Paralegal Education in Georgia
Atlanta, Georgia’s metropolitan area has the nation’s fifth largest concentration of paralegal professionals, most of whom are employed by large law firms. With an upward trend of paralegal work in the United States, it is predicted that almost 70,000 thousand new jobs will be created in the field by 2018, and many companies are looking to paralegals rather than relying on the traditional method of using a lawyer. This has fueled the demand for legal assistants, providing new job opportunities for tasks once reserved for attorneys.
Paralegal careers in Georgia can be as simple to gain as having an attorney hire you in that capacity. While rather romantic an idea, this usually equates to lower salaries and less benefits for the training paralegal. However, a few employers may even assist in their paralegal gaining formal education, though this would be a case-by-case basis. Inquiring about this upfront is recommended if this is desired.
Earning certification or a degree in legal studies will give paraprofessionals the edge in a competitive market. Because of the rapidly expanding occupational field, employers will almost always have a pool of qualified applicants who either have certification or an Associate’s, Bachelor’s or even Master’s degree within legal studies from which to choose. As a result, formal education is in high employer demand.
Certification can be obtained by passing one of four certification exams. Any of these exams can be taken without regard to educational background and are made to reflect the knowledge and experience that the paralegal has within the field. Once one of these tests completed successfully, the paralegal then becomes a certified paralegal, which adds to his or her credentials and job qualification. Further respectability can be obtained by joining a local organization such as the State Bar of Georgia or the Georgia Association of Paralegals (GAP).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 3,844 registered professional paralegals in Georgia. The median salary for this occupation within the state is about $51,000, though the number varies by region and whether the paralegal works in a metropolitan area or a non-metropolitan area. While there isn’t a regulatory department for licensing or certification within the state, the Georgia Association of Paralegals has implemented voluntary standards by which legal assistants can be certified through the organization. This includes education through an American Bar Association approved school with a certificate, Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies. State law also dictates that paralegals must work directly under the supervision of a bar-certified attorney. They cannot provide legal advice, and their supervising attorney is legally responsible for all actions taken by the assistant. Georgia does not take kindly to independent paralegals who do not work directly under an attorney, and the state will actively prosecute those who violate this guideline.
|In USD as of Mar 4, 2013 (source: indeed.com)||30k||60k||90k|
|Paralegal in Georgia $51,000||
While there is no official regulation in the paralegal profession, the American Bar Association, or ABA, which licenses, regulates and oversees attorneys, approves learning institutions that fit its qualifications. Endorsement from the ABA increases the credibility of the school, as well as the paralegal.
ABA endorsement should not be confused with accreditation, which is validated by the U.S. Department of Education. Paralegal courses can be approved by the ABA, while not accredited through the Department of Education, or the situation could be the opposite. An institution could be both or neither. Be sure to note if one type is preferred over another when applying for a paralegal position.
Athens Technical College offers an Associate in Arts degree in its Paralegal Studies Program. This course does require a mandatory internship.
Central Georgia Technical College also has a Paralegal Studies program offered as a study in Applied Sciences. Completion of the course, along with 30 elective credit-hours and a mandatory internship, will result in an Associate in Applied Sciences degree.
Clayton State University, a four-year public institution, has a Legal Studies program that offers Associate and Bachelor courses as well as post-secondary certification. The certification program requires 30 completed undergraduate credit-hours. Internships in all courses are elective.
Georgia Piedmont Technical College, formerly known as DeKalb Technical College, offers an Associate in Science course for Paralegal Studies with a mandatory internship upon completion.
Gainesville State College offers both an Associate in Applied Science and a general certification in Legal Studies. The Associate program requires a completed internship, and the certification program requires an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in any area of study.
Herzing University-Atlanta’s Paralegal Program offers both Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees. Internships are elective.
South University-Savannah is a private, four-year institution that offers courses in Paralegal Studies for both Associate in Science and Bachelor of Science degrees. Internships are required upon completion.
Firms of Interest
There are several law firms within Georgia that hire paralegals. Below is a list of just some of the top hiring firms in the state.
1100 Peachtree Street
Atlanta, GA 30309-4528
271 17th Street NW, Suite 1900
Atlanta, Georgia 30363
Smith, Grambell & Russell
Promenade, Suite 3100
1230 Peachtree Street N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30309