Fire Up Your Florida Paralegal Career

Paralegal Education in Florida

Flag of Florida

Flag of Florida (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Florida is ranked as the nation’s third highest employment state for paralegals. The metropolitan areas of Fort Lauderdale, Tallahassee, Miami and West Palm Beach each rank in the United States’ top ten paralegal populations. The upward trend of paralegal work is projected to create more than 70,000 new jobs by 2018. More and more companies and corporations are looking to paralegals rather than the traditional attorney to help ease the burden on the payroll, keeping the lawyer more in the courtroom and the paralegal in the office. This has expanded the field vastly, providing new opportunities to paralegals that were once reserved for lawyers.

There are three ways to qualify for registry: defined by the Florida Bar Association a paralegal must have education and work experience, certification, or be grandfathered into the registry program. Every paralegal must work supervised by of a bar-certified attorney. They cannot provide legal advice, and their supervising attorney is culpable for the professional actions and ethics of the assistant.

The first method is through a combination of education and work experience and this can be satisfied in five different ways: 1) Minimum one year of paralegal work experience plus a Bachelor of Art’s (BA) degree in paralegal studies from paralegal program approved by the ABA 2) Minimum three years of paralegal work experience plus a BA from an institution accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency 3) at least two years of paralegal work experience plus an Associate of Art’s (AA) degree in paralegal studies from an approved paralegal program 4) A minimum of four years of paralegal work experience and an AA degree from an institution accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency, and finally 5) a minimum of one year of paralegal work experience combined with a Juris Doctor degree from an ABA-accredited institution. (A Juris Doctor degree is a graduate degree in law and a professional doctorate, taking either three or four years to completion.)

The second method of qualifying for the Florida Paralegal Registry is to forgo the work experience and instead take one of two specialized exams and be on good terms with the associations that sponsor them. First mentioned is the NALA Certified Paralegal designation, gained by successfully completing the certified paralegal examination offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants. The second is the PACE Registered Paralegal designation, resulting from the passing completion of the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam, which is sponsored by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.

The third way to make the Florida Registry was only available through the beginning of 2011. The rule regarding this states a paralegal not meeting one of the other two requirements may still register in Florida as a paralegal. They do this by supplying testimony from a supervisory or employing attorney that the individual applying for registration has completed paralegal work experience for five of the eight years immediately preceding the date of confirming testimony.

Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 3,889 registered paralegals in Florida as of July 2010. The median salary for this occupation within the state is about $45,000. While there isn’t a regulatory department for licensing or certifying paralegals in Florida, the State Supreme Court created Chapter 20 to its existing Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, enforcing strict parameters by which legal assistants can practice; it also created the Florida Registered Paralegal Program.

In USD as of Mar 4, 2013 (source: indeed.com) 25k 50k 75k
Paralegal in Florida $45,000
 

Spotlight School

Educational Establishments

Florida State Capitol, Tallahassee

Florida State Capitol, Tallahassee (Photo credit: StevenM_61)

The paralegal profession is usually unregulated, but the American Bar Association does offer a nod of approval toward certain courses provided by institutions of higher learning that meet the ABA’s high standards. This endorsement increases the credibility of the school, and by proxy, the paralegal.

ABA endorsement is separate from accreditation, which is granted by the U.S. Department of Education. Paralegal courses can be approved by the ABA, while not accredited through the Department of Education, and vise versa. An institution could be both or neither, as well. Be sure to note if one type is preferred over another when applying for a paralegal position.
Florida has nine schools that are approved by the American Bar Association:

Broward College, formerly known as Broward Community College, offers an Associate in Applied Sciences (AAS) program for paralegal studies. The school offers elective internships upon completion of the program.

Edison State College has a paralegal program offering an AAS degree. This course does not require an internship for completion.

Florida State College has a Paralegal Studies program which offers an AAS degree. Internships are mandatory to graduate with a degree.

Miami Dade College is a four-year public college offering both AAS and Bachelor of Science degrees in Paralegal Studies. This school requires internship completion in order to graduate.

Nova Southeastern University has a four-year Legal Studies program, offering a Bachelor of Science course study. This program does not have mandatory internships.

Seminole State College of Florida offers and AAS degree in Legal Studies. The course has a required internship upon completion of the studies.

South University-West Palm Beach is a private, four-year college that offers both an AAS and Bachelor’s programs within Legal Studies. Internships for both degrees are mandatory prior to graduation.

St. Petersburg College offers a Legal Studies program with courses for an AAS, Bachelor of Science and general certification for post-baccalaureate studies. Certification requires a Bachelor’s degree in any other field of study. This school does not require mandatory internships.

Valencia College, formerly known as Valencia Community College,  offers an Associate in Applied Sciences program for Paralegal Studies with an elective internship upon completion.

Firms of Interest

There are a plethora of law firms within Florida that hire paralegals. Below is a small list of some of the top hiring firms in the state.

Akerman-Tallahassee
106 East College Avenue
12th Floor
Tallahassee, Florida 32301
Phone: 850-224-9634
Fax: 850-222-0103

Holland & Knight
515 East Las Olas Boulevard
Suite 1200
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301
Phone: 954-525-1000
Fax 954-463-2030

Fowler White Boggs
501 E. Kennedy Boulevard
Suite 1700
Tampa, Florida 33602
Phone: 813-228-7411
Fax: 813-229-8313

Other Resources for Paralegals

Paralegal Schools in Florida

Campus: Lakeland, FL

Since 1977, Keiser University has maintained a practical, hands-on approach to career education to help our students achieve their personal and professional goals.  Our student-centered approach remains at the foundation of the Keiser University mission and continues to attract students who prefer a more personal learning experience. 

Programs:

  • Master of Arts in Homeland Security
  • Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies

Campus: Fort Myers, FL

Southern Technical College provides education and training in a variety of medical and technical areas that enable graduates to obtain entry-level employment. As a student at Southern Technical College, you will have the opportunity learn in several different ways.

Programs:

  • A.S. - Paralegal

Campus: Online

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Online Education That Fits Your Life

For 80 years, we’ve been preparing students for career success. We’ve led the wayso that our students can too.

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Purdue University, one of the nation's most respected universities, will acquire Kaplan University and create a new, nonprofit, public institution within the Purdue system. Pending regulatory approvals, this exciting transition is expected to take place later this year. This change will be seamless—during the transition, you will still be able to enroll at Kaplan University, earn a high-quality education, and meet your educational and career goals.

Programs:

  • Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology 
  • Associate of Applied Science In Public Safety and Security 
  • BS in Corrections
  • Associate of Applied Science in Legal Support and Services
  • AAS in Criminal Justice

As a student at South University, you will have the opportunity to learn from accomplished faculty members who have real-world experience in the subjects that they teach. Our small class sizes allow you to receive personalized attention from instructors, and the encouragement to recognize your goals for the future and the means to achieve them.

Programs:

  • Criminal Justice (BS)
  • Criminal Justice (MS)
  • Paralegal Studies (AS)
  • Legal Studies (BS)

Campus: Gainesville, FL

In response to the demand of Florida's rapidly growing population, City College is focused on, and committed to, providing the best in business and career education.

Programs:

  • Criminal Justice

Campus: Miami, FL

Florida Technical College has structured its Health Care, Technology, and Programming curricula to achieve one thing for its students: success in the real world.

Programs:

  • Criminal Justice with emphasis on Homeland Security - Bachelor Degree

Paralegal Jobs in Florida