Paralegal Education in North Carolina
North Carolina believes in its paralegal force; it ranks fifth in the nation for employing over 10,000 legal assistants according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011. The majority of those are working in the Winston-Salem and Raleigh areas while the less metropolitan regions also boast a high concentration. As with so many other states, there are no set rules for educational requirements -anyone can become a paralegal as long as that is their official job title. No one authority governs the field, but the number of paralegals is so vast in North Carolina that the North Carolina State Bar, or NCSB, drew up a plan for paralegal certification in 2004 that was subsequently adopted by the State Supreme Court. Again, like most other states in the Union, this certificate is offered in exam format and is voluntary, but passed it grants the paralegal title of Paralegal Certified by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Paralegal Certification, North Carolina Certified Paralegal, or North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal. This is a state certificate, different from the national certificate exams, and sponsored by the NCSB.
The one rule that must be obeyed is what a paralegal is defined to not be able to do: they cannot misrepresent themselves as lawyers, charge for time as a lawyer, offer legal advice, or represent a client in the courtroom. A paralegal is under the direct supervision of the attorney whom they assist and that attorney is ultimately responsible for the professional conduct of the paralegal and also for their instruction in ethics and confidentiality. Otherwise, they are capable of executing almost everything once reserved for an attorney.
|In USD as of Feb 28, 2013 (source: indeed.com)||30k||60k||90k|
|Paralegal in North Carolina $47,000|
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The NCSB would prefer all paralegals In North Carolina to have a minimum level of education, that of Associate’s degree, but there is, as yet, no required education. A paralegal can be trained on the job if the opportunity arises, but generally employers will set the bar and, the field being as competitive as it is, choose to hire those with a proven amount of competency in the profession already. Not only can an Associate in Arts degree (AA) be desirable, but a Bachelor of Art’s degree (BA), Bachelor of Science degree (BS), Post-Baccalaureate certification, Master’s degree, or a Juris Doctorate would be in high demand. A formal education for an entry-level legal assistant all but guarantees higher starting pay, better benefits and more room for advancement. Many potential employers will choose a paralegal whose competence and knowledge is assured rather than training someone as they go.
Degrees offer certification, while the aforementioned Certified Paralegal of North Carolina is something different. To become Certified in this state, one can take and pass the NCCP (North Carolina Certified Paralegal) exam or there are four exams offered on a national level sponsored by three national associations, all seeking to further establish and enhance the standing of paralegals nation-wide. They are the PACE and the PCC, both sponsored by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA); the CLA/CP sponsored by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA); and the PP sponsored by the Association for Legal Professionals (NALS). The educational or experience requirements vary between exams, so look over the chart to see which applies best to you. The cost of each exam also varies.
Which Schools to Choose
There are a number of points to keep in mind when choosing a school for your degree in paralegal studies or criminal law, among other courses you can take. It looks better and is more impressive to graduate from an ABA approved school. This means the American Bar Association has awarded the school their stamp of educational approval; that school has met their stringent rules for paraprofessionals. An accredited school is one that has met the requirements, overall, for an establishment that meets or exceeds certain guidelines set forth by a regional, local or national entity such as the Department of Education. A school can be ABA approved, and/or accredited, or neither. It is highly recommended you enroll in a school that is accredited and in a course that is ABA approved. North Carolina has seven ABA approved schools:
Carteret Community College in Morehead City offers a 2-year AS degree in Paralegal Technology, focusing on substantive legal work and procedural knowledge. Internships are mandatory.
Central Piedmont Community Collegein Charlotte offers an Associate of Applied Science degree (AAS) or Post-Baccalaureate Certification. The AAS last 2 years full-time and covers liberal basics, and the Post-Bacc lasts about one year as basic educational classes have already been fulfilled. Internships are elective.
Fayetteville Technical Community College located in Fayetteville extends a 2-year AS in Paralegal Technology.
Meredith College in Raleigh is a private institute that has a Post-Bacc degree/certification for those who have already gained their Bachelor’s degree in any discipline. It can be completed in 2 evening semesters or one intensive semester. Internships are elective.
Methodist University in Fayetteville is a private 4-year university offering a minor in legal studies.
Pitt Community College located in Greenville is a public, 2-year college offering an AAS in Paralegal Technology. Internships are elective. It’s five semesters for full-time day students or six semesters for full-time evening students.
South College in Asheville is a proprietary school offering both an AAS (2 year) degree in Paralegal Studies or a 4-year BS in the Legal Studies. Internships are mandatory.
Law firms are big employers of paralegals, as may be expected, though they are not the only potential hirers. Government agencies, banks, immigration offices, divorce lawyers, corporations and even small business all employ paralegals. The easiest to find and contact, however, are the law firms. Below you will find a truncated list of the largest in the state, with many being international.
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton
214 North Tryon Street
Charlotte, NC 28202-2381
Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, LLP
2000 Renaissance Plaza
230 North Elm Street
Greensboro, NC 27401
T: (336) 373-8850
F: (336) 378-1001
1600 Wells Fargo Capitol Center
150 Fayetteville Street
Raleigh, North Carolina 27601
T: (919) 839-0300
F: (919) 839-0304
1213 Culbreth Drive
Wilmington, NC 28405
T: (910) 509-7215
F: (910) 509-7221
The Van Winkle Law Firm
11 North Market Street
Asheville, N.C. 28801
T: (828) 258-2991
422 South Main Street
Hendersonville, N.C. 28792
T: (828) 697-6196
Ward and Smith, P.A
82 Patton Avenue, Suite 300 (28801)
Post Office Box 2020
Asheville, NC 28802-2020
Post Office Box 8088
Greenville, NC 27835-8088
Overnight Delivery: 120 West Fire Tower Road
Winterville, NC 28590
1001 College Court (28562)
Post Office Box 867
New Bern, NC 28563-0867
Wade II, Suite 400
5430 Wade Park Boulevard (27607)
Post Office Box 33009
Raleigh, NC 27636-3009
127 Racine Drive
University Corporate Center (28403)
Post Office Box 7068
Wilmington, NC 28406-7068
Cranfill, Summer & Hartzog LLP
5420 Wade Park Boulevard, Suite 300
Raleigh, NC 27607
PO Box 27808
Raleigh, NC 27611-7808
T: (919) 828-5100
F: (919) 828-2277
2907 Providence Road, Suite 200
Charlotte, NC 28211
PO Box 30787
Charlotte, NC 28230
T: (704) 332-8300
F: (704) 332-9994
319 N. 3rd Street, Suite 300
Wilmington, NC 28401
T: (910) 777-6000
F: (910) 777-6111
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