Becoming a Paralegal in Hawaii - HI

paralegal hawaii

Hawaii’s paralegal profession may not be large (home to about 1,070 paralegal jobs), but there’s plenty to get excited about.

Federal agencies like the Department of the Air Force and the Department of the Army… state agencies like the Hawaii Department of Health, the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, and the Hawaii State Judiciary…nonprofit organizations like the Hawaii Fiduciary Organization… corporations like Hawaiian Electric and Alexander & Baldwin… and law firms like Ashford & Wriston, Bays Lung Rose & Voss, Cades Shutte LLP are all home to plentiful paralegal job opportunities.

Whether you’re an aspiring or currently practicing paralegal, learning how to become a paralegal in Hawaii means coming equipped with the right education, credentials, and skills to make you a valuable asset to employers.

The regulation of paralegals has been considered and thus far rejected by both the Hawaii State Bar and the Hawaiian Supreme Court. Under Hawaii’s Rule of Professional Conduct 5.3, any legal “paraprofessional,” including paralegals, must be directly supervised by a lawyer. Lawyers must also assume responsibility for the professional actions of the paraprofessionals in their employ.

Paths to Employment

In Hawaii, one may become a paralegal by completing coursework in paralegal studies, receiving on-the-job training or a combination of the two. Educational options include certificates, associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees and even master’s degrees in paralegal studies.

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To earn a certificate, a paralegal must complete certificate program in paralegal studies.  Some certificate programs require that applicants already hold bachelor’s degrees in another subject. This type of certificate program allows them to focus solely on paralegal studies without the need to complete additional general education classes.

Hawaii Job Statistics

  • Number of paralegals employed: 1,070
  • 2020 average annual salary $55,520

Other certificate programs admit students with no previous degree and issue stand-alone certificates. It is important to research certificate programs as they may or may not be approved by the American Bar Association and their issuing institutions may or may not be accredited. These can be important distinctions to employers or to the national paralegal associations that offer national certification.

Some students may prefer to earn a degree in paralegal studies. Degrees can help distinguish entry-level paralegals from their peers in the job market. Additionally, some paralegal degree programs prepare their graduates for taking the national certification exams.

National Certification

National certification is a voluntary process that paralegals may undertake in order to increase their professional standing, raise the professionalism of paralegals as a whole, or distinguish themselves from their peers in the job market. Some national certification programs also allow paralegals to specialize in certain areas of the law.

Currently, three national paralegal associations offer four different national certification exams.

Eligibility requirements vary from exam to exam.

Paralegal Associations

There are two professional associations for paralegals in Hawaii: the Hawaii Paralegal Association and Hawaii Legal Support Professionals.

The Hawaii Paralegal Association (HPA), based in Honolulu, was founded in 1978 to support the paralegal community with education, information and advocacy. It has developed working relationships with other professionals in the legal community and also works educate the general public about the role of the paralegal. The HPA offers membership to students and professional paralegals. It assists members in obtaining education, certification and continuing legal education (CLE). The HPA is affiliated with the NFPA and offers four levels of membership:

  • Voting Member – Open to anyone employed as a Hawaii paralegal or paralegal supervisor who was formerly a paralegal
  • Associate Member – Open to anyone who meets any of the following:
    • Is a paralegal outside of Hawaii
    • Was formerly employed as a paralegal
    • Is employed in the legal profession as something other than a paralegal
    • Has completed a paralegal education program
  • Student Member – Open to anyone who is a student in an official paralegal education program and not working as a paralegal
  • Sustaining Member – Open to any person or entity that supports the HPA

The Hawaii Legal Support Professionals (HLSP) offers membership to paralegals, legal assistants and other legal paraprofessionals. It is affiliated with NALS and as such supports its members in becoming nationally certified through NALS’ Professional Paralegal (PP) exam.  The HLSP works to increase the professional standing of legal paraprofessionals, provide networking opportunities to its members and offer educational seminars and CLEs. The HLSP is based in Honolulu.

Law Firms

The majority of paralegals are employed by law firms. In Hawaii, the largest law firms are located in the Honolulu area, though some have smaller offices throughout the islands. Hawaii’s largest law firms include:

  • Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel
  • Cades Schutte
  • Carlsmith Ball
  • Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing
  • McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon
  • Starn O’Toole Marcus & Fisher
  • Kobayashi Sugita & Goda
  • Torkildson Katz Moore Hetherington & Harris
  • Damon Key Leong Kupchak & Hastert
  • Imanaka Kudo & Fujimoto

Important Contacts for Paralegals

May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary, growth, and job market trends for paralegals and legal assistants. Figures represent state data, not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed December 2021.

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