Paralegal Education in Iowa
Paralegals working in Iowa are still scarce in the state’s rural areas, but the industry is becoming more prevalent in urban areas, especially in cities like Des Moines. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Iowa is home to about 1,570 employed legal assistants. Thanks to a national trend, paralegal/legal assistant jobs are on the rise, with an expected national increase of almost 28% in the next six years – that’s about 70,000 new paralegal jobs created by 2017.
The current mean salary for a paralegal in Iowa is about $44,000. Like most US states, the largest employer of paralegals in Iowa is private law firms. Local and state governments, as well as legal departments of large companies, also hire Iowa paralegals.
The state of Iowa does not define paralegals, but considers them “paraprofessionals” as non-lawyer assistants. The state does rule that licensed attorneys must provide direct supervision to their legal assistants, and are legally responsible for their professional actions and conduct while employed.
Iowa paralegals are not required to receive formal education; however, holding a certificate or degree from an accredited and endorsed school will provide a competitive edge in salary and employment opportunities. Some employers may be willing to provide financial support for outstanding employees who wish to pursue a formal paralegal certification. If you wish to go this route to acquire a paralegal certificate or degree, it’s a good idea to check with local firms first to see which ones will consider supporting their employees’ education.
Not all paralegal studies programs are created equal. The Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE) provides some helpful insight, and recommends that aspiring paralegals invest in a quality program that involves a minimum of 60 course hours as well as an internship. The AAfPE advises against investing in programs shorter than two months and online programs that do not have any traditional classes.
To earn their paralegal certificate, students must pass an approved certification exam. For additional employment and career opportunities, paralegal professionals and students may also join an official state organization, such as the Iowa Association of Legal Assistants.
|In USD as of Feb 18, 2013 (source: indeed.com)
|Paralegal in Iowa $44,000
The American Bar Association (ABA) provides regulation, certification and endorsements for the law industry and education institutions. Seeking an ABA endorsement is voluntary and not necessary for a quality paralegal program, and some great schools may not yet have sought approval from them. An endorsement from the ABA, however, ensures a program and its students’ credibility, and many firms will only hire paralegals with a certificate or degree from an ABA-endorsed program.
The US Department of Education does not focus on or endorse a specific program, but it does provide a school’s accreditation. An accredited institution has been proven to be legitimate and ethical, and many employers require applicants to have a certificate or degree acquired from one. Other employers may not have guidelines about where paralegals receive their education, more options are available to paralegals who have attended a school that is both accredited by the Department of Education and endorsed by the ABA.
Iowa currently has two accredited schools with paralegal education programs that are endorsed by the ABA:
Des Moines Area Community College is a public university with a campus located in Des Moines, Iowa. Their Legal Assistant Program offers an Associate in Science degree or a Legal Assistant Certificate for students who already have a degree.
Kirkwood Community College is a 2-year Liberal Arts College located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with branch campuses elsewhere in the state. This institution offers an Associate of Arts degree in Paralegal Studies. Internships are mandatory and must be done through Kirkwood Community College.
Firms of Interest
Several prestigious law firms are located in the state of Iowa, with most concentrated in the Des Moines and Omaha Council-Bluffs metropolitan areas. Some law firms may have more than one office either regionally, nationally or even worldwide. Below are just a few of the state’s prestigious law firms:
Law Firm of C. Kevin McCrindle (with offices statewide)
326 4th Street
Hudson, Iowa 50643
Ahlers & Cooney PC
100 Court Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
Belin McCormick Attorneys at Law
666 Walnut Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50309