Become a Paralegal in the District of Columbia

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There’s no other way to say it: The outlook for the paralegal profession in Washington D.C. is outstanding. Washington D.C. is the hub of the legal world, a hot spot of legislation, litigation, government and business. Cases originating in every state have the possibility of ending up in Washington D.C. in the Supreme Court. The district is home to the headquarters of major law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, the White House and numerous other government entities, and serves as the base of numerous lobbyists, environmental groups, civil rights groups, private enterprises and think tanks. And, every last one of them affects or is affected by the law–usually both.

*Whether you’re looking to earn an undergraduate degree in preparation for the Certified Paralegal Exam, or ready to advance your career with a master's degree in legal studies, accredited online programs make it easier than ever to get the education you need:

Washington University School of Law offers an online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program. This 12-month master's degree allows paralegals to gain in-depth knowledge of US Law. The program can be completed without relocating or leaving your job. No GRE or LSAT scores required.

More paralegals and legal assistants are employed in Washington D.C. than in any state in the nation. Reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that 6,420 paralegals and legal assistants were employed in the Washington D.C. area in 2012. Salaries there reflect not only the high demand for paralegals, but also the demand for quality paralegals with solid legal knowledge. BLS reports showed that the hourly mean wage was $33.10 and the annual mean wage was $68,850, both of which are higher than in any state. Paralegals in prime positions (usually those with the best education and the most experience) made as much as $70,000.

The BLS projects an 18 percent increase in paralegal and legal assistant positions nationwide between 2010 and 2020. Some towns and states hit harder by the economy may not experience this rate of growth, but the District of Columbia is likely to reach or exceed this prediction.

Due to the intense need for paralegals with legal knowledge, the requirements for paralegal positions are often elevated. In the District of Columbia, a paralegal education is frequently an absolute necessity, with the rewards and challenges being proportionally high.

Paralegal Certification

Although there is no mandatory certification or licensing of paralegals in the District of Columbia, it’s one of the places where certification is often necessary for a successful paralegal career.

Where to Earn Your Paralegal Certificate or Degree in the District of Columbia

Paralegal Certificates

  • Georgetown University

    Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies offers a certificate in paralegal studies, a rigorous program that gives students both legal and technical competencies. Georgetown boasts graduates who have gone on to successful careers as paralegals in the legal arena, the corporate environment, nonprofits and government; others have continued their education in law school. Students may choose one of two schedules: a year-long, part-time evening program or an intensive summer program that involves a 10-week course of study followed by a four-week internship at a law firm, corporation, non-profit, private equity firm or federal agency. Georgetown also offers continuing legal education courses in emerging legal fields for lawyers and paralegals.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $9,200 (based on 2013-2014 full-program tuition)
    • Prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree
    • ABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On Campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Advanced Legal Research & Writing
    • Advanced Litigation & Trial Practice
    • Legal Technology
    • The Professional Paralegal
    • Corporate Law Practice
    • Introduction to Administrative Law
    • eDiscovery
  • Howard University School of Law

    Howard University School of Law offers a comprehensive paralegal certificate program designed to help students enhance existing careers or launch new careers. This program takes a different approach than programs at many other schools: rather than fill the program with courses in substantive law, Howard School of Law emphasizes transferable skills, including training in stages of litigation, evidence, interviewing clients, index research, legal analysis, legal forms, discovery preparation, file maintenance and the use of Westlaw and Lexis. Successful graduates may post their resumes on the school’s website for prospective employers and have free access to the Howard Law Paralegal Companion website, which includes career support tools such as exercises, templates, research labs and writing labs. In addition to the on-campus program is an online program that covers the same material and can be completed at the student’s pace. Howard also offers paralegal specialist certificate programs in more than 20 areas of law for those who wish to be more knowledgeable and competitive in specific fields.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $4,995 for the on-campus program; $6,995 for the online program; $1,195 for specialist programs (based on 2014 full-program tuition)
    • Prerequisites: None specified except for students seeking a specialist certificate; these students must have a paralegal certificate, an associate degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor’s degree with a paralegal major.>
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: On campus or online

    Sample required courses:

    • Motions, Notices and Briefs
    • File Maintenance
    • Utilization of Legal Forms
    • Preparing for Depositions
    • ABA Rules of Ethics
    • Tickler and Calendaring Systems
  • Paralegal Institute of Washington D.C.

    The Paralegal Institute of Washington D.C. is a licensed higher-education learning center, offering a paralegal certificate program that can be completed through day, evening or weekend classes. The program can be completed in 15 to 20 weeks and all courses are taught by experienced lawyers and limited to 12 students. Students learn substantive and procedural law, along with practical skills necessary to be a productive member of a legal team working under the supervision of an attorney. The school offers lifetime retraining for those who wish to review previous courses, as well as professional advising and an alumni and student career forum. The program culminates with a 120-hour internship that allows students to gain real-world experience, network with legal professionals and improve their career potential.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $3,500 (based 2014 full-program tuition; a $500 discount may be available when tuition is paid in advance)
    • Prerequisites: None specified
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: On Campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Legal Research & Writing
    • Federal Civil Procedure
    • Family Law
    • Paralegal Tasks
    • Civil Rights
    • Criminal Law
    • Contracts

Associate Degrees

  • Penn Foster College

    In an August 2013 U.S. News & World Report article about the costs of online education versus the cost of programs at brick-and-mortar schools, Penn Foster College was highlighted as an online school that offers lower tuition rates. Its Associate of Science in paralegal studies familiarizes students with the U.S. court system, legal terminology, conducting legal investigations, legal writing and research, ethics and professional responsibility. It can be completed in four semesters and is equivalent to 63 credit hours.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $3,555 (based on 2014 full-program tuition, including all books and learning materials)
    • Prerequisites: 17 years old; high school diploma or equivalent
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: Online

    Sample required courses:

    • Legal Terminology and Critical Thinking
    • Information Literacy
    • Law and the Legal System
    • Investigations and Interviews

Paralegal Bachelor Degrees

  • Post University

    Post University was founded in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1890, and has developed a tradition of quality education using progressive means. It was an early adopter of online learning and in 2013, it was mentioned on U.S. News & World Report‘s list of the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs. Post’s online Bachelor of Science in legal studies combines a comprehensive liberal arts education with major courses covering substantive and procedural law. This program is conveniently offered in eight-week modules, six times a year. Courses are practice-based and interactive, and students have frequent contact with professors with advanced degrees and experience in the legal field. Students also have access to the University Writing Center and one-to-one tutoring services at no additional charge.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $66,000 (based on 2013-2014 full-program tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: Online

    Sample required courses:

    • Legal Writing
    • Civil Litigation Practice
    • E-Commerce: The Legal Context
    • Patent, Trademark & Copyright Law

Professional Organization

  • The National Capitol Area Paralegal Association (NCAPA) is comprised of paralegals living and working in the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland and northern Virginia. Dedicated to the advancement of the paralegal profession, the association offers numerous membership benefits including access to a job bank, continuing legal education, involvement in NCAPA committees and networks, social events, networking opportunities, newsletter subscription and discounts on seminars and educational programs. Student memberships are encouraged.
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