Paralegals play an indispensable role in the legal industry. But considering that paralegals have a job description that includes handling potentially sensitive information – information that could play a vital role in the judicial process – many people wonder if a person can become a paralegal despite having a criminal record.
The first step to becoming a paralegal is getting an education. Those who have a criminal record are usually able to enroll in paralegal preparatory courses. But it if the courses are sponsored by the American Bar Association (ABA), enrolling may be more difficult. The ABA is a traditional and relatively strict organization, and usually frowns on criminal activity among its members and associates.
A criminal background check could also be conducted as a part of any paid or unpaid internship or study abroad programs an aspiring paralegal may wish to enter. Each of these programs will likely have its own guidelines for the kinds of previous crimes that may prevent a would-be paralegal from participating.
After graduating, next you must get certified as a paralegal. Once again, guidelines relating to criminal history will depend on the certifying body, and its criminal background check policies. If you have a criminal past, it is best to check with the certifying body before initiating the process of certification, and ask what can be done if the body’s policies would otherwise not allow you to become certified due to your past indiscretions.
When actually applying for a position as a paralegal, most law firms will require you to submit to a background check. Law firms have a lot to lose should some part of the case be compromised by a person who is found to have a criminal history. As such, if you have a background involving a serious criminal conviction, the most relevant factors to your employability will probably be the amount of time that has passed and what you have done to demonstrate good moral character since your conviction.