Paralegal Education in Utah
As of the 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, Utah was home to 2,000 working, contributing paralegals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 28% increase in paralegal jobs until 2018, opening 250,000 new employment slots in the workforce. Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, perform substantive legal duties from researching facts for trial cases, interviewing witnesses, preparing and interpreting legal documents, assisting clients in preparing paperwork, and much more. Basically, anything an attorney can do outside of representing a client, giving legal advice, charging for time as a lawyer might, or working out from under the direct supervision of a responsible attorney a paralegal can do. It’s no longer just a stepping stone toward becoming an lawyer; it’s a varied, challenging and professional field.
As mentioned, a paralegal is bound by law to work under a practicing attorney who vouches for the assistant’s professional conduct and pledges to teach the paralegal about confidentiality and professional ethics. In the case the assistant fails in any of those areas, the attorney takes full responsibility. This is usually listed under Rule 5.3. or Utah’s Rules of Professional Conduct.
|In USD as of Mar 12, 2013 (source: indeed.com)||25k||50k||75k|
|Paralegal in Utah $42,000||
Becoming Certified versus Certificated
There are no bodies of authority in Utah regulating or enforcing any requirements needed by the state in order to become a paralegal, though some requisites need filling before the state will recognize a paralegal as certificated. A certificated paralegal is one who successfully completes the coursework for a degree -Associate, Bachelor, Master’s or Juris Doctorate- fulfills the needs for the length of experience under the supervision of an attorney, or, already having fulfilled general studies coursework and possessing a BA in any discipline, obtains a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate for completing the program with a strong focus on legal studies. To become Certified, a paralegal needs to be certificated and also sit for and pass one of four exams presented by one of the three national associations:
- The CLA/CP offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- The PACE offered by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- The PCC also offered by National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- The PP offered by the Association for Legal Professionals (NALS)
Requirements concerning each exam varies, so check the chart before sitting for any exams.
Institutes of Higher Learning
There is a difference between ABA approved schools and accredited schools; ABA approval is where the American Bar Association gives a legal course load its nod of approval for content and rigor. Many states will not recognize a program as valid toward becoming a paralegal unless it is ABA approved. Accredited is the state of a school having the gained the acceptance of a private, regional or national authority such as the Department of Education and it can always be demanded for recognition. In short, choosing an institute both ABA approved and accredited can be necessary on the road to gaining the title of Certified Paralegal. It is wisest to err on the side of caution and pay close attention to a school’s credentials before enrolling. Utah has two ABA approved schools:
Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City is a two year community college, public, that offers an Associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies.
Utah Valley University (f/k/a Utah Valley State College) in Orem is a public, four year school offering both an Associate’s degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in Paralegal Studies where the AS is roughly two years to complete and the BS takes roughly four. Internships are mandatory for the BS.
Firms of Interest
Law firms are not the only places a paralegal can be hired for an entry-level position, but they are the most visible. Below find a truncated list of law firms known to hire legal assistants.
Janove Baar Associates
108 N Young Oak Road
Salt Lake City, UT 84108-1645
Berman Tomsic & Savage
50 S Main St # 1250
Salt Lake City, Utah 84144
Fabian & Clendenin
215 South State Street, Suite 1200
Salt Lake City, Utah 84111-2323
Bendinger, Crockett, Peterson, Greenwood & Casey
170 South Main Suite 400
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
In an effort to promote the image of the paraprofessional field, many associations have been established such as the Utah Paralegal Association (UPA) which is a NALA affiliate. These organizations enforce a positive, useful image of the paralegal as its own independent career, nurtures a continuing education, promotes a sense of community between the public and the local paralegals, among other things. Many associations will hold seminars, workshops, host events to introduce paralegals to each other and to the public, encourage pro bono work, and offer networking opportunities as well as a job bank. To join one is not necessary but encouraged; it displays a professional attitude and seriousness about the career both employers and fellow paralegals respect and appreciate.
- Utah State Bar
- Utah Secretary of State
- Utah State Courts
- Utah Paralegal Association (UPA), formerly the Legal Assistants Association of Utah (LAAU), NALA affiliated
- Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association (RMPA), NFPA affiliated
- Utah State Bar – Paralegal Division