Could Your Career Change with a Master of Paralegal Studies Degree?

Have you been a paralegal for years but feel that your career advancement has ceased because you lack the necessary degree requirements? Perhaps you’re just now entering into the legal arena but don’t believe you are adequately prepared to pursue a paralegal position at a large corporation or law firm? Though educational standards vary greatly within the field, those who pursue graduate degrees in paralegal studies increase their chances of landing the job they want and getting paid more than they would with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

No matter your education or experience, if you want to gain the skills and confidence you need to go further in the paralegal field, you should consider pursuing a Master of Paralegal Studies degree. This graduate degree will not only equip you with the skills, abilities and knowledge you need to advance your career, but will also allow you to network with others in your field.

Two lawyers talking

Why should you pursue a master’s degree in paralegal studies?

Whether you are already working in the legal field, have always been intrigued by the law or see a paralegal position as a personally and professionally rewarding career choice, a master’s degree can support your future ambitions. In the past, it wasn’t necessary to have extensive educational or experiential training to enter into the field. Now employers want their applicants to have credentials, experience and concrete career goals.

As with any job opportunity, the more experience and skills you have, the more likely it is that you will land the position. With a master’s degree in paralegal studies, you will not only put yourself ahead of less qualified applicants, but you could also earn a higher salary and be a critical part of an effective legal team. Earning a master’s degree can also let you to take coursework in specialized areas that you have interest in, such as international or immigration law. This allows you to tailor your experience toward the law firm you hope to work for.

Paralegals are highly educated and decisive professionals who can be advantageous assets for any legal team. Not only are they the ones who do a lot of the leg work for extensive cases, but they can improve client relations and help cut firm expenses. The top five reasons why employers want to hire paralegals to their law firm or company are:

  1.  They increase the profitability of an organization or firm by boosting revenue and decreasing overhead expenses.
  2. They free up time and resources for attorneys to take on higher caseloads.
  3. They provide an accessible point of contact for clients.
  4. They boost office efficiency and keep track of deadlines.
  5. They can assist on pro bono cases that greatly benefit firms or companies.

What is the curriculum like?

A good paralegal studies curriculum should balance theoretical, historical and philosophical principles while it also emphasizes practical skill sets, such as technology use, professionalism, analysis, written and oral communication and research methods. Depending on the area of law you intend to focus in, you may gain other essential skills, like advanced study into subjects such as intellectual property, international and governmental law.

In order to be fully prepared for a future in paralegal work, you should enroll in graduate programs that offer courses in areas such as litigation, advanced legal writing, administrative law, American jurisprudence and government contracts law. Other coursework may include legal research, business law and how to handle corporate contracts. Accredited, high-quality programs will also offer practicum and independent research features as part of the degree.

The independent research component of a master’s degree in paralegal studies is important because it will allow students to apply the skills and knowledge they have gained.
This process will give them new insights into the legal field and process, along with providing them an opportunity to research into a specific interest area they have.

Additionally, a practicum component to a graduate program is essential because it allows participants to apply what they have learned in a professional setting. Not only will students be able to use their oral presentation skills, but they will also create professional development plans, identify their short and long-term career goals, conduct field research and network with professionals over social media. If you have a positive attitude, strong work ethic and the ability to work independently, you will thrive in a rigorous master’s program.

The changing landscape of the paralegal field

Previously, this article spoke about the many reasons you should pursue a master’s degree in paralegal studies. One of the leading reasons for many who are already employed in the law field is due to the quickly changing legal landscape. In the past, paralegals assisted attorneys by formatting legal documents or filing paperwork. While these job tasks are still essential, with the advent of modern technology and expanded responsibilities, the paralegal profession is not the same job it was even a few years ago.

Paralegals today have to have more education, be more professional, handle more caseloads and think more critically than ever before. Now, they are foundational and integral components to a fully functioning legal team or operation. While they cannot provide legal advice or represent their clients in court like their supervising attorneys, they are the individuals assisting on cases, communicating information with clients, establishing a network of witnesses, organizing cases, recording essential case information, researching and conducting client interviews. Basically, if something needs to happen around a law firm, paralegal professionals are the ones to handle it.

Gavel and case paperwork

Anyone looking to make a career change should consider pursuing George Washington University’s online Master of Professional Studies in Paralegal Studies. As one of the few paralegal master’s degrees in the country, the program will equip interested professionals with the skills, experience and knowledge they need to succeed. For example, the American Association for Paralegal Education has acknowledged that the program provides some of the best paralegal coursework in the country.

With a rigorous and practical curriculum that emphasizes technology use, written and oral communication, task management and law theory, this scholarly approach will fully support career advancement in the legal field.

Sources

https://online.gwu.edu/master-professional-studies-paralegal-studies

http://paralegalstudiesmasters.online.gwu.edu/?access_code=GW-PARA-SEO2&utm_campaign=GW-PARA-SEO2

http://paralegalstudiesmasters.online.gwu.edu/resources/infographics/changing-the-legal-landscape/

http://paralegalstudiesmasters.online.gwu.edu/resources/articles/eight-skills-successful-paralegals-use-everyday/

http://paralegaltoday.com/issue_archive/features/feature2_jf06.htm

http://abovethelaw.com/2011/06/the-value-of-a-paralegal-degree-experts-weigh-in/?rf=1

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