Can a Felon Be a Paralegal?

What is a Paralegal – Responsibilities
Can a Felon Be a Paralegal?
Background Checks
What Education/Training does a Paralegal Need?
How much does a Paralegal make?

What is a Paralegal – Responsibilities & Duties

A paralegal is a person that works in a law firm or an attorney’s office and performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.

They assist attorneys by preparing for hearings, trials and maintaining communication with clients.

Some of the paralegal duties include:

  • Investigating the facts of a case
  • Interviewing clients and witnesses
  • Drafting legal documents
  • Maintain and organize reference files
  • Maintaining schedule of the attorney
  • Maintain communication with clients
  • Filing legal documents
  • Attend trials and depositions with attorney

Can a Felon Be a Paralegal?

A felony record won’t prevent anyone from becoming a paralegal. After completing a paralegal program or earning a degree in paralegal studies, finding a job as a paralegal with a criminal record in a law firm or in an attorney’s office is challenging.

Many law firms and large corporate offices will not consider candidates that have a criminal history. However, this doesn’t mean that all companies will reject a candidate just on the basis of felony conviction.

They will consider the length of time that has elapsed since the conviction and the nature of the felony that is on your record.

One hurdle that felons face is that many law firms also require paralegals to be licensed as notary publics.

You cannot obtain this license with a felony conviction unless you get your records expunged, received a pardon, or a certificate of good conduct from your state department.

Background Checks

Background checks are usually done by employers on potential employees. You have to consent to a background check as a part of hiring process.

Background checks generally contain criminal records but can also include credit reports, educational records, driving records, employment history, etc.

What kind of background check is done will depend on the job you are applying for and the state laws. For example, in some states, employers will only look at records that are less than 7 or 10 years old.

Some Felons also have the option to get their records expunged. Certain type of felony records can be expunged after a certain period of time has elapsed since the conviction or the release date.

Expunged records do not show up in background checks giving felons a much better chance of getting a job.

What Education/Training does a Paralegal Need?

There is no specific educational requirement to become a paralegal. One has to attend a paralegal program which may include two year community college or junior college program.

Community colleges offer two year paralegal programs whereas universities and colleges offer four-year paralegal programs. While some employers hire people with two-year degree, most employers now require candidates have a four year bachelor’s degree.

The National Federation of Paralegals (NFP) and The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) recommend choosing a paralegal program that is approved by the American bar Association (ABA).

Although a certification is not required in most states, becoming certified increases the chances of the getting work at the most desirable firms.

Certification is available through the following organizations – National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), The Association for Legal Professionals (NALS) and the American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI).

Employers also prefer that candidate have some work experience working in a law firm or a legal setting. Paralegal programs typically require students to complete an internship as part of their program and gain experience that may lead to employment after graduation.

How much does a Paralegal make?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual wage for paralegal and legal assistants is $55,020 or $26.45 an hour in 2019. The pay varies by state with Connecticut paying the highest average salary followed by California and Washington.

The annual salary will also depend on the whether the job is located in Metropolitan or Non-metropolitan area. Big firms are willing to pay more to experienced individuals.


Getting a job with a felony on your record is difficult, but not impossible. You should not give up on your goals just because you made a mistake in the past and have a criminal history. You should gain all the possible education and skills required to move up in your career and keep applying for jobs until you get one.