Become a Paralegal in Florida

Florida employs more paralegals per capita than any state in the United States except California and New York, so the outlook is good for those in this profession in the Sunshine State. And, since this state is home to many diverse industries and communities, you’re likely to find a niche that is right for you.

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May 2012 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that 23,240 paralegals were employed in the state, with an average hourly wage of $22.36. The annual mean wage was $46,500, but paralegals in prime positions and working overtime made as much as $67,920 a year.

Paralegal Certification

Florida has a registered paralegal program, which is strictly voluntary (and separate from the professional certification credential offered by organizations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)). The rules for Florida’s paralegal registration, which can be found in Chapter 20 of the rules regulating the Florida Bar, have evolved in recent years. Here are some basic aspects of these rules:

  • You do not have to register as a paralegal to work as a paralegal in Florida.
  • An individual who does not work under the supervision of an attorney cannot become a Registered Paralegal or use the title of paralegal when providing services to the public.
  • A person may become a Registered Paralegal by meeting one of several specific requirements concerning education and work experience, or by becoming certified by certain national paralegal associations.
  • As of March 1, 2011, an individual cannot become a Registered Paralegal based on work experience alone.

Where to Earn Your Paralegal Certificate or Degree in Florida

Paralegal Certificate Programs

  • Florida International University

    The paralegal certificate program offered by the Florida International University’s Legal Studies Institute is comprised entirely of legal courses: five core courses, 10 specialty courses and 15 seminars. Classes are held in the evenings and on weekends to accommodate working adults, and the program can be completed in as little as a year. An online paralegal certificate program is also available, and can be completed in three trimesters.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $6,150 for the on-campus program (based on 2013 program tuition cost); 6,900 for the online program (based on 2013 per trimester tuition rates)
    • Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: On campus or online

Paralegal Associate Degrees

  • Broward College (formerly Broward Community College)

    With numerous locations in south Florida, Broward College was ranked among the top 10 percent of community colleges in the U.S. by the Aspen Institute. Its Associate of Science in Legal Studies is offered at its North Campus in Coconut Creek, as well as at its South Campus in Pembroke Pines, and evening classes are available to accommodate working students. Students in this 64-credit program can take part in internships and access career services to help them find employment following graduation.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $4,826 for state residents; $19,315 for out-of-state students (based on spring 2014 per credit hour tuition)
    • Requirements: High School Diploma or GED
    • ABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On campus
  • Florida State College at Jacksonville

    The 64 credits’ of courses that comprise Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Associate of Science in paralegal studies are taught by practicing attorneys and other legal professionals. From them, students learn the basic principles of many types of law, legal research and writing, document preparation, ethics and litigation, as well as explore law-related technology and gain critical thinking skills. Prior to graduation, each student completes a mandatory internship and experiences how classroom knowledge works in the real world.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $6,584 for state residents; $25,553 for out-of-state students; $12,907 for eligible Georgia residents (based on 2012-2013 per credit hour tuition)
    • Requirements: High School Diploma or GED; students must be U.S. citizens or in a lawful immigration status
    • ABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On campus

Paralegal Bachelor’s Degrees

  • Nova Southeastern University

    Located north of Miami in Fort Lauderdale-Davie, the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences at Nova Southeastern University offers a Bachelor of Science in paralegal studies. Students are prepared for entry-level positions in law firms, corporations, the government, medical companies and beyond through a course of study that emphasizes practical application. Classroom learning is augmented by a distinguished speaker series, a mock trial team, internship opportunities and local and national conferences. Students who wish to earn a graduate degree after completing a bachelor’s degree can also apply to the Dual Admission Program, which allows students to be guaranteed a spot in the university’s graduate school before they even begin tackling bachelor’s-level coursework.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $99,000 (based on 2013-2014 per-year, full-time tuition rate)
    • Requirements: High school diploma with a GPA of at least 3.0; SAT score of 1000 or higher (combined math and verbal only); overall ACT score of 22 or higher
    • ABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On campus or hybrid (on campus and online)

    Sample courses required:

    • Advanced Litigation
    • Torts and Civil Litigation
    • Wills, Trusts, and Estates
    • Corporate Regulation and Exchange
  • St. Petersburg College

    Located in Clearwater, St. Petersburg College offers a Bachelor of Applied Science in paralegal studies with evening classes taught by practicing attorneys and judges. This affordable program uses assignments that replicate real life to help students develop strong skills in critical thinking, as well in oral and written communication. It’s the only bachelor’s degree program in paralegal studies in the state that’s approved by the ABA

    • Estimated Program Cost: $7,122 for state residents; $18,980 for out-of-state students (based on fall 2013 upper-division tuition for 60 credits)
    • Requirements: High School Diploma or GED; at least 15 hours of transferable general education coursework; completion of an Associate of Science in paralegal studies, an Associate or Arts or at least 60 credits from a regionally accredited institution. (Students admitted without an Associate of Science must complete 18 hours of paralegal-related coursework before enrolling in upper-level classes.)
    • ABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On campus

Additional Paralegal Programs

Professional Organizations

  • The Paralegal Association of Florida, Inc. (PAF) works to promote and enhance the paralegal profession. Its 11 chapters across the state hold monthly meetings that provide networking and educational opportunities. Many of these chapters provide continuing legal education for their members, as well as access to job banks and scholarships.
  • The Central Florida Paralegal Association Inc. (CFPA), an Affiliated Association of NALA, is for Central Florida paralegals/legal assistants who desire to promote high standards of professionalism in their career field. CFPA offers a wide range of professional and personal benefits to each member, including educational opportunities, continuing education credits, professional development, student development, job referral service, and a voice in national affairs.
  • The Northeast Florida Paralegal Association supports paralegals and legal assistants in the Jacksonville, FL area, as well as students preparing for careers in the field. Members benefit from professional events, continuing education, and more.
  • The Northwest Florida Paralegal Association is associated with the National Association of Legal Assistants. The organization works to promote continuing education in region, as well as the professional growth of the field.
  • The South Florida Paralegal Association is associated with both the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). Members can attend low-cost monthly luncheon seminars that provide continuing education credit, and can access an informative members-only website and career opportunities.
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