to complete the degree. After that, you can then apply to take the certification exam.
The certification process itself also varies depending on the certifying organization. As mentioned above, the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) are the main certifying organizations for paralegals in the United States. Both organizations have their own set of education and experience requirements that must be met before taking the certification exam.
It may take some additional time to study and prepare for the certification exam. The length of time will depend on your personal study habits and how much time you are able to dedicate to studying.
Does Georgia Require Paralegals to be Licensed?
Georgia does not currently require paralegals to be licensed. Unlike other states, Georgia does not have a state licensing or certification process for paralegals. However, that does not mean that there are no regulations or standards for paralegals in the state.
In Georgia, paralegals are considered non-lawyers, and they are not allowed to provide legal services directly to the public. They are considered to be assistants to attorneys, and they can only practice law under the supervision of an attorney.
Paralegals in Georgia are also governed by the Rules of Professional Conduct. This is a set of rules that govern the conduct of lawyers and non-lawyers who work in the legal profession. These rules include provisions that govern attorney-client privilege, confidentiality, and the unauthorized practice of law.
While Georgia does not currently require paralegals to be licensed, obtaining a certification can be beneficial for your career as a paralegal. Certifications demonstrate a commitment to the profession and can increase your chances of getting hired. It also open up new opportunities for advancement in your career and increase your earning potential.
What is the Paralegal Salary in Georgia?
The salary for paralegals in Georgia can vary depending on a number of factors such as experience, education, location, and the type of employer. As of January 2023, according to Indeed.com, the median annual salary for paralegals and legal assistants in Georgia is $59,621. However, the salary range can vary greatly depending on the factors mentioned above.
Experience plays a big role in determining salary for paralegals in Georgia. Entry-level paralegals can expect to earn a lower salary than more experienced paralegals. According to the BLS, the lowest 10 percent of paralegals in earn less than $36,000 per year, while the highest 10 percent earn more than $88,000 per year.
Location can also affect the salary of paralegals in Georgia. Paralegals working in urban areas such as Atlanta, Savannah and Augusta tend to earn higher salaries than those working in more rural areas.
The type of employer can also affect the salary of paralegals in Georgia. Paralegals working in larger law firms or government agencies tend to earn higher salaries than those working in smaller firms or non-profit organizations.
Education also plays a role in determining salary for paralegals in Georgia. Those with a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies or a related field tend to earn higher salaries than those with an associate degree.
Becoming a paralegal in Georgia is an excellent option for those interested in the legal field. The process involves obtaining a post-secondary education, gaining experience, obtaining a certification, networking, and staying current with changes in the field.
With a combination of education and experience, you’ll be well on your way to a successful career as a paralegal in Georgia. Remember to stay informed about developments in the field and to reach out to your network for help when needed.