FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. What is a paralegal?
A. A paralegal is a person who assists an attorney in a law office, corporation, or government office in many aspects of legal representation or service. While a paralegal may conduct a wide variety of tasks, he or she may not give legal advice or represent another person in a court of law. Also, the National Association of Legal Assistants provides a definition of what it means to be a paralegal.
Q. Why choose a career as a paralegal?
A. The number of paralegals in the U.S. is expected to continue to grow. Law firms and corporate legal departments are relying more heavily on paralegals as cost-saving measures and to perform tasks once routinely handled by attorneys. The Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, forecasts a faster-than-average growth rate of 28 percent through 2018. The Bureau found that:
Demand for paralegals also is expected to grow as an expanding population increasingly requires legal services, especially in areas such as intellectual property, health care, international law, elder issues, criminal law, and environmental law. The growth of prepaid legal plans also should contribute to the demand for legal services.
—U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (December 2010)
Job rewards and satisfaction for paralegals include: excellent salaries and benefits with opportunities for bonuses and advancements; recognition for contributions to case resolutions; meaningful work helping clients; and challenging and interesting work in a professional environment surrounded by talented, educated colleagues.
Q. What is the average salary for a paralegal?
A. Earnings of paralegals vary greatly, depending on education, training, experience, the type and size of employer, and the geographic location of the job. Historical trends provided by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations' 2006 Compensation & Benefits Study Report show that over a 13-year period through 2006, gross salaries climbed 61 percent. The average current salary reported was just over $50,000, with one-fourth of paralegals reporting a salary at or below $40,000, and one-fourth reporting a salary at or above $60,000. See the most recent 2010 NALA Salary Survey results.
Q. Will I be able to take the national certification exams?
A. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) each offer a voluntary examination for a fee. Students that have a bachelor's degree in any field and have completed the Paralegal Certificate Program are eligible to sit for either exam. Contact NALA or NFPA for the most current requirements to sit for those examinations.
Q. What are the advantages of enrolling in the Paralegal Certificate Program from the Professional Development Center at the University of Texas at Austin?
A. Our comprehensive, accelerated program is designed for paralegals by paralegals with curriculum input from attorneys and judges. You will have access to extensive resources including customized texts, hands-on workbooks, Lexis and Westlaw (individual access), and online study tools that include practice exercise questions, lecture notes, quizzes and mock exams, and research and writing labs. Online study tools are provided for both the online and on campus programs.
Q. Is this program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA)? What does ABA approval mean?
A. At this time, the Professional Development Center at The University of Texas at Austin does not plan to seek American Bar Association approval for its paralegal program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of paralegal programs offered by colleges, universities and proprietary schools do not have ABA approval; in fact, only about 260 of the estimated 1,000 paralegal training programs have sought ABA approval.
Q. Can I preview the program?
A. Yes. Click here to take the Test Drive.
Q. Who are the instructors?
A. The Paralegal Certificate Program instructors are attorneys and judges who are members of the State Bar of Texas, have been approved to teach by Continuing and Innovative Education's Professional Development Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and have demonstrated teaching ability and subject matter expertise.
Q. How do I begin the program?
A. To register for the On Campus or Online Paralegal Studies Program, please click on the Register link, or visit our offices. If you prefer you may call 512-471-9971 to register.
Q. What if I fail an exam or fail a class?
A. You are expected to pass all exams and all classes with a minimum grade of C or better. If you fail an exam, you may not repeat it. If you fail a class, you will have to take the class over again.
Q. Can I earn the certificate completely online?
A. Yes. You can complete the certificate by taking the online version of the program. In the online program, students are required to complete the Essential Skills element of the program followed by a choice of 2 substantive courses. Students may take a third substantive course, if they choose, at no additional cost. Online students have 1 year to complete the program.
Q. What if I earn a certificate of completion from the Continuing and Innovative Education's Professional Development Center at The University of Texas at Austin and then move to another state? Will my paralegal status change or be jeopardized?
A. No. Some states (e.g., North Carolina and Florida) have voluntary certification exams, but even these are not required. You will, therefore, be eligible to work as a paralegal in any state. No state currently licenses paralegals, and while a few have considered such options, none has opted for licensure and several have rejected such proposals. NALA has issued an opinion in opposition to licensure. Go >>> Thus, at this time a student graduating from this program will be eligible to work in any state.
Q. Is independent certification or credentialing necessary once I complete the Paralegal Certificate Program?
A. While no state requires you to sit for an exam to be a "certified" or "credentialed" paralegal or legal assistant at this time, many choose to attain the professional designations to enhance their stature in the field. The CLA (Certified Legal Assistant) and CP (Certified Paralegal) exams are the nation's premier certifications, along with the NFPA Pace exam. For more information about sitting for these exams, please visit the National Association of Legal Assistants or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc.
Q. Can I access my course from anywhere?
A. You can access the course anywhere that you have Internet access. Some companies have firewalls that prevent you from participating in the chat sessions. Please check with your company before you attempt to access the course.
Q. How many hours are required outside of class time to complete reading assignments and homework?
A. You will most likely spend approximately 12 hours at least per week going over class lecture notes, performing exercises, viewing demonstrations, using online labs and other online support materials, and completing assignments. Approximately 8 hours will be needed for the core Essential Skills part of the program, and approximately 4+ hours for the substantive courses. The actual time required for each course will vary from student to student.
Q. Are there specific dates that I need to log on to the Web site?
A. No. The online program is self-paced. You may sign up for any course at your convenience during the time the course is open.
Q. What happens if I fall behind or complete the course early?
A. The online paralegal courses are self-paced within the time frames allowed, but you will have deadlines and due dates for assignments just as you would in a traditional classroom setting. Thus, it is recommended that you sign up for the online version of this program only if you can commit the time to complete it successfully.
Q. What kind of computer peripherals are required to take an online class?
A. You will need either a personal computer (PC) or Macintosh computer. A high-speed Internet connection is highly recommended, but not required, and Internet Explorer is the preferred browser. You must have Microsoft Word.
Q. Do I need to have cookies enabled?
A. Yes. Your Internet browser must be set to accept cookies.
Q. How do online courses work?
A. Once you begin your course, you will be able to access the Study Support Web Site. Your instructor will contact you to provide you with contact information and additional getting started tips. You will work through the core Essential Skills part of the program in segments, earning passwords to continue as you complete assignments and exams. The substantive programs are set up chapter-by-chapter. For each chapter, you will have online study support. It is recommended that you read the assigned material chapter-by-chapter, reviewing the online study support as you progress. Please contact your instructor with any questions you may have, but also check the online Help page in the Study Support Web Site for commonly asked questions.
Q. What resources are available for general information on a career as a paralegal?
Standing Committee on Paralegals, American Bar Association Click Here
National Association of Legal Assistants Click Here
National Federation of Paralegal Associations Click Here
Paralegals and Legal Assistants, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Department of Labor Click Here