Estate Planning Paralegal Specialty
Ethical Considerations of a Paralegal
How to Choose the Best Paralegal Certificate Program
Types of Schools With ABA-Approved Paralegal Programs

Estate Planning Paralegal Specialty

Estate Planning Paralegal Specialty

The daily tasks that an estate planning paralegal is expected to complete can dramatically vary. For example, you may be needed to assist in a tax audit one day and the next you may be required to sit and comfort a grieving family while they go over the final wishes of a recently deceased loved one. One of the primary tasks of an estate planning paralegal is to review all of the assets of a client. This can include real estate, valuable personal items, bonds and stocks. An estate planning paralegal must be well-versed with the various processes it takes to deal with estate planning, which greatly differ than other paralegal specialties.

Another primary function of an estate planning law firm is to handle probate law. For example, there are man clients who wish to have an objective individual handle the dealings of their estate. When this is the case, upon the death of a client, a lawyer may be responsible to handle the estate as a trustee. In other times, the lawyer will simply follow the detailed instructions laid out in the clients Last Will and Testament. Regardless, an estate planning paralegal must know how to handle the court processes and follow the various documentation regulations when it comes to this specific branch of the legal system.

Necessary Skills for an Estate Planning Paralegal

Estate-PlanningThe majority of employers will only hire a candidate who has experience within this realm of law. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you must have previous work experience. There are many degree and certificate programs which specialize in estate planning and probate law. Therefore, if you’re interested in working within this realm of the legal system, you should seriously consider enrolling in such a program.

Along with training, you should carry strong communication skills. As an estate planning paralegal, you’ll have to communicate with trustees, clients, family members, attorneys and tax auditors on a regular basis. Therefore, you must be able to not only convey empathy and compassion, but also an ability to clearly and efficiently communicate the most essential details of a case. Because of the unique nature of this job, you will also be required to hold above-average attention to details. You’ll be required to research and review a wide array of essential documents, such as tax forms, wills, probate documentation and software that’s unique to the estate planning branch of the legal industry.

Lastly, the most successful estate planning and probate paralegals must be self-motivated and directed. While a lawyer will supervise your actions, you will often be required to carry out a vast majority of your tasks without any direct supervision.

Ethical Considerations of a Paralegal

Want to be a paralegal

Ethics is one of the most essential topics of your personal life. However, it’s also the most important element when working as a paralegal. This topic is heavily discussed in a variety of training programs. Because of the sensitive nature of the legal industry, you must be well-versed in treating all situations with a high ethical and moral ground while retaining empathy and compassion for clients and their needs. While you will likely encounter unethical employers, clients and coworkers throughout your paralegal career, if you hold strong the ethics that you’re taught, you’ll never find yourself in hot water.

Pre-Employment Ethical Considerations

Considerations of a ParalegalBecause a paralegal works in the legal industry, there are many ethical considerations that come into play long before you start a job. For example, in the majority of regions throughout the United States, you’re forbidden from working as a paralegal if you’ve been convicted for a felony. In fact, you may not qualify for certain paralegal positions if you have several misdemeanor convictions.

Moreover, your pre-employment ethical considerations also delve into your financial stability. For many employers, if you have a poor credit score and a mountain of debt you may not be considered for a position because this is generally a sign of instability. This is even more of a consideration if you wish to work for a law firm that handles the financial industry. If you have a lot of debt, these employers may not wish to hire you because it can become a conflict of interest.

On the Job Ethical Considerations

In order to fully understand the ethical considerations within the legal industry, you must hold a solid understanding of who regulates this industry. In the most generalized sense, the legal industry – and ethical requirements therein – are regulated by a variety of professional organizations. For example, the American Bar Association outlines the ethical rules and regulations for lawyers and the entire judicial system, which includes paralegals. If you wish to truly excel within this profession, you should become well-versed in the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

Although some of the code of ethics outlined by these professional organizations are meant for lawyers and other legal professionals, there are always sections which discuss the ethics of a paralegal. In fact, many states feature a unique list of regulations that govern not only the job duties, but the expected code of conduct of all paralegals.

How to Choose the Best Paralegal Certificate Program

Paralegal Certificate Program

As with many professional careers, if you wish to become a paralegal then graduating from a certificate program is highly suggested. While you can begin work as a paralegal with an associate or bachelor’s degree, certificate programs demonstrate your ability to work within this dynamic and unique branch of law. If you wish to work in a specialized field, such as corporate or real estate law, then earning a certificate program can be the most effective way to accomplish this goal.

Undergoing a certificate program is an ideal choice for those who are currently working a full-time job and are looking to make a seamless career change – either within their current field of employment or into a brand new industry. Earning a certificate in paralegal studies can also serve as an excellent opportunity if you’re looking to branch off into law school as it builds the foundation for a greater understanding of law and the legal system of the United States.

Even if you don’t wish to work as a paralegal, earning a paralegal certificate can benefit you. Because law is found in almost every aspect of our modern society, if you are to add legal knowledge to your resume you’re opening your changes of advancement within your current industry.

Paralegal CertificateWhen you’re looking for the best paralegal certificate program, you should make sure that the program is designed to fit not only your personal but also professional goals. To help navigate this road, you should ask yourself the following questions:

1.) Are you seeking a post-baccalaureate program or a standard technical certificate in paralegal studies?

2.) Do you need a certificate program that specializes in a specific industry or branch of law?

3.) Have you already – or are in the process of – obtaining an undergraduate degree in paralegal studies? If you have, does the certificate program cover new topics you haven’t already learned?

4.) What life obligations do you have that will prevent you from studying and/or attending class? What’s your current life schedule look like? How do you wish to earn your certificate – online or in-class?

5.) What are the various professional credentials of the faculty that will teach the certificate program?

6.) How much money do you wish to spend on the certificate program?

By answering these questions you’ll have a much better understanding of the type of certificate program that is best for you. Because your career goals are unique to your current situation, finding the best paralegal certificate program involves truly understanding your career goals, previous education and financial/time commitments.

Types of Schools With ABA-Approved Paralegal Programs

paralegal-studies

If you’re an aspiring paralegal, then you’re likely aware of the importance a solid education is to enter this workforce. Like many other professional career options, in order to truly excel at this career you must enroll in a high-quality educational program. However, due to the popularity of the paralegal profession, there has been a sudden uptick in the sheer number of “training institutions” which offer paralegal studies.

Unfortunately, not all of the educational institutions which offer a paralegal studies certificate, diploma or degree are worth your time and money. In fact, if you are careful during your selection period you could end up paying for a program that is seriously lacking in its quality of education and post-graduating offerings. However, there is a way to ensure your training is not in vain. Should you attend an American Bar Association approved training program, you’re ensuring your training is among the highest quality. This is because the ABA sets strict guidelines when it comes to approving a paralegal training program.

paralegal-studies-2Due to the advanced nature of these programs, and affluence of the American Bar Association, you may feel that these offerings are only found at high-priced law schools. Thankfully, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The American Bar Association continually goes to great lengths to ensure that the paralegal training programs it approves are above-average. However, the ABA doesn’t believe that high-quality education should only be reserved for those seeking a law degree or another advanced-level education. Because of this, the American Bar Association actively approves training programs at all levels.

These include:

1.) Technical Colleges – These programs generally offer technical certificates in paralegal studies. This is an excellent option for those who wish to enter the workforce as an entry-level paralegal or if you are actively working in another field and wish to have a swift career change. These are also the most affordable out of the other diploma and degree options.

2.) Community Colleges – While community colleges feature certificate programs, the majority of students enrolled in these institutions are seeking a two-year associates degree in paralegal studies. The American Bar Association has approved community colleges throughout the United States to ensure aspiring paralegals throughout the county have the opportunity for an affordable and thorough education.

3.) Universities – As with community colleges, universities offer a select number of associate degree programs; however, the majority of students enrolled at a university are seeking a four-year bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. This is an excellent option for those who wish to fully engage in this industry on a more advanced level.