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Can a Felon Become a Paralegal?

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When it comes to finding a job after their release from prison, felons find it challenging.  Jobs they once had are lost and careers may be gone.

Felons may think no one will hire them, but there are resources available.

They will have to be creative and willing to learn a new trade or start a different career.

This is the opportunity for felons to begin a new profession.

This blog post will address the issue of whether a felon can become a paralegal.

  • What is a Paralegal?
  • What Education/Training Does a Paralegal Need?
  • How Much Does a Paralegal Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Supporting a Felon in Becoming a Paralegal


What is a Paralegal?

A paralegal is a person that is employed by an attorney or legal firm doing “substantive legal work for which an attorney is responsible.”

This means recognizing, evaluating, and communicating relevant facts and legal concepts.

A paralegal is responsible for much of the work of a lawyer using detailed knowledge of the legal system.  This allows an attorney to focus more time on providing legal representation.

Among the duties of a paralegal are:

  • Case management involving all aspects of a case
  • Filing legal documents and dealing with deadlines
  • Legal research and gathering facts in a case
  • Interviewing clients and keeping contact with them
  • Drafting legal documents
  • Drafting and signing legal correspondence
  • Preparing for and assisting during trial
  • Locating and interviewing witnesses
  • Attending legal proceedings and summarizing documents

A paralegal is employed in an attorney’s or law firm’s office, in a corporation, or government agency.

There are specific skills to be successful as a paralegal:

  • Detail-oriented to proof and double-check facts in a case
  • Good research and investigation ability
  • Good communications and interpersonal skills to deal with clients and attorneys
  • Organizational skills to keep track of details of a legal case
  • Effective time management for maintaining a strict schedule
  • Good problem-solving skills to determine essential information in a case
  • Good leader to direct others on a legal team

What Education/Training Does a Paralegal Need?

Most states don’t have specific education requirements to become a paralegal.  Paralegal education can be found at a community college, technical school, and a university.  Associate and bachelor degrees can be attained.

Most lawyers prefer a paralegal to have a Bachelor’s Degree and at least 24 credit hours in legal specialty courses.

The National Federation of Paralegals Association (NFPA) has outlined a curriculum for paralegal programs, but they are not required to follow it.

An educational program can also be located through the American Bar Association.

Regardless of the education an individual receives, they must pass an exam to be certified as a paralegal.

Those working in a similar capacity but without certification are called a legal assistant.

No state currently requires a license to become a paralegal.

Some who are interested in becoming a paralegal begin as an assistant in an attorney’s office before taking paralegal courses.

How Much Does a Paralegal Earn?

There are currently 263,800 paralegals and legal assistants in the U.S.  This occupation is expected to show an 8% growth by 2020.

The average annual salary in 2015 for a paralegal was $55,000.  Annual salary depends on how much experience a paralegal has and whether they work full-time.  A top-notch paralegal can earn as much as $100,000 per year.

It also depends on the area of the country where a Notary lives.  A paralegal in New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, or California has the highest annual salary.

An Opportunity for Felons?

For felons wanting to enroll in an online paralegal program, there is unlikely to be a background check.

For a program approved by the American Bar Association, there will likely be a question about criminal history.  It is important to be honest about a felony conviction.  Being dishonest will result in being turned down or expelled from a program.

Most states do not have a general policy regarding certification with a felony record.  They look at each case separately.

It is advisable to contact the American Bar Association or the NFPA in the state in which a felon will reside after certification to find out their exact policy and the steps to take in qualifying for the certification exam.

Once a felon has been certified as a paralegal, it may be difficult to find a job as a paralegal.  Many attorneys will not consider anyone with a criminal history to work as a paralegal.

Additionally, many law offices require a paralegal to also be licensed as a Notary for witnessing and authorizing client signatures on legal documents.

For anyone considering not being honest about their felony, it is a crime to falsify an application, which could result in being sent back to prison.

In order to be successful in this pursuit, it is essential for felons to be honest about their background. Lying about their conviction will prevent them from becoming a paralegal.

They are already working with the often negative perceptions of being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

There are many success stories, as the Guide to Being Employed, reveals, showing how having a goal, commitment, dedication, and perseverance can assist felons in achieving their dream.

There are re-entry programs, such as drug treatment, and educational opportunities.

Having their felony expunged can give them the chance they need to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming a paralegal.

Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that they have not been convicted of a crime.

Felons have been shown to make good employees.

Supporting a Felon in Becoming a Paralegal

For families of felons wanting to pursue a dream of becoming a paralegal, encourage your loved one and support their efforts to live an honest life, change their lifestyle, and keep their dreams alive.

They have made mistakes and been incarcerated, but they have paid the consequences for their past actions.  They are not defined by their crime.

It is time for them to move forward and live an honest life.

Encourage them to find out if they qualify to have their record expunged.  Having their record expunged will qualify a felon to be able to become a paralegal.

Your family member is worth making the effort for, if they are sincere in their desire to become a chef.

Help them realize their ambition no matter how difficult the road might be.

What do you think about this blog post?  Are you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a paralegal with a felony?  What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success?  Please tell us in the comments below.

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