The job outlook for paralegals in the state of Virginia is projected to be extremely positive over the next five years. The Virginia Workforce Connection expects the paralegal job market to grow at a rate of 19.3 percent until 2022. This percentage is even higher than the nation’s average, making a career as a paralegal in Virginia very appealing.
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While Virginia does not require formal certification in order to work as a paralegal in the state, it is recommended that candidates work towards some level of education or national certification in order to become part of the field’s positive employment environment. Continue reading to find out what you can do to become a paralegal in Virginia.
How to Become a Paralegal in Virginia
- Certification: There are no state-level certification requirements, but the Virginia Alliance of Paralegal Associations (VAPA) recommends national certification from the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) or the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).
- Age: 18 years of age or older.
- Licensure: Virginia does not have paralegal licensure requirements.
- Degree: A degree is not required by law, however the VAPA recommends certain educational criteria, as outlined below.
- Experience: The VAPA recommends at least five years of paralegal work experience.
- Citizenship: You must be a legal immigrant or U.S. citizen.
- Voluntary VAPA Standards: National certification; completion of an American Board Association (ABA)-approved program; bachelor’s degree with 24 semester hours of paralegal coursework; associate’s degree with 60 credit hours, 24 of which are in paralegal coursework; five years of paralegal work experience.
- Background Check: A criminal and professional background check is often part of the application process.
Certification Process in Virginia
As previously mentioned, certification is not mandatory if you wish to become a paralegal in Virginia. That being said, those with national certification are often preferred over those without. According to standards set by the VAPA, aspiring paralegals may become nationally certified through the NFPA or NALA.
NFPA exams can grant the following certifications: PCCE Core Registered Paralegal and PACE Registered Paralegal. Upon passage of the NALA’s exams, you may become a Certified Paralegal or an Advanced Paralegal Certified.
Degrees Related to Paralegals
There are several ABA-approved programs in Virginia for aspiring paralegals. The main area of focus for candidates is paralegal studies, but other related degrees may include legal studies and specialized law studies.
Major Cities in Virginia
- According to a 2013 report, Virginia Beach is the most populated city in the state with 448,479 residents.
- Norfolk is the second largest city in Virginia with 246,139 people.
- The third most populous city in the state, Chesapeake, is home to 230,571 citizens.
What Does a Paralegal Do in Virginia?
- Virginia offers work at a variety of urban law offices in Richmond and the D.C. area. Paralegals may start at small firms and work their way up to larger, multi-practice environments.
- Paralegals must possess strong written and oral communication skills, along with the ability to perform investigative research, prepare for trials and write reports.
- In Virginia, paralegals work under licensed attorneys and often perform similar job functions. Offering legal advice to clients is strictly prohibited.
Paralegals and legal assistants have the most closely related careers. Legals secretaries, claim adjusters or title examiners are also similar.
Employment Numbers in Virginia
As of 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 8,370 paralegals were employed in the state.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Salary Ranges in Virginia
The annual mean average for paralegals in the state is $51,360.
Virginia Related Organizational Links
- Virginia Alliance of Paralegal Associations
- Virginia Legal Aid Society
- Virginia Association of Legal Secretaries