Paralegal: An Overview

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Paralegal: The Profession

A paralegal is a paraprofessional that works under the supervision of an attorney performing tasks that have traditionally been done by an attorney.

There are a number of tasks attorneys do such as, drafting motions, memos, forms, and various other documents that are used either in litigation or some type of transactional work within the law. Paralegals learn about these areas of law and are able to write those drafts under the supervision of an attorney who will ultimately review and sign off on their work. This allows attorneys to leverage their time. They’re able to hire two or three paralegals under their supervision to serve two or three sets of clients simultaneously.

 Eastern Kentucky University’s paralegal program is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). This means EKU has to ensure our paralegal students graduate with the skills they need to be job ready. Courses and student work are carefully assessed to confirm they are fulfilling employer expectations. Experts from the legal community are constantly reviewing courses to make sure expectations are being met. For example, if a course in elder law is offered, are we providing everything that an elder law attorney would expect? In litigation, we ensure students have systems of organization and the basic litigation skills to be able to draft documents attorney supervisors will require of them.

This constant discussion with the legal community means we know exactly what’s expected of our students. We not only try to meet those expectations but exceed them. It’s very clear from the feedback we receive from the legal community that we succeed in that task.

Paralegal: Career Options

Paralegal students are afforded a variety of career paths after graduation. Law school is one popular option for EKU paralegal students. Students often come to the paralegal profession with the thought of attending law school. These students are able to work for a firm for a couple years as a paralegal and make sure this is the field they want to continue in. Law school is expensive, time consuming and difficult, so testing the waters as a paralegal is a great way to ensure a lot of time and money aren’t wasted.

Many other students go on to other graduate programs. For instance, master’s in public administration (MPA) programs are very popular with students who want to work for non-profit organizations as a legal aid. Others want to work for the Administrative Offices of the Courts, or in federal or state government. An MPA degree is very helpful to have in those positions.

Other career paths include Insurance, banking, hospitals, real estate, corporations and, of course, law firms. It’s important to note that paralegals are not just individuals doing clerical work in law firms. Paralegals are not secretaries. They are individuals who are out in the legal community providing support in a variety of settings.

EKU Paralegal Program: Student Outcomes

During the 2021 academic year, a survey of EKU students indicated 100% job placement. Additionally, more than half of EKU paralegal students are employed before they graduate. They complete an internship before graduation and are often offered a full-time position from that site. Internship supervisors provide feedback that EKU students exceed their expectations and often perform better than other paralegal programs.

EKU Alumni also have the same type of employment success as recent graduates. They work their way up the paralegal employment ladder, which creates even more opportunities for our recent graduates. Alumni who have been working for several years are promoted into supervisory roles making hiring decisions. They reach out asking for hiring recommendations of our recent graduates. It has become a self-perpetuating situation that helps EKU paralegal students find meaningful employment.

Interested in a career as a paralegal?

Earn your online degree from a regionally accredited university that has been an online education leader for more than 15 years. Our flexible, online format provides students the ability to complete coursework and assignments according to their schedule.

Complete the form to learn more about how EKU Online’s paralegal programs can help advance your career.

About the Author

Dr. Lynnette Noblitt received her undergraduate degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University. She received a master’s degree in biological chemistry from the University of Michigan Medical School and Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School; then practicing intellectual property law at Ropes and Gray in New York City.

She is currently a professor and chair in the Department of Government at Eastern Kentucky University where she also serves as the paralegal program director.

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