With its entire state boundaries within the Appalachians, West Virginia truly is “the Mountain State.” Miles of breathtaking forests, rolling hills and majestic mountains give this state a rugged but peaceful demeanor, which is backed by its status as one of the states with the least amount of crime in the country.
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Even though they deal with less crime, West Virginians still need legal services, which mean that paralegals are also in demand. The state even proposed a mandatory education level or credential level to regulate the hiring of paralegals, but the bill did not pass through the West Virginia Legislature. Even still, many employers have adopted the proposed minimum standards into their hiring criteria. You can learn more about becoming a paralegal in West Virginia and what most law firms might expect of you by reading on.
How to Become a Paralegal in West Virginia
- Certification: None, but a Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) title was proposed by WV legislature; CLA credentials would be awarded to those who either pass the minimum education requirements or obtain NALA or NFPA.
- Age: No minimum age is stated by WV law, but many employers request only 18+ applicants.
- Licensure: WV does not currently use a licensing or registration program, but a Certified Legal Assistant credential was proposed.
- Degree: No minimum education level is required by WV law, but most employers expect a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in paralegal studies or a related field.
- Experience: WV does not mandate minimum experience levels, but many employers may expect all applicants to have one or more years of relevant experience.
- Citizenship: All WV employees should be either U.S. citizens or authorized to live and work in the U.S.
- Examinations: If you are seeking to obtain a Certified Paralegal (CP) credential by passing the certification exam offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).
Certification Process in West Virginia
Under proposed legislation, paralegals in West Virginia would have been required to obtain a Certified Legal Assistant credential if they completed at least one of the following requirements:
- Graduation from a paralegal program accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).
- Graduation from a paralegal program not accredited by the ABA with at least 60 course hours of study.
- Graduate from a paralegal program that does not meet the above requirements and then obtain six months worth of on-the-job training.
- Demonstrate knowledge and experience equivalent to the above requirements.
Although these proposed guidelines did not make it through legislation, many employers have adopted them as minimum standards for the hiring of paralegal employees.
Major Cities in West Virginia
- With a small and mostly rural population, West Virginia’s cities do not have many residents compared to urban areas in most other states. Still, many cities with small populations are contiguous with larger metro areas in adjacent states, such as the Martinsburg, WV and Hagerstown, Maryland metro area.
- With 50,821 residents as of 2013, West Virginia’s capital, Charleston, is also the state’s biggest city.
- Huntington, home of the University of West Virginia, has almost as many residents at 49,177.
- Parkersburg near the Ohio border has 31,186 residents, making it the third most-populous city in West Virginia.
- Morgantown, which is near the Pennsylvania border and an hour south of Pittsburgh, has the fourth-most people in West Virginia with 30,665 residents.
- Along I-70 between Columbus, OH and Pittsburgh sits the fifth most-populous city in West Virginia: Wheeling, which has 28,009 residents.
What Does a Paralegal Do in West Virginia?
Common duties of paralegals in West Virginia include filing paperwork in the office and arranging files for their supervising attorney. They may also engage in research or verifying the application of laws to aid in certain cases. Many West Virginia paralegals work for trial attorneys, but they may also work in practices involving labor law, environmental law, insurance law and corporate compliance.
Legal assistants, lawyers, court clerks, compliance officers, regulatory officers, and court cashiers all have occupations with similar duties and disciplines to paralegals.
Employment Numbers in West Virginia
West Virginia has 2,140 paralegals and legal assistants, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This number gives the state the fourth-highest concentration of paralegal jobs in the country. The biggest markets include Charleston, with 570 jobs, and the Martinsburg area with around 350 jobs.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Salary Ranges in West Virginia
Statewide, paralegals and legal assistants make $43,910 a year on average. That salary is higher than the average $39,170 annual household income for the state. Positions in Charleston pay $46,050 a year, and paralegal jobs in the Huntington area pay $44,230 a year. Morgantown’s average annual salary for paralegals was $45,720 a year.
West Virginia Related Organizational Links
- Legal Assistants Paralegals of Southern West Virginia (LAPSWV)
- National Capital Area Paralegal Association
- Defense Trial Counsel of West Virginia
Education Programs for Paralegals in West Virginia
- Master of Divinitiy - Law Studies
- Master of Business Administration in International Legal Studies
- Master of Business Administration in American Legal Studies