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There are many different jobs within the legal industry. Some positions require a specialized type of education, knowledge or experience in order to be successful. The job of probate paralegal is one such position. A probate paralegal is someone employed by or supervised by an attorney who works within the realms of real estate law and/or wills and estates. Depending on the jurisdiction, there are varying requirements in the areas of education and certification that are necessary if you want to become a probate paralegal.
In order to become a probate paralegal, you must start by understanding what a probate paralegal does. A probate paralegal works under the direct supervision of a licensed attorney. Often, it is the paralegal's job to conduct client interviews, research case law, conduct title searches and draft documents. Paralegals also manage correspondence, phone calls and calendars as well as general office work flow. Some paralegals assist attorneys in court hearings.
Next, it is necessary to become familiar with the laws of the jurisdiction in which you live. Some countries and states require a certain level of education and certification. Others require only certain conditions of employment to be met in order to claim the title legally. Education, testing and certification might be necessary, depending on the jurisdiction where you want to work.
If your jurisdiction does not require a certain type of education, it is possible to become a probate paralegal by applying for a lower-level job within a probate law firm. Many paralegals in these jurisdictions got their beginnings as file clerks or legal secretaries who proved their worth and moved up through the ranks. Basic legal education still is recommended and definitely is helpful to accomplish this task. Should you need assistance in determining the requirements to become a probate paralegal in your community, contact your local legal association.
For the jurisdictions that require education, most colleges offer a degree or certificate program in paralegal studies or criminal justice. Many colleges offer formal or extension credits in real estate, insurance and wills and estates. These classes will be immensely helpful in your quest to become a probate paralegal. Probate paralegals often deal with issues of guardianship of the person or estate of the elderly, young or disabled. Classes in sociology and psychology can be helpful as well.
Many jurisdictions require that candidates who wish to become a probate paralegal take and pass a standardized exam. If this is required, find out the requirements to take the exam. Some of these tests require that you work as a paralegal for a certain number of years or have a degree in a certain area in order to sit for the certification examination.
After the appropriate education and test scores have been obtained, a good résumé must be prepared. The résumé should list not only education and relevant work history but also skills and abilities that will make you an asset to the law firm to which you are applying. Send a cover letter with your résumé, introducing yourself and asking for an interview.
At interviews, be confident and genuine. Be prepared to answer general legal questions, probate-specific questions and questions regarding ethics and procedure. Show your intelligence, knowledge and professionalism, and it will not be difficult to reach your goal of becoming a probate paralegal.
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