A paralegal is a legal assistant who assists lawyers with such duties as research, client meetings, trial preparation and court hearings. An individual who wants to become a family law paralegal usually does so by earning a high school diploma or its equivalent before going on to earn a certificate in paralegal studies. Some people may opt to earn associate’s degrees in paralegal studies instead. An associate's degree may offer a student more opportunity to take additional courses, such as psychology or those specific to family law. In some cases, an employer may provide specific family-law training.
It is important to note that degrees and certificates are not always required for a person to become a family law paralegal. Family law paralegal positions are often in demand, however, with many individuals interested in these jobs. As such, earning a degree or diploma in paralegal studies may give a job candidate an extra edge when competing for a job. Likewise, any other experience or education a prospective paralegal has in family law can only help him to secure a job.
An individual may find paralegal educational programs at a community college or a vocational school. These programs often take about two years to complete. Some students may need longer to complete their studies because of lifestyle choices. For example, an individual may pursue an associate's degree in paralegal studies while also holding a full-time job. He may have to commit to his education on a part-time basis, in such a case, which may translate into an extra year or more of studying to become a family law paralegal.
Besides education in paralegal studies, a person who wants to become a family law paralegal can boost his chances of getting a job by building on certain skills. An individual interested in this career typically needs good verbal and written communication skills. He’ll also need to know and apply good telephone etiquette. Since this person typically will need to edit legal documents, grammar and punctuation skills may be critical. An aspiring paralegal must also have typing skills and be proficient with using a computer; skills with drafting legal documents and performing legal research can be helpful as well.
There are some national organizations that offer paralegal certifications. The requirements of these programs vary, but often include an exam. Some certifying organizations also require candidates to secure significant experience as a paralegal before seeking certification. In many places, certification is voluntary, but may improve a person's chances of securing a job, receiving a promotion, or earning a higher salary.