If you have an interest in a career in the law but do not have the time or financial resources to attend law school, consider a career as a legal aide. Also referred to a legal assistants or paralegals, legal aides also have titles such as law assistant, legal technician, legal administrator, or legal document assistant. These positions are critical to the smooth and effective functioning of law offices.
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How to Prepare for a Career as a Legal Aide
Excellent communication and analytical skills along with computer literacy are essential if you are looking at a legal aide career. Most employers require at least an associate's degree, available through two-year legal aide programs at community colleges, but many prefer a bachelor's or master's degree. If possible, choose a program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Some legal aid programs require undergraduate college work or a bachelor's degree, while others accept high school graduates. Although certification is not a requirement, voluntary certification is offered by national and local organizations, such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), which has established educational and experiential standards for certification. Passing their two-day examination gives you a Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) or Certified Paralegal (CP) credential.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the legal aide employment outlook is excellent, with a projection of 28% growth between 2008 and 2018 as legal aides assume tasks previously done only by lawyers. The median annual income for legal aides as of May 2008 was $46,120, although salaries vary widely depending on education, geographic location, and experience.