Paralegal Education in Rhode Island
The paralegal profession in Rhode Island is still small for the region, but it’s also following the national trend and expanding. This small state also provides easy access to neighboring states, which have more legal assistant opportunities. Rhode Island is currently home to only about 770 paralegals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because most law firms are located in the state’s urban areas, most paralegals are concentrated in cities like Providence and Warwick. As jobs in the legal industry continue to grow, and as law firms continue to hire more legal assistants, leading to an estimated national 28% increase in jobs over the course of 6 years, making these next few years an especially good time to become a paralegal.
The current average salary of a working paralegal in Rhode Island is $48,840, with an average hourly wage of $23.48. While this is lower than nearby states such as New York and Pennsylvania, it is only barely below the national average annual wage of $49,960. The majority of paralegals in the state are employed by private attorneys’ offices, but real estate firms, hospitals and banks also provide employment. The state of Rhode Island defines paralegals as “legal assistants” who must work under a lawyer’s direct supervision. All legal assistants are prohibited from practicing law, including giving legal advice, “except when allowed by law or court rule.”
Paralegals and legal assistants are currently neither regulated nor officially licensed by any US state, including Rhode Island, allowing aspiring legal assistants to pursue their careers via either a school program, or through informal training at their place of employment. However, certified paralegals have an edge over others when applying for jobs, and many employers now require a formal education. For valuable employees seeking a formal paralegal certification, some firms and other employers may help cover tuition fees.
Paralegals who pass one of the national approved certification exams will receive their official paralegal certificate. A local professional association, such as the Rhode Island Association of Paralegals, is also worth joining, especially to students and legal assistants who are just starting out, as these organizations offer membership benefits such as professional networking, exclusive job listings, advice and more.
|In USD as of Feb 28, 2013 (source: indeed.com)||30k||60k||90k|
|Paralegal in Rhode Island $47,000||
The American Bar Association (ABA) is a national organization that oversees and regulates the law industry, and also provides endorsement to qualified colleges and programs. An ABA-endorsed status is voluntary, but many programs seek its endorsement, as it provides proof of a program’s quality of education. While an ABA-endorsement isn’t necessary, some employers may require applicants to have a degree or certificate from one.
Unlike the ABA, the US Department of Education provides a broader accreditation to an entire school. Many paralegal employers may also require applicants to graduate from an accredited school, as it is proof that the applicant’s education was legitimate with a high standard of academic values. While some employment opportunities may require only an ABA-endorsement, an accredited school or even have no requirements at all, it is still prudent to attend a school that carries both a Department of Education accreditation and has an ABA approved law studies program, especially as competition for paralegal jobs increases to meet demand.
Rhode Island currently has only one school program endorsed by the American Bar Association:
Roger Williams University is a private, 4-year institution based in Bristol that offers an Associate of Science degree, Bachelor of Science degree and a Certificate through its Paralegal Studies program. It has been approved by the ABA since 1998 and features the minimum of 10 credit hours of specialized face-to-face classroom time.
Firms of Interest
There are many prestigious law firms located in Rhode Island, including several that have locations both nationally and worldwide. Below are just a few of these firms:
Decof & Decof
One Smith Hill
Providence, RI 02903
John F Corrigan, PC
John F. Corrigan P.C.
155 South Main Street, Suite 405
Providence, RI 02903
Nixon Peabody (with offices worldwide)
One Citizens Plaza
Providence, RI 02903