How to Become a Paralegal in Florida

Florida’s dynamic legal environment, offers a wealth of opportunities for legal assistants across various sectors, including real estate, family law, immigration, and environmental law.

Education & Training

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Get information on Paralegal programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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    Broward College
    The Associate of Science degree in Paralegal Studies at Broward College prepares students for a career in the legal field as paraprofessionals. Accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), the program equips students with skills in legal research, document preparation, and more, enabling them to work under attorney supervision. Graduates are eligible to pursue industry certifications such as the Certified Paralegal Exam (CP exam) offered by NALA and the Paralegal CORE Competency Exam (PCCE) by NFPA. The curriculum includes 64 semester credit hours, emphasizing legal specialty courses and internship opportunities, ensuring comprehensive preparation for entry into various legal settings.

    • Davie

    College of Central Florida
    The Associate in Science in Paralegal Studies at CF prepares students for careers in various legal settings, equipping them with essential skills in legal research, document drafting, client interviewing, and more. Taught by attorneys, the program also offers preparation for the Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal Examination and lays a foundation for further education in a four-year program.

    • Ocala

    Florida State College at Jacksonville

    The Advanced Technical Certificate (A.T.C.) in Paralegal Studies at FSCJ is designed for individuals with a bachelor's degree seeking a career change or certification. Approved by the American Bar Association since Fall 2015, this program meets the educational requirements for the Certified Paralegal (CP) exam by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). The 22-credit hour program includes traditional classroom instruction and prepares graduates for employment in various legal environments or as a foundation for future law school studies.

    The Associate in Science (A.S.) in Legal Studies (Paralegal Studies) at FSCJ prepares students for careers as paralegals or legal assistants by providing knowledge in substantive law areas and practical legal skills. The program, which includes a 180-hour internship or a simulated law office class, has been ABA-approved since 1997 and is the only such program in North Florida. Graduates meet the educational requirements to sit for the Certified Paralegal (CP) exam administered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). The 64-credit hour program cannot be completed entirely online due to ABA requirements and is eligible for financial aid.

    • Jacksonville

    Herzing University
    20 month associate degree program online that prepares students for the Certified Paralegal Examination.

    • Orlando, Tampa

    Keiser University
    AA in paralegal studies.

    • Clearwater, Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Lakeland, Melbourne, Miami, Naples, New Port Richey, Orlando, Patrick AF, Pembroke Pines, Port St. Lucie, Sarasota, Tallahassee, Tampa, West Palm Beach

    Nova Southeastern University
    Hybrid certificate program in paralegal studies. Accredited by the Approval Commission of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Paralegals.

    • Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach Gardens, Clearwater

    Rasmussen University
    8 month paralegal certificate online or 18 month Associate's Degree.

    • New Port Richey, Ocala, Tampa, Overland

    Santa Fe College
    The Associate in Science in Paralegal Studies program at Santa Fe College consists of 68 credit hours designed to train students for careers as paralegals or legal assistants in law offices, courthouses, and state agencies. The curriculum covers various areas of law, legal research, and general office skills. Upon graduation, students are eligible to sit for the Certified Legal Assistant Exam administered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) without needing additional employment history, enhancing their professional credentials and job prospects.

    • Gainesville

    South College
    ABA approved Paralegal education program that includes internship.

    • Orlando

    South University

    • Orlando, Tampa, Royal Palm Beach

Educational Requirements

While there is no mandatory education requirement to become a Paralegal in Florida, the large majority of candidates now entering the field possess a minimum of an associate’s degree or certificate in Paralegal Studies.

Paralegal programs are also offered at the bachelor’s level, primarily within the divisions of Political Science or Criminal Justice.

It is to your benefit to attend a program accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) since accreditation attests to the fact that these programs have met strict criteria with regard to curriculum, faculty background, and placement statistics.

american bar association logo

Associate Degree Programs for Paralegal

Associate degree programs are offered by two-year community and junior colleges. The curriculum includes both general liberal arts study and paralegal-specific coursework.

Coursework will include:

  • Introduction to the Paralegal Profession
  • Legal Foundations
  • Research Methods
  • Business law
  • Litigation
  • Legal Research
  • Real Estate law
  • Trust and Estates
  • Criminal Law
  • Real Estate

Graduates will be awarded wither an Associate in Science (A.S.) or Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree.

Bachelor Degree Programs for Paralegal

Several colleges and universities in Florida have developed four-year programs in Paralegal Studies offered in the departments of business, Criminal Justice, or Political Science.

Courses taken during the final two years of study in a bachelor’s program are more in-depth and advanced than those offered at the associate’s degree level and permit students the opportunity to specialize in one or more legal areas as noted above. Bachelor’ level programs also typically offer coursework in law office management.

Graduates of Bachelor’s Paralegal programs typically earn a B.S. or B.A. degree.

Certificate Programs for Paralegal
Certificate programs are offered by community colleges, 4-year institutions and private vocational schools.

Certificate programs are tailored for those students who possess an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a different field of study and seek a career change.

Coursework is similar to that of an associate’s degree with specializations offered in business law, litigation, real estate, and estate planning.

Certificate programs may be completed on an accelerated day schedule lasting from three to six months. Up to two years may be required for those students working and only able to attend part time. Classes are typically offered in the evening and weekends and during summer session.

Many paralegal programs offer an internship experience that provides students with valuable “real-world experience.” Students may be placed in the legal departments of corporations, law firms, government agencies, as well as civil and criminal courts.

Paralegal Certification

As per the Florida Bar Association, certification is not mandatory to work as a Paralegal in Florida. However, most paralegals choose to pursue voluntary certification out of recognition that this will enhance their job prospects.

Certification also confers a certain degree of respect from both employers and colleagues as it attests to a paralegal’s commitment to the profession and expertise within a given specialization. Certification costs $145 (as of November 2011). Learn more about becoming certified by the Florida Bar.

The National Association of Legal Assistants logo

The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) has established standards for the certification of paralegals. These standards include a combination of experience and education.

Those who meet these requirements are able to sit for a two-day examination, now administered exclusively online. Upon passing you will receive the designation Certified Legal Assistant (CLS) or Certified Paralegal (CP).

Certification is valid for five years during which time paralegals will need to participate in 50 hours of continuing education coursework to renew their credential. This coursework may be completed via online or in-class study.

Paralegal Salary

The following are average salaries for entry level Paralegals in regions of the state.

Area Name Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
Cape Coral-Fort Myers $26.52 $55,160.00
Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin $24.09 $50,110.00
Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach $23.88 $49,670.00
Gainesville $24.25 $50,430.00
Homosassa Springs $20.70 $43,050.00
Jacksonville $27.54 $57,270.00
Lakeland-Winter Haven $24.07 $50,060.00
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach $28.54 $59,360.00
Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island $27.24 $56,660.00
North Florida nonmetropolitan area(1200006) $21.93 $45,620.00
North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton $25.30 $52,630.00
Ocala $22.31 $46,400.00
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford $25.75 $53,550.00
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville $26.16 $54,400.00
Panama City $22.89 $47,600.00
Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent $24.84 $51,670.00
Port St. Lucie $24.53 $51,010.00
Punta Gorda $24.65 $51,270.00
Sebastian-Vero Beach $24.34 $50,620.00
Sebring $21.32 $44,340.00
South Florida nonmetropolitan area(1200003) $23.63 $49,150.00
Tallahassee $24.06 $50,050.00
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater $29.15 $60,640.00
The Villages $23.15 $48,160.00

Occupation: Paralegals and Legal Assistants (SOC Code232011)

Career Overview

Paralegals now have responsibility for many of the tasks once the sole purview of attorneys. However, Paralegals remain prohibited from providing legal advice to clients, setting fees, or representing clients in court (with the possible except of administrative court proceedings).

The specific tasks of paralegals vary depending on their specialty. Two of the most common practice areas are described below.

Corporate Paralegals

Corporate law offers a wide variety of sub-specialties, such as contracts, copyright, commercial real estate, patents and trademarks, as well as banking and securities, among others.

Partial list of responsibilities:

  • Assist in the preparation of contracts for various business dealings
  • Prepare corporate resolutions and notice of incorporation for new firms and, quarterly reports for shareholder reports, and annual reports with financial statements;
  • Prepare all paperwork for mergers and acquisitions;
  • Review and monitor new government regulations to ensure the firm’s compliance—especially with regard to banking and securities law;
  • Assist with dissolution and wind-up of businesses;
  • Prepare buy/sell contracts, leasing agreements, and promissory notes for business loans for the purchase of commercial property.
  • Prepare mortgage and closing documents for both residential and commercial properties, and represent clients at property closings.

Litigation Paralegal

There are also several specialties within the area of litigation, such as criminal law, civil law, medical malpractice, labor law, torts (product liability) family law, criminal law, medical malpractice, employment law, trust and estates, elder law and torts (product liability).

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Analyze legal documents related to court proceedings and create/maintain case files;
  • Collect and coordinate evidence for use at agency hearings or trial;
  • Help prepare witnesses for trial testimony;
  • Use such databases as Lexus and Nexus to conduct research in preparation for trial. May also research law-related journals for applicable case law.
  • May represent clients at administrative hearings (e.g. entitlement and housing court).
  • During trial, paralegals may assist with the drafting of legal arguments, prepare ay pre-trial motions, obtain witness affidavits if unable to appear, and organize all evidence files so they are easily accessible to attorneys during trial.

Working as a Paralegal is an excellent choice for those interested in exploring a legal career without the commitment to three years of law school. Paralegals have become important members of the legal team, combining interesting and challenging work with excellent earnings potential. Paralegals with several years experience may be promoted into positions of Senior Paralegals taking on advanced responsibilities, such as case management, along with training and supervision of junior paralegals.

Career Outlook

Employment prospects of Paralegals are excellent with an anticipated growth rate of 28 percent through 2018, representing a much faster than the rate for most other occupations. This growth stems primarily from the needs of business to obtain cost efficient legal services, as well as by the expanding specialties of environment law, health care law/medical malpractice, and elder law. The rising popularity of pre-paid legal plans should also contribute to the rising demand.

Search Paralegal Programs

Get information on Paralegal programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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