Paralegal Education in Connecticut
Like most states in the Union, Connecticut is witnessing a boom in the paralegal field where demand for competent, knowledgeable paralegals – or aspiring paralegal s- can find job security and many opportunities for employment. The need for those savvy in the legal system is evident: more battles are waged in the courtroom than the field these days and attorneys are vested in these fights. The call for able bodies to take their place in other facets of the legal arena then falls to those with measurable ability but a lower fee, such as a paralegal. It’s less demanding on the pay roll for a firm or agency to retain the services of a paralegal or legal assistant than it is to keep a lawyer; and paralegals are every bit as capable outside the courtroom.
A paralegal may be given many responsibilities such as interviewing witnesses, drafting legal documents, filing said documents, meeting with clients, arranging appointments, research, interpreting documents, and so forth. There are areas of specialization as well, such as bankruptcy or criminal law. One thing that can be said for the field of the paralegal is that it is not often stagnant.
Hands-on training is still a viable option for getting a foot in the door with some companies, although such positions usually offer lower salaries and fewer benefits along with fewer opportunities for advancement. While the state has no set requirements, an employer might. More and more are overlooking those who do not have experience or formal training in this demanding field. It’s always a good choice to increase personal marketability and schooling is a wise option.
Certification can be obtained by passing one of four certification exams. These exams do have some varied prerequisites, so please see the chart provided. Once passed, the paralegal then becomes a certified paralegal. In contrast, a certificated paralegal is one who obtains a certificate of course work completed from a school. Anyone who has a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline can obtain a paralegal certification by enrolling in a shorter program; alternatively, a two-year Associates Degree of Applied Sciences, or AAS, can be completed with a focus on paralegal studies for certification. A certificated and a certified paralegal are different things, so be aware of what a potential employer wants.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 4,560 professional paralegals in Connecticut, who enjoy a median salary of $51,000. As with the majority of states, becoming a paralegal does not require a license or any other official credentials. However, Connecticut does require paralegals to work under the supervision of a licensed attorney or firm, who then becomes responsible for the paralegal’s conduct and professionalism.
|In USD as of Feb 7, 2013 (source: indeed.com)||30k||60k||90k|
|Paralegal in Connecticut $51,000||
While there is no set authority regulating the paralegal profession, the American Bar Association, which licenses, regulates and oversees attorneys, can stamp an educational institution with their seal of approval. This means that the ABA has the ability to endorse legal courses given in paralegal studies, which can gain considerable notice with a possible hirer.
ABA endorsement is not the same as accreditation, which is granted instead by the U.S. Department of Education. A school can find itself approved by the ABA, accredited through the USDOE, endorsed by both, or possibly neither. Be sure to note if one type is preferred over another when applying for a paralegal position. When in doubt, ABA endorsement always looks more impressive on a resume.
Connecticut has five schools that are approved by the American Bar Association:
Manchester Community College offers paralegal training in a two-year AAS degree. This course study requires 63-64 credit hours and does not require a mandatory internship prior to earning the degree.
Norwalk Community College provides course study for an AAS degree in their Legal Assistant Program. This institution also offers a one-year study, which is equivalent to 30-credit hours and offers a Post-Degree Certificate upon completion. For those seeking a four-year degree, transferring post-associate’s degree is available, and each of these studies requires mandatory internships.
Quinnipiac University is a private, four-year school that offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Legal Studies. This degree is ample training for a paralegal profession, but can also act as springboard for graduate courses in law. A mandatory internship is required to graduate from the program with a degree.
The University of Hartford, formerly known as the Hartford College for Women, is a private school offering paralegal studies in an AAS, Bachelor of Science and a three-semester certification program. Specifically tailored to part-time, working students, many classes are scheduled on weekends and evenings. To qualify for the certification program, a student must have at least 60 undergraduate credit-hours, 30 of which must be in the liberal arts. Mandatory internships are required for the Bachelor’s program and elective for the Associate’s and certification programs.
University of New Haven is also a private institution, offering legal studies courses for an AAS degree, Bachelor of Science degree and a nine-month certification program. The certification requires 60 undergraduate credit-hours. Mandatory internships are required only for Bachelor’s degree programs.
Firms of Interest
There are a good number of firms in Connecticut hiring paralegals despite a challenging economy. Below, find a list of just a few of the top law firms in the state of Connecticut.
Cummings & Lockwood
6 Landmark Square
Stamford, CT 06091
Robinson & Cole
Robinson & Cole
280 Trumbull Street
Hartford, CT 06103-3597
Aeton Law Partners, LLP
101 Centerpoint Drive, Suite 105
Middletown, CT 06457
Toll Free: 877-412-1289