Become a Paralegal in Virginia

According to CNN Money, there were 24 Fortune 500 companies based in Virginia in 2012. Freddie Mac, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Capital One Financial and companies like them all need legal counsel and both law firms and in-house legal departments need support teams with practical legal knowledge to deal with the myriad of documents, pleadings, litigation and filings of all kinds that are involved in conducting business. Compounding this is the geographic proximity of Alexandria and Richmond to Washington, D.C., the U.S. Naval Station at Norfolk and the U.S. Army post at Fort Myer, as well as the numerous civilian bases needed to support these government entities, all of which contribute to a vibrant environment, teeming with the need for individuals with paralegal skills.

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May 2012 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that over 8,600 paralegals and legal assistants were employed in Virginia. The concentration of paralegal positions is particularly high in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division (as defined by the BLS), with more than 10,800 paralegals and legal assistants employed there. The hourly mean wage was $24.51, the mean annual wage was $50,990 and top-paid paralegals made as much as $76,540 a year.

Paralegal Certification

There is no certification requirement for paralegals in the state of Virginia; however, the Virginia State Bar, an agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia, issues codes of conduct that pertain to lawyers and the paralegals they supervise. Further information on recommended education and certification can be found at the Virginia Alliance of Paralegal Associations (VAPA) website.

Where to Earn Your Paralegal Certificate or Degree in Virginia

Paralegal Certificates

  • Thomas Nelson Community College

    A two-year community college, Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) serves Hampton and Newport News through its Hampton campus, located just across the water from Norfolk. The Legal Assistant Certificate offered at this camps requires 30 credits to complete, and is designed to give students a basic knowledge of the law, along with writing and research skills to aid them in the legal workplace. 

    • Estimated Program Cost: $3,705 for state residents; $9,003 for out-of-state students; $3,705 for military contract students; $5,505 for business contract students (based on spring 2014 per credit hour tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma, GED or age 18 or above
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: On campus or hybrid (on campus and online)

    Sample required courses:

    • College Composition I & II
    • Introduction to Law & the Legal Assistant
    • Legal Research
    • Trial Preparation & Discovery Practice
    • Legal Transactions
    • Principles of Public Speaking
  • Lord Fairfax Community College

    Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC) has campuses in Warrenton, Middletown and Luray, serving the Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont regions; it offers an Office Legal Assistant/Paralegal Studies Certificate. This three-semester (one-year) program prepare students for entry-level paralegal positions or national certification. This school also offers an Associate of Applied Science in paralegal studies.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $3,920 for state residents and military contract students; $9,571 for out-of-state students; $5,840 for business contract students (based on 2013 per credit hour tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma, GED or age 18 or above
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: On campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Legal Research
    • Ethics for the Legal Assistants
    • Family Law
    • Legal Writing
    • Torts
    • Trial Practice & the Law of Evidence

Paralegal Associate Degrees

  • American National University (Roanoake Valley Campus)

    American National University is a private institution that offers a paralegal associate degree at both its Roanoke Valley and Dayton Area campuses. The Mayor of Roanoke, an attorney himself, has stated that he found graduates of this program “to be well taught, knowledgeable about the law and prepared to go into the legal field.” Both day and evening classes are offered and military personnel and their families are welcomed. Military Advanced Education Magazine voted this university a top military friendly college.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $36,052 (based on 2013 full-program tuition and fees)
    • Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent
    • ABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On campus
  • Northern Virginia Community College

    Northern Virginia Community College offers an Associate of Applied Science in paralegal studies at its Alexandria campus. Students can pursue this program to prepare for an entry-level position or to add to their credentials, as well as use it as a stepping stone to a four-year degree. Classes cover multiple aspects of law, as well as the research, writing and other skills sought in today’s competitive workplace. Both day and evening courses are offered.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $9,305 for state residents and military contract students; $20,956 for out-of-state students; $13,205 for business contract students (based on 2013-2014 per credit hour tuition)
    • Requirements: High school diploma, GED or age 18 or above and able to benefit from enrollment
    • ABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Intro to Communication
    • Legal Aspects of Business Organizations
    • Legal Writing
    • Trial Practice & the Law of Evidence

Paralegal Bachelor’s Degrees

  • Hampton University Online

    The Bachelor of Art Degree in Paralegal Studies offered by Hampton University Online gives students the flexibility to learn around their own schedules. This program provides a liberal arts education and specialized legal training through eight-week sessions or 16-week sessions. This course of study also emphasizes critical thinking and legal skills to prepare students for paralegal careers.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $57,706 (based on 2013-2014 per credit hour tuition)
    • Requirements: High school diploma or GED
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: Primarily online (some courses may require campus visits)

    Sample required courses:

    • Law in Society
    • Legal Research
    • Torts & Personal Injury
    • Contemporary Legal Ethics
    • Law Office Management
    • Constitutional Law
  • South University, Virginia Beach

    South University offers a Bachelor of Science in paralegal studies at its Virginia Beach campus that combines a strong base in general education with courses that cover the theory and practical application of law. Students gain the basic writing, research, technological and analytical skills needed to work as paralegals while developing sensitivity to political and cultural diversity.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $80,925 (based on 2013 full-program cost for full-time students)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED; SAT score of at least 900, combined ACT score of at least 19 or a satisfactory score on the university-administered admissions examination
    • ABA Approved: No (Other South University programs in Alabama and Georgia have been approved; however, as of 2013, this program is not eligible for submission for approval until it has had graduates and been operating for at least two years.)
    • Format: On campus

Additional Paralegal Educational Programs

Professional Organizations

  • The Virginia Alliance of Paralegal Associations (VAPA) is an alliance of paralegal associations in the state.
  • The Fredericksburg Paralegal Association (FPA) was established in 1996 to serve as a forum where the concerns of legal assistants and paralegals in all sectors are addressed. It holds monthly meetings and provides scholarships for those in paralegal education programs.
  • The Local Government Paralegal Association of Virginia, Inc. (LGPA) is an association of paralegals employed in government positions throughout Virginia.
  • The National Capital Area Paralegal Association (NCAPA), based in Washington, D.C., is comprised of paralegals living or working in the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland and northern Virginia. NCAPA provides a job bank for members and recruiters as well as continuing education and networking and social events.
  • The Paralegal Association of Northern Virginia is based in Chantilly. It promotes the paralegal profession, educates the legal community regarding the utilization of paralegals, serves as a liaison with bar associations and educational institutions and helps to shape paralegal guidelines.
  • The Richmond Paralegal Association (RPA) facilitates continuing legal education, networking opportunities, a mentoring program and volunteer opportunities. It also offers scholarships and provides a job bank for members.
  • The Roanoke Valley Paralegal Association (RVPA) holds monthly meetings with speakers, gives members access to a solid paralegal network and volunteer opportunities, monitors the activities of local and state bar associations, holds educational seminars and distributes quarterly newsletters.
  • The Shenandoah Valley Paralegal Association (SVPA) is based in Harrisonburg and serves paralegals and students in paralegal programs in the Shenandoah Valley area.
  • The Tidewater Paralegal Association (TPA), based in Norfolk, holds monthly dinner meetings, an annual half-day seminar, study groups for national certification exams and joint seminars with other associations. It also offers a scholarship and maintains a job bank.
  • The Virginia Peninsula Paralegal Association (VAPPA) is based in Newport News. It holds monthly meetings designed to enhance the knowledge and skills of members, offers a certification study group and conducts seminars.