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How to Become a Paralegal Without Going to School

Many paralegals complete an associate or certificate program in paralegal studies, but this is not actually required to enter the field. Although legal education may lead to a more desirable position or a higher salary, college students or graduates without a legal background are still capable of doing paralegal work.

It is essential that you know how to use a keyboard, fax machine, photocopier and computer and you should be proficient at using word processing programs and creating spreadsheets.  A paralegal utilizes this equipment and these programs daily to receive, disseminate and manage information, consequently, these skills are a prerequisite to finding employment.  

By signing up with a temp agency specializing in legal work, you can get hands-on experience working in a law firm. Different jobs introduce you to different aspects and areas of the law such as criminal law, real estate law or corporate law. Regardless of whether your work is entering data, organizing files or performing secretarial duties, you are gaining valuable legal experience to add to your résumé. 

You can also volunteer with a non-profit organization that works with the law such as youth outreach programs, public advocacy groups, environmental groups or human rights organizations. A database of volunteer opportunities for legal professionals is maintained by the American Bar Association.

Update and revise your résumé regularly. Your résumé should list relevant skills and responsibilities from any previous employment. Further, when seeking a paralegal position you should highlight your computer, technology and legal skills from temp jobs or volunteering. Even without paralegal experience your résumé can emphasize your interest in the law, office work experience, technological aptitude and other skills.

Law firms often list full and part-time paralegal or legal secretary jobs.  Do not be afraid to apply for them as some firms hire people with no formal paralegal education and then train them, and this applies to both large and small firms.

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