Job prospects for paralegals are bright

For people who have always had an interest in the legal profession, this might be the right time to exercise it. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts paralegal jobs to grow by 28 percent through 2018.

Many area technical colleges and universities can help prospective paralegals acquire the skills required to enter the profession within six months. One of those is Emory University, which offers a paralegal certificate through its Center for Lifelong Learning.

“We have two courses starting this winter,” said Lisa Kozicki, director of programs for Emory’s Center for Lifelong Learning.

A Saturday course at the school’s Alpharetta campus will run from Feb. 5 to July 16. The class will meet from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

An evening course, which will convene at the Briarcliff campus from Feb. 21 to Aug. 3, will meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m.

Tuition is $5,995 and may be paid in two installments. Loans are available through Sallie Mae.

“In either course, students can expect to spend six hours a week in class and at least 10 hours a week studying at home,” Kozicki said.

Having taken the course a few years ago, program coordinator and advisor Georgia Davidson knows it’s possible to work full time and go to class — as long as the student is focused.

“Being a paralegal is a very good second career option,” she said. “And we run an eight-week accelerated program in the summer, which is perfect for recent college graduates.”

Emory has graduated more than 600 paralegals from the program since 2005. It is the only certificate program in Georgia that requires students to have an undergraduate degree.

“Attorneys value education and many require a bachelor’s degree for paralegal positions,” Davidson said. “Having that level of learning on their résumé ensures that our students are more marketable.”

“Paralegals are the right-hand assistants for attorneys,” Kozicki said. “They can do everything an attorney can do except give legal advice and represent clients in court.”

Working for law firms, corporate legal departments and government agencies, paralegals do legal research, draft documents, write briefs, interview witnesses, take statements and interact with clients and vendors.

“A successful paralegal must be a person who pays attention to detail, is passionate about the law and wants to help people,” Davidson said.

Emory graduates work at many Atlanta legal firms and corporations.

“Attorneys tell us that they like hiring new graduates because they don’t have to retrain them,” Kozicki said.

Starting pay depends on an applicant’s education and experience, and the size and location of the employer. Starting salaries can range from $25,000 to $45,000, Davidson said.

There’s a free one-hour information session on Jan. 22 at 10 a.m. at the Alpharetta campus. To register, go to http://cll.emory.edu/paralegal.

For more information, call 404-712-8823 or e-mail Georgia Davidson at gddavid@emory.edu.

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