Are you intrigued by the law? If you love to research, read, and write and have an eye for details, a paralegal career may be an excellent fit. If you already have an associate or bachelor’s degree, you may consider a BVS certificate in Paralegal.
You may be asking yourself, what do paralegals do? A paralegal is qualified by education, training, or work experience who performs substantive legal work under a lawyer's supervision. Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public, except as permitted by law. Strong social and communication skills are highly valuable because paralegals frequently interact with attorneys, office staff, court personnel, and clients. Paralegal courses include family law, civil litigation, criminal law, business entity formation, real property law, legal research, legal writing, and wills trusts and probate. For more information, including specific courses and class descriptions, visit ECC Catalog.
Basic Vocational Specialist (BVS) in Paralegal
If you already have a bachelor’s degree or an associate of arts or science degree, you can enroll directly in the paralegal certificate program. Full-time BVS students may be able to complete the program in one year. This option eliminates the general education requirements of the AAS degree and allows you to focus purely on paralegal training.
The American Bar Association approves ECC paralegal programs.
Earn an industry-recognized credential that is valued by local employers and nationally recognized. The ABA approval process is designed to promote high-quality paralegal education and training. ABA representatives’ intensive review process examines all aspects of the program for compliance with the ABA’s Guidelines.
How do I become a paralegal in Illinois?
There are no licensing or certification requirements to work as a paralegal in Illinois. What you need is an attorney who is willing to hire you. By completing your paralegal training at ECC, you will show your future employer that you are committed to working in the field and that you have the skills and knowledge you need to continue to grow as a professional.
What's the difference between a Paralegal and a Lawyer?
The amount of training between a paralegal and a lawyer is significant. Lawyers must have a bachelor’s degree (four years) and a law degree (three years). To be licensed to practice law, a lawyer must pass a state’s bar examination and be sworn in by the state’s supreme court. Licensing is done on a state-by-state basis and allows the lawyer to provide legal services directly to the public. A lawyer can lose his or her law license if the lawyer fails to comply with the legal ethics of the state in which the lawyer practices.
Paralegals do not work independently. They work under the direction and supervision of a licensed lawyer. The paralegal’s goal is to make the lawyer’s job easier and more efficient by completing the lawyer’s tasks as those tasks are delegated to the paralegal. The paralegal and the attorney will work closely together on cases as the attorney must oversee the paralegal’s work. Not all tasks can be delegated to the paralegal. Only the attorney can engage clients and set the fee for representation. Licensed attorneys are the only professionals who can represent clients in legal proceedings and give legal advice. Paralegals are problem-solvers and positive influences on a legal team. They help manage case files and prepare the materials the attorney needs. Many lawyers expect their paralegals to have some amount of education and training.
What do paralegals do?
- Organize client files and maintain contact with the client throughout the case.
- Conduct interviews of clients and witnesses.
- Locate parties and complete investigations and research.
- Research legal authorities.
- Draft pleadings, motions, discovery requests, correspondence, and other documents for the attorney to review.
- Review and summarize case facts and prepare evidence for presentation.
- Accompany the attorney to court or administrative hearings and assist the attorney during the proceedings.
Paralegals are in demand
Why choose paralegal as a career? Paralegal education at Elgin Community College includes the study of major areas of law. Courses emphasize hands-on, practical applications that will prepare you to enter law-related occupations. You’ll use online legal research tools to prepare documents for court and business transactions. The US Department of Labor estimates that paralegal and legal assistant jobs will grow 12% by 2028. That’s much faster than the average career field. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants, (accessed August 7, 2020). The median wage for paralegals can be found on Elgin's Career Coach site.
Get additional information, including course listings and class descriptions.
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Planning to Transfer
Learn more about earning a Bachelor’s degree, earning summer credits for transfer, or dual admissions with a university by visiting University Transfer & Partnerships.
Learn more about the Paralegal Program at ECC!
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