How to Become a Paralegal Without Going to School


Paralegals work at large and small law firms, performing legal research, organizing files, billing clients and writing correspondence. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, paralegals earned an average of $36,080 to $59,310 in 2008.

Though many paralegals complete an associate's or certificate program in paralegal studies, this isn't required to enter the field. Legal education may lead to higher salaries or choicer positions, but college students or college graduates without a legal background or training can do the work of a paralegal.

  • Learn to use a keyboard, fax machine, photocopier and computer. Practice using word processing programs and creating spreadsheets. Paralegals use these programs and this equipment daily to receive, distribute and manage information; you will need to know them to get a job.

  • Sign up with legal temp agencies to get hands-on experience working in law firms. Different jobs will introduce you to different aspects of the law, from business to real estate to criminal law. Whether you're organizing files, working as a legal secretary or performing data entry, you'll get legal experience to add to your resume.

  • Volunteer your time with nonprofits that work with the law, such as public advocacy groups, human rights organizations, environmental nonprofits or youth outreach programs. The American Bar Association maintains a database of volunteer opportunities for legal professionals (see Resources). Browse the opportunities listed for your state to get started volunteering.

  • Revise your resume to showcase your legal skills from temp jobs and your computer and technology skills. List the skills and responsibilities from each job. Even if you don't have paralegal experience, your resume can demonstrate your technological aptitude, interest in the law, office work experience and other skills.

  • Apply for open full-time and part-time paralegal or legal secretary jobs listed by law firms. Some firms hire people with no formal paralegal education and train them. Approach both large and small law firms.

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