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Paralegal to Attorney - What Does it Take?

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When looking at options in the legal profession, there are many avenues available. Becoming a paralegal is one option. However, if someone becomes a paralegal and then realizes that he or she wants to go further, becoming an attorney is something to be explored. But what does it take to move from paralegal to attorney? The answer is quite simple: Education, dedication, hard work and time.

Requirements for Becoming an Attorney

Most states require a law degree, a J.D (Juris Doctor). Many schools also offer post-doctoral law degrees such as the LL.M (Legum Magister), or the S.J.D (Scientiae Juridicae Doctor). This means that an individual must obtain a Bachelor's degree and then be accepted into a law school and complete its course of study. After that follows the bar exam to be licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction.

At the most basic level, a paralegal will have an Associate's degree or its equivalent. This may be obtained at a traditional institution or at a proprietary school. To move forward and obtain a law degree, a paralegal will need to find out how much of his or her foundational work will transfer to a four-year school, and complete a course of study for a Bachelor's degree. What is accepted will vary from state to state and from school to school. Hopefully, some or all of the credits will be accepted. If not, those classes must be retaken. Classes dealing with law will have little if any bearing towards law school.

A Bachelor's degree is essentially academic preparation for the demands of law school, and there are no restrictions on what the undergraduate degree can be. A qualified candidate is one who meets the requirements of the law school. A person with a degree in fashion is as likely to be accepted at a law school as a person who took a designed pre-law course of study, so long as the law schools demands are met. A paralegal's background may be of some help in understanding the language and general clerical procedures. An astute paralegal may gain practical and experiential knowledge of legal proceedings, but this does not qualify him or her for the profession. In fact, paralegals are prohibited by law from dispensing legal advice.

There is an exception to the extensive course of study and system of examinations required by most states to be licensed to practice law. There are a few states that allow an individual to simply read in the law and take the bar examination. If he or she passes, a license to practice law in that state is issued. So to return to the question: paralegal to attorney - what does it take? It takes work, work, and more work.

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