How to Become a Paralegal in California and Excel at Your Career

If you’re fascinated by the legal world but don’t have the time to become an attorney, consider registering for the MTI paralegal program. It gives you the education you need to work in a law firm, government agency or corporate legal department, assisting lawyers and performing many of the same duties.

The MTI paralegal program provides you with the minimum requirements for paralegal in California. In just two years or less with a prior qualifying degree, you can earn your associate degree in paralegal studies and prepare to begin a career that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says is growing. In addition to the need for paralegals in law firms, California is expecting jobs to grow in the private sector in major cities as corporations expand and diversify their legal departments.

Read on to learn more about what it takes to be a paralegal in California and how the MTI paralegal program can prepare you for your career.

What are the California state requirements for becoming a paralegal?

California imposes stronger regulations on paralegals than in other states. Although the state doesn’t require licensing, Business and Professions Code section 6450, et seq. establishes qualifications for becoming a paralegal. If you graduate from the MTI College Paralegal Studies program, you will have met the necessary requirement: receiving a degree from an American Bar Association (ABA)-approved program. The ABA requires paralegals to have completed a minimum of 24 semester (or equivalent) units of legal courses.

What are the necessary traits a paralegal should possess?

Besides having an interest in working in the legal field, possessing the following traits would help you in the paralegal field:

  • Good organizational ability
  • Keyboarding and basic computer knowledge
  • Attention to detail
  • Attentive listening skills
  • Sound reasoning
  • Strong reading comprehension
  • Research skills
  • Good oral and written communication skills
  • Strong backbone
  • Sense of humor
  • Persistence

How the MTI paralegal program prepares you for a paralegal career in California

In just two years, or less, you can earn your associate degree. Your second-year instructors are a faculty of paralegals, attorneys and other legal professionals who instruct you in a small-group setting. They will teach you how to apply analytical and critical thinking to legal principles in coursework that includes:

  • Legal Research
  • Introduction to legal terminology and procedures
  • Legal software and e-Discovery
  • Legal writing and analysis
  • Civil litigation principles
  • Areas of substantive and procedural law

You can complete your studies on campus with a traditional program, or participate via the OnlinePlus training course. The latter offers Internet-based instruction and is ideal for those who must balance family obligations with education or with work. You may only need to be on campus one night per week while completing other courses online.

Once you have successfully completed your first year of study, MTI encourages you to seek a legal internship or a part-time job as a file clerk, legal secretary or any type of legal administration work concurrent with the OnlinePlus or traditional second-year program. This will provide you with additional experience and a better chance of finding a paralegal position when you graduate.

What MTI students say about the paralegal program?

The best way to learn what to expect at MTI is to hear what other students and instructors are saying about the paralegal program:

It exceeded all my expectations.” – Curtis Missal, MTI Paralegal Student

MTI tries to use the same technology and software that are being used in many of today’s law firms, so you really teach a hands-on approach, and as technology changes, we try to implement those advances … into how we teach the students. A lot of students have different learning styles, so it’s really trying to connect with everybody while also teaching effectively to all the students.” – Allen Delgado, Law and Technology Instructor

Already being in the field and coming back to school was difficult, but it was a challenge that I was up for. MTI will help me get there because they’ve prepared me for it.” – Simone Robertson, MTI Paralegal Student

There were some neighboring colleges—some really reputable colleges and universities—that offered a paralegal program, but it was not ABA approved. It’s just the education you need for the career you want, and you’re getting some good education and training.” – Deborah Stoeckle, MTI Paralegal Student

What you will do as a paralegal

As a paralegal working under a supervising attorney, you will play a vital role in your company. You will be able to perform many duties the attorney does except practice law, negotiate payments and accept clients. Some of them include:

  • Searching research databases to find case law and legal precedents
  • Drafting legal documents using litigation software
  • Interviewing and communicating with clients
  • Assisting with trial preparation and depositions

Other things you can do to complement your MTI degree and enhance your career

Completing the MTI paralegal program is the first step. Then, once you’re out in the workforce, you may decide to study for national certification that enhances your legal knowledge and improves your value in the legal world. The Commission for Advanced California Paralegal Specialization, Inc. recommends that you take an exam for optional certification to become a Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) or Registered Paralegal.

The reward is that attorneys recognize your additional level of knowledge and investment in your career. The certification enables you to specialize in one of five law fields—business and organizations, real estate, family law, civil litigation, and estates and trusts—that could help you advance your career.

In addition to certification, or in lieu of it, you could join a local California paralegal association. Many are members of a national association, such as NALA (National Association of Paralegal Assistants) and NFPA (National Federation of Paralegal Associations). This is a great way to network with others and stay abreast of the latest news in your chosen career.

If you have the interest and the necessary personal traits to become a paralegal, enroll now in the MTI College Paralegal Studies program for the education you need to get that important first job.

Want to learn more about MTI’s programs?

Our admissions team will help you find the perfect program to meet your goals. Financial aid is available to those who qualify.

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