What Does it Take to be a Good Paralegal?

Although they’re not always given the recognition they deserve, paralegals have been boosting the legal system since the 60s. Their vital bodies of work have won cases, upheld the law, and kept the justice system intact. But aside from Erin Brockovich and the fictional Rachel Zane, do people really know other paralegals in history?

Here are two of the most accomplished paralegals who have taken their profession to new heights.

A Brief History of Paralegals

According to the National Association of Legal Assistants, the very first paralegals came into work in the 60s. The rising demand for legal services meant that there weren’t enough lawyers to answer the call and that even if there were, the costs would be unaffordable to the average person. To address this, the federal government established the Legal Services Corporation, which provided funding for low-cost legal clinics and prepaid legal plans. Alternatives to the traditional practice were developed by law practitioners and the organized bar. Among the solutions the group came up with was the employment of legal assistants or paralegals.

In 1967, the American Bar Association endorsed the paralegal concept. In 1968, the first committee on legal assistants, which later became the Standing Committee on Legal Assistants, was established. In the early 70s, the first formal training programs for paralegals were created.

Kelly S. Holdcraft

After spending 15 years in the DC legal community, Kelly S. Holdcraft helped trained generations of paralegals through legal fundamentals curriculum at Georgetown Paralegal for 38 years. Now, she serves as the Director of and Adjunct Professor in Georgetown University’s Paralegal Studies Program.

Holdcraft was recently the Professional Development Coordinator at Hogan & Heartson LLP. She coordinated legal skills and knowledge-based training for over 1,100 attorneys worldwide.

Holdcraft earned her Paralegal Certificate at the Philadelphia Institute for Paralegal Training. She finished her BA in Michigan State University.

Holdcraft is also currently the University Liaison and Project Manager for ‘Mom Congress,’ an education advocacy conference held annually by Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies and Parenting Magazine.

The Paralegal Career

Paralegals earn a median salary of $46,680 a year or $22 an hour. There are currently 256,000 paralegals working around the U.S. Over 600 schools offer paralegal programs across the country – this number is still growing.

Celebrities like Ellen Degeneres, Patricia Heaton, and Richard Schiff all began their careers as paralegals.

Jamie Collins

Jamie Collins started as a part-time receptionist at a small law firm 14 years ago. Now, she is a successful litigation paralegal at Yosha Cook Shartzer & Tisch, a personal injury law firm in Indiana. She also writes a column for KNOW, a paralegal magazine.

Collins is the founder of The Paralegal Society, an organization where the members are encouraged to share tips, insights, and other helpful information to other paralegals across the US. They provide mentorship and support for all in the profession.

Collins is also a part of the Peer Review Board for the Institute for Paralegal Education. There she also wrote several educational articles. She is a Voting Member of the Indiana Paralegal Association, which is a part of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.

Collins earned her associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies from Ivy Tech Community College in 2003. She is now pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at the Marian University in Indianapolis, Indiana.

A career in the paralegal profession offers a fulfilling and fruitful role in the legal industry. If you want to join the ranks of these inspiring individuals, earning your own paralegal degree is the first step.  

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