What is a Paralegal? | What does a Paralegal do?
Becoming a Paralegal in Colorado – CO
In Colorado, more than 5,000 people were employed as paralegals according to the 2016 US Bureau of Labor Statistics report. The greatest concentration of paralegals is located in the Denver metropolitan area.
As in other states, paralegals in Colorado are not directly regulated. They must work under the supervision of a lawyer who is responsible for their professional conduct. However, specific education or training requirements are not mandated by the state. This allows aspiring paralegals to pursue career opportunities by obtaining a degree of their choosing and pursue national certification in order to further distinguish themselves.
Several different educational pathways exist for aspiring paralegals: associate’s degrees in paralegal studies, bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies, and certificate programs. There are also a few schools offering master’s level paralegal degrees. Each type of educational program has different entry requirements and these requirements also vary from school to school.
In areas where paralegal jobs are competitive, job candidates may find that an increased level of education can give them an advantage over other applicants. Sometimes employers will state that they wish to hire a “certified paralegal.”
Colorado Job Statistics
- 2016 average income for paralegals in Colorado: $54,240
- 2016 number of paralegals employed in Colorado: 5,750
- Average annual job openings for paralegals in Colorado: 270
They may in fact want a job candidate with a national certification, but most often they are looking for an employee who has completed an educational program to earn a degree or certificate. It is important to understand the difference between the two and to clarify with a potential employer which of the two types of paralegal they are hoping to hire.
Is There Paralegal Certification in Colorado?
Certificated paralegals have earned a certificate showing that they have completed an educational program in paralegal studies. Sometimes, a person who already holds a degree in another area will specialize in paralegal studies by completing a certificate program. Other certificate programs are stand-alone, and do not require that students have completed previous higher educational coursework. Not all programs are approved by the American Bar Association nor are they all accredited. Therefore it is important to research the certificate programs that will best prepare students for employment in Colorado and give future job-seekers an edge over the competition.
The three national paralegal associations offer national certification to candidates who have completed educational programs, gained knowledge through working as paralegals, or both. Information about the exams, eligibility requirements, and recertification is available here.
Certified paralegals are those who have passed such an exam and have been issued certification by a national paralegal association.
The purpose of these national certification exams is to recognize professional paralegals that have mastered the national requirement of legal information and are competent in their field. By certifying paralegals, the national organizations work to increase the visibility and professionalism of their peers.
Currently there are four national exams from which to select:
Professional Paralegal Associations
Colorado supports two professional paralegal associations: the Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association and the Pikes Peak Paralegals.
Since 1977, the Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association (RMPA), an affiliate of the NFPA, has worked to promote the paralegal profession, provide continuing education and specialization opportunities, encourage networking and increase collaboration between individuals and organizations.
With members from all of the Rocky Mountain States, including Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, the RMPA is able to sustain committees on many vital issues to paralegals, such as pro bono services, education, freelance paralegals, education and family law. They offer information and study materials for those aspiring to become paralegals or earn national certification.
As an affiliate of NALA, the Pikes Peak Paralegals (PPP) also works to increase the professional standing of and demand for paralegals, provide training and education to its members, and offer networking and support for paralegals throughout Colorado. In existence since 1977, the PPP offers regular seminars and events for students and practicing paralegals.
Law firms employ larger numbers of paralegals than any other type of business. It can be useful to research local law firms to determining their hiring requirements and employment opportunities. Large law firms in Colorado include: