Can a Paralegal Become a Lawyer?

Are you considering entering the legal field? You have many options ahead of you — and not all of them point to law school! Whether you choose to pursue a career as an attorney or as a paralegal, your career can be challenging, fulfilling, and financially rewarding.

Responsibilities of Paralegals

Paralegals perform a variety of important tasks, typically within law firms, to support attorneys. Key responsibilities can include assisting with trial preparation and legal research, performing clerical work, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents.

What Can an Attorney Do That a Paralegal Can’t?

In the United States, paralegals are not licensed to give legal advice or represent clients in court. Attorneys lean on paralegals and other members of their legal team for support behind the scenes, but the attorney is ultimately responsible for all legal matters.

Educational Requirements for Becoming an Attorney vs. Becoming a Paralegal

Educational Requirements to Become an Attorney

Students interested in becoming an attorney will need a bachelor’s degree in any subject, a law degree from an accredited school, and will need to pass a state bar exam within their specific jurisdiction. This process, on average, will take a student around seven years to complete.

Educational Requirements to Become a Paralegal

Most employers seek paralegal professionals with an associate degree or bachelor’s degree from a program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). UC Online offers both an ABA-approved Associate of Applied Business (AAB) in Law & Paralegal Studies and Bachelor of Science (BS) in Law & Paralegal Studies.

Students who already have an associate or bachelor’s degree in any field can also consider a post-associate or post-baccalaureate certificate program; this additional year of education can help you enter the paralegal field or advance your competitive standing and increase your earning potential.

How Is Paralegal Education Different from Law School?

A degree in paralegal studies tends to be highly practical, focusing on hands-on skills that paralegals can put to work right away. If you decide to pursue law school after a paralegal studies program, you’ll already have a helpful base of relevant skills to work from, including a legal vocabulary and an understanding of practical application of the law.

Law schools place a larger focus on theoretical skills such as analysis, critical thinking, and deductive reasoning.

Is It Worth It for a Paralegal to Become an Attorney?

Attorneys certainly have the higher earning potential, but the path also requires much more education. Many students find that the return on investment (ROI) for becoming a paralegal is greater for this reason — lawyers earn more eventually, but paralegals can begin earning their salary right away, with as little as a year of additional education.

Lawyers and paralegals can both expect to find ample job prospects.

How To Become a Lawyer If You’re Already Working as a Paralegal

Are you already actively working as a paralegal and wondering how to transition into practicing law? Your experience as a paralegal will help you with that move, as you will already have a strong base of skills and working knowledge of law basics.

Next you’ll take your law school admission test and eventually earn your law degree, which typically requires two years of additional study. After completing law school, you’ll need to pass the state bar exam in the area you are hoping to practice. You may need to meet additional criteria, such as Professional Responsibility courses.

Can University of Cincinnati’s Online Law and Paralegal Studies Programs Prepare Me for a Career as an Attorney?

Yes! Earning your Associate of Applied Business or Bachelor of Science in Law & Paralegal Studies can prepare you to enter law school by helping you build a foundation of legal experience, terminology, and relevant skills. However, many Paralegal Studies students decide not to pursue law school at all, instead choosing to continue a very high-demand and fulfilling career in the paralegal field.


Begin Your Degree in Paralegal Studies Today

Whether you are considering a career as a paralegal or using paralegal studies as an on-ramp to beginning law school and eventually working in law offices, you can start your journey at UC Online. Classes are fully online, with no required campus visits, and degree paths are flexible to allow you to balance school with the demands of your busy life. Reach out today to begin moving toward your goals in the legal field.


Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public, except as permitted by law.
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