Paralegal Careers in Bankruptcy Law
As a paralegal, you have the option to specialize in specific areas of the law. One such area many paralegals specialize in is bankruptcy law. As a paralegal in the bankruptcy law field, you will be involved in every aspect of a bankruptcy case. Bankruptcy cases typically move at a fast pace, resulting in bankruptcy attorneys who need skilled paralegals who can help.
Where Bankruptcy Paralegals Work and What Do They Do
As a bankruptcy paralegal, you could work in a wide array of settings, all of which would involve unique responsibilities and duties.
Within community legal services, which represent low-income individuals with financial problems, paralegals prepare and manage consumer bankruptcy cases under the supervision of an attorney. Job duties within this field typically include:
- Attending or conducting client interviews
- Maintaining regular communication with clients
- Obtaining all information from the client that is needed to prepare and file a bankruptcy petition and the related forms
- Maintaining attorney and court schedules
- Preparing clients for the Section 341 meeting
- Drafting reaffirmation agreements
- Solving problems to avoid liens, utility cut-offs, garnishments, repossessions, and foreclosures
- Drafting plans of reorganization and monitoring payment plans for Chapter 13 cases
Paralegals in legal departments of government agencies, financial institutions, and corporations often work as part of the institution’s legal staff. Job duties in this area typically include:
- Providing documents to support bankruptcy claim
- Protecting their employer’s interests regarding unpaid taxes
- Preparing and filing proofs of claims on behalf of their employer
- Reviewing bankruptcy notices and pleadings
- Obtaining updates of the progress of the case until it is resolved
- Drafting various motions
Paralegals in law firms specializing in bankruptcy cases often work with legal teams and an attorney who represents one of four types of clients:
- Creditors – Working for creditors often involves many of the same responsibilities as those held by paralegals working for in-house legal departments.
- Debtors – Paralegals working for debtors have a wide range of tasks they can be called on to complete, including attending client meetings, gathering information from clients, preparing drafts of legal documents, helping with the sale of assets, and assist the attorney with any other assigned tasks.
- Committees – Paralegals who work for law firms that represent creditor or equity holder committees in Chapter 11 cases often perform duties like gathering and analyzing information about the debtor’s unsecured and secured debt, reviewing the debtor’s monthly financial reports, track development in the case, prepare liquidation analyses, and prepare applications to obtain fees and secure reimbursement of expenses incurred by the committee
- Trustees – Paralegals who work for trustees often complete job duties like preparing applications and orders for retaining appraisers, auctioneers, and accountants, overseeing document production and control in contested matters or adversary proceedings, analyzing and preparing objections to claims, assisting in bankruptcy litigation, and preparing pleadings for the sale of assets.
Along with the above, paralegals also have the option of becoming independent bankruptcy paralegals. If you want to work independently, consider establishing your own firm to provide bankruptcy services either directly to consumers or to legal service providers. As an independent paralegal, you can deliver low-cost legal services to clients who have uncomplicated legal needs that do not involve an attorney.
Education and Certification Options for Paralegals in Bankruptcy Law
To be a successful paralegal, you must receive the proper training and earn some good experience. The easiest way to become a paralegal in bankruptcy law is to complete a paralegal program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). The ABA approves educational programs in paralegal studies at every level. Students have the option to complete a/an:
- Certificate program
- Associate degree program
- A bachelor’s degree program
Many paralegal professional associations recommend that students complete a program of at least 60 semester credits, which is equivalent to an associate’s degree, and an internship that lasts at least six months. The course work will provide students with a comprehensive education in all areas of law, while an internship will provide them with the opportunity to earn valuable experience.
In the competitive job market, many employers prefer paralegals who have earned professional certification. While paralegal certification is voluntary, it is commonplace within the paralegal profession. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers an advanced course in Commercial Bankruptcy, while the National Federation of Paralegal Associations offers an advanced specialty certification in Foreclosure and Creditor/Debtor Law. If you are interested in receiving this specialty certification, you must complete a four-course sequence delivered online. The four-courses include:
- Real estate
- Bankruptcy law
- Foreclosure law
- Debtor/creditor law
Salary and Job Outlook for Paralegals in Bankruptcy Law
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of paralegals is projected to grow 8 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. The BLS also reported that the median annual wage for paralegals was $48,810 in May 2015. According to the data, the lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,670, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,010.
If you are interested in a career as a paralegal, be sure to review the valuable information on this site to determine what you need to do to qualify.