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How to Become a Paralegal in Texas

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Texas does not have any specific requirements for an individual to become a paralegal. Additionally, the profession is not regulated. This is because regulatory laws are enacted to protect consumers and most paralegals (also called legal assistants) do not work directly with consumers, but rather under the guidance of the attorneys they support. That said, the majority of individuals interested in this legal career--in other words, your competition for the jobs--become paralegals in Texas through a combination of education and on-the-job training.

Graduate from high school and then obtain and 2-year or 4-year degree. While a college degree is not an absolutely essential step in your quest to become a practicing paralegal in Texas, it increases your chances of landing a job in the field considerably. A number of firms will not hire a paralegal who does not have a bachelors' or associate degree.

Graduate from a paralegal certification program approved by the American Bar Association, or ABA. As of 2010, there are six such programs in Texas: El Centro College in Dallas; the Center for Advanced Legal Studies in Houston; Southwestern Paralegal Institute in Houston; Southeastern Paralegal Institute in Dallas; Lee College in Baytown and Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos.

Get some real world experience working in a legal environment. All accredited paralegal programs include an internship where students spend a period of time working for lawyers to get a taste of the reality of life as a paralegal. While this internship looks good on a resume, it looks even better if your experience is stronger. To gain some on-the-job legal chops, volunteer your time pro bono at a local legal aid office. Texas has one in every county and they always need help.

Join the state bar of Texas as a paralegal member and become active in the organization's paralegal division. Additionally, it's a good idea to join the independent legal assistant professional association that serves the area of Texas where you live and practice as well as a national association like the National Association or Legal Assistants (NALA). Professional memberships will help you network and learn more about career paths.

Draft a resume that focuses on your education, paralegal certification, work experience and professional legal association memberships. Send your resume, along with a cover letter and a copy of your paralegal certification, to Texas attorneys and law firms seeking to hire legal assistants.

Tip

Make sure you have one or two professional references from school or work who can speak to potential employers about your abilities in a positive manner.

Warning

Be careful about trying to work directly with the public as an independent paralegal. Texas has unauthorized practice of law statutes that are strictly enforced.

About the Author

Janice Fahy is a freelance writer who is comfortable researching and writing on just about any topic under the sun. With a professional history that includes more than 15 years of writing for newspapers, magazines, law firms and private Web clients, she also writes for Break Studios, eHow and Trails.

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