Overview of Non-Attorney Legal Professions
In addition to attorneys, there are a wide range of legal professions. Most require specialized education beyond high school, but the amount of education is dependent upon the career and can range from certificate or diploma programs, to bachelor degree programs and even advanced degree programs. Some of the more popular of these careers are:
Educational Requirements for Legal Careers
The legal professions listed above differ significantly from each other and, as one might expect, they have different educational requirements.
Court Reporter Educational Requirements
Court reporters must have a high school education or equivalent. Depending on which type of court reporting, educational programs can take any where from a year to 4 years. Programs of study must typically be from state licensed and/or approved programs. These programs are typically offered by postsecondary vocational schools and career schools and colleges.
Criminalists/Crime Scene Investigator/Crime Scene Technician/Forensic Technician Educational Requirements
Typically an individual interested in this career will obtain a bachelor's degree from with a major in criminalistics, chemistry, biology, or forensic science. Some crime labs may require advanced degrees. Lesser degrees such as an associate degree can qualify a person for forensic identification specialist positions.
Criminal Justice Educational Requirements
Educational institutions offer certificate, diploma, undergraduate, and graduate degrees in criminal justice. To maximize prospects for employment, individuals interested in this profession should consider obtaining a bachelor degree in criminal justice. An associate degree may be sufficient for entry level criminal justice positions.
Legal Assistant / Paralegal Educational Requirements
Most legal assistants or paralegals have an associate degree in paralegal studies. Some may have a bachelor's degree along with a certificate in paralegal studies. Education is typically obtained from community colleges, or career schools that offer paralegal training programs.
Legal secretaries typically obtain the skills needed for employment from high school vocational education programs or to 1- or 2-year programs in office administration offered by business schools, vocational-technical schools, community colleges, and career schools.
Evaluating Schools for a Non-Attorney Legal Education
For a detailed description of a process for evaluating schools for legal programs of study, see "Choosing A Career School". To summarize the process outlined in that article, when evaluating a career school for a legal program of study, an individual should:
It is very important when evaluating the school and program of study to assess the accreditation status of both the institution and the program of study.
Accreditation is a process of peer review by non-governmental agencies to insure the quality of a school and the programs of study that it offers (see: "Accreditation in the United States", U.S. Department of Education (USDE), for more information on accreditation). It is very important to obtain a legal education from a school that is accredited to maximize the acceptance of that education by prospective employers. It is also important to obtain one's education from a school that is accredited by an accreditation organization that is recognized by the USDE in order to be able to obtain Federal financial aid if needed (see: "Overview of Accreditation", U.S. Department of Education).
Schools that offer legal programs of study may be accredited by regional accrediting agencies, national accrediting agencies, and/or specialized accrediting agencies. Following is a listing of accrediting agencies that may accredited a school that offers legal programs of study:
National Accrediting Agencies
Regional Accrediting Agencies
Specialized Accrediting Agencies
Licensing and Certification Requirements for Legal Careers
Licensing and certification requirements, if any, vary by chosen legal profession.
Court Reporter Licensing and Certification
Some states that use the voice method of court reporting require voice writers to pass a test to earn licensure. They typically will also accept one of the National Verbatim Reporters Association's national certifications (Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR), Certificate of Merit (CM), and Real-Time Verbatim Reporter (RVR)) as a substitute for state licensure.
Other states require that court reporters pass a state test to become a Certified Court Reporter (CCR). Some states even require that court reporters become notary publics.
There are also opportunities for court reporters to obtain voluntary certification from the following organizations:
Criminalists/Crime Scene Investigator/Crime Scene Technician/Forensic Technician Licensing and Certification
There are no licensing or certification requirements for these professions.
Criminal Justice Licensing and Certification
There are no licensing or certification requirements for criminal justice professions.
Legal Assistant / Paralegal Licensing and Certification
Licensing and certification is not a requirement to become a paralegal. Most employers do not require voluntary certification, however obtaining certification may enhance a candidates job prospects. Following are the available voluntary certifications for legal assistants / paralegals:
Legal Secretaries Licensing and Certification
There are no mandated licensing or certification requirements for Legal Secretaries. Voluntary certification is available from:
Legal Career Resources
For Court Reporters
For Criminalists/Crime Scene Investigator/Crime Scene Technician/Forensic Technician Professions
For Criminal Justice
For Legal Assistants / Paralegals
For Legal Secretaries