How to Become a Paralegal in Illinois (Steps and State Requirements)

Are you considering a career as a paralegal in Illinois? With a thriving legal market and diverse opportunities, it’s an excellent choice for those seeking a rewarding and challenging profession. In this comprehensive guide on how to become a paralegal in Illinois, we will explore the steps to becoming a paralegal, the roles and responsibilities of this dynamic career, and tips for success in the Illinois paralegal profession. Let’s begin on this exciting journey together by discovering a promising paralegal career path in your state of Illinois.

What you’re going to learn in this article:

  • Explore pathways to become a paralegal in Illinois, including traditional education, internships and on-the-job training.

  • Gain experience through qualifications, internships/volunteering or optional certification for career advancement.

  • Network with industry professionals and pursue continuing education for success as an Illinois Paralegal.

Pathways to Paralegal in Illinois

Illinois offers various routes to become a paralegal, catering to different preferences and circumstances. Whether you prefer a traditional education route or gaining experience through internships and on-the-job training, there’s a pathway for everyone.

Moreover, earning an optional certification can further enhance your credentials and job prospects. We’ll further examine these pathways to assist you in making an informed career decision.

Education Options

Making an impression on law offices across public and private sectors in Illinois requires a strong foundation in paralegal education. Aspiring paralegals can choose from paralegal certificate programs, associate or bachelor’s degree programs in paralegal studies from ABA-approved schools in Illinois. Employers generally prefer applicants with a certificate, associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. Ensure the paralegal program is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) and the educational institution holds accreditation.

Attending an ABA-approved program is particularly advisable in Illinois, as these programs possess a higher level of prestige and professional currency compared to non-ABA-approved programs. With a solid educational background from an ABA-approved institution, you’ll be well-prepared to excel in the competitive Illinois legal market.

Gaining Experience

Beyond formal education, acquiring experience is critical for skill development and networking in the paralegal field. Internships, volunteering, and on-the-job training are all effective means of obtaining experience as a paralegal in Illinois. These experiences not only help you fine-tune your skills but also provide opportunities to network and build relationships with other legal professionals.

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree or certificate in paralegal studies, accruing work experience in the field, and obtaining certification if desired, are all excellent methods to gain experience and enhance your paralegal career prospects in Illinois. With a combination of education and hands-on experience, you’ll be well-equipped to thrive in the Illinois paralegal landscape.

Optional Certification

While not required in Illinois, obtaining a paralegal certification can enhance a paralegal’s credentials and job prospects. Professional paralegal organizations provide national certifications. These include the Certified Paralegal (CP) from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), and the Registered Paralegal (RP) from the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). These certifications demonstrate proficiency and can bolster your job applications in the competitive Illinois legal market.

To be eligible for the CP and RP exams, you generally need a degree and a certain number of years of paralegal experience. By obtaining these optional certifications, you signal your commitment to the profession and showcase your expertise, making you an appealing prospect to potential employers in Illinois.

Roles and Responsibilities of Illinois Paralegals

Paralegals in Illinois perform a wide range of tasks, including drafting legal documents, providing clients with pertinent information regarding their case, and gathering evidence for trial proceedings. They are an essential component of the legal team, working closely with attorneys and other legal professionals to ensure the smooth functioning of law firms and legal departments.

However, bear in mind that paralegals in Illinois are not authorized to provide legal advice. They must adhere to the ethical guidelines and restrictions set forth by the American Bar Association. By understanding and respecting the boundaries of their roles, paralegals can contribute significantly to the success of their legal team and the satisfaction of their clients.

Illinois Paralegal Employment Opportunities

Paralegals can find employment in law firms, government agencies, and corporate legal departments throughout Illinois. The Chicago area, in particular, holds the most job opportunities for paralegals, with large law firms such as Baker McKenzie, Sidley Austin, McDermott, Will & Emery, and Mayer Brown employing paralegals. Noteworthy companies like Kraft Heinz, Boeing, and Archer Daniels Midland may also have job openings for paralegals.

To connect with local law firms and organizations, consider the following:

  • Internships and networking through college and university career centers

  • These opportunities can provide valuable experience and connections

  • Increasing your chances of securing your dream paralegal position in Illinois.

Paralegal Salaries in Illinois

Salaries for paralegals in Illinois vary depending on factors such as location, experience, and employer type. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for paralegals in Illinois was $57,180 per year as of May 2018. The Chicago area, for example, offers a higher median wage for paralegals at $51,700 compared to Springfield, with a median annual salary of $46,190.

Other areas in Illinois that offer higher annual wages for paralegals include:

  • Naperville

  • Schaumburg

  • Champaign

  • Decatur

  • Peoria

As you progress in your paralegal career and gain experience, you can expect your earning potential to increase, making this profession a financially rewarding choice in the Illinois legal market.

Illinois Paralegal Associations and Networking

Joining local paralegal associations can provide professional development, networking opportunities, and increased earning potential. The Illinois Paralegal Association and the Chicago Paralegal Association are two of the most beneficial associations for paralegals in Illinois. By becoming a member, you gain access to valuable resources, events, and connections that can help you advance your paralegal career.

In addition to joining professional associations, paralegals should also attend industry events and connect with other professionals online. Networking is key to staying abreast of industry developments and unearthing job opportunities. By actively engaging with the paralegal community, you increase your chances of success in the competitive Illinois legal market.

Online Paralegal Programs in Illinois

Online paralegal programs cater to those pursuing an Illinois paralegal career, offering flexibility and accessibility. These programs enable students to gain the necessary skills to become a paralegal from the comfort of their own home, providing the convenience of completing coursework remotely. Highly regarded Illinois online paralegal programs include:

  • Southern Illinois University

  • Loyola University Chicago

  • College of Lake County

  • Elgin Community College

The advantages of online paralegal programs in Illinois include:

  • Flexibility and convenience

  • Access to course materials from any location

  • Learning at your own pace

  • Accommodating personal and professional commitments

  • Balancing education and other aspects of life

These benefits make online paralegal programs an ideal choice for many aspiring paralegals.

Top Paralegal Schools and Programs in Illinois

If you’re looking for top-rated, ABA-approved paralegal programs in Illinois, consider schools such as Loyola University Chicago and Illinois State University-Normal. At Illinois State University, the paralegal training program includes courses in Introduction to Law for Paralegals, Legal Research I and II, and Litigation I and II. Loyola University Chicago’s paralegal studies program offers concentrations in Civil Litigation, Corporate/Commercial Transactions, Corporate/Real Estate, and Criminal Law.

In addition to these reputable institutions, Southern Illinois University and Elgin Community College also offer Illinois accredited paralegal programs with highly qualified faculty members who are licensed attorneys. By choosing a top-rated, ABA-approved program in Illinois, you’ll receive a high-quality education that prepares you for a successful paralegal career.

Tips for Success in the Illinois Paralegal Profession

Networking forms an integral part of a thriving paralegal career in Illinois. By attending professional events, joining professional organizations, and connecting with other paralegals online, you can establish connections with other experts in the field, remain informed of industry developments, and gain access to job openings. Networking not only helps you build a strong professional network but also provides opportunities to learn from experienced paralegals, increasing your chances of success in the competitive Illinois legal market.

Pursuing continuing education is key to a fruitful paralegal career in Illinois. It enables paralegals to remain abreast of the most recent laws and regulations, as well as acquire new skills and knowledge. Paralegals can pursue educational opportunities such as courses at local colleges and universities, seminars and workshops, and online courses. By investing in your professional development, you demonstrate your commitment to the paralegal profession and position yourself for career advancement.

Lastly, keeping abreast of industry trends is crucial for a thriving paralegal career in Illinois. Paralegals can stay abreast of industry trends by consulting industry publications, attending professional events, and networking with other paralegals online. By keeping up-to-date with the latest advancements in the field and being prepared for any changes, you’ll be well-equipped to succeed in the dynamic and ever-evolving Illinois paralegal landscape.


In conclusion, becoming a successful paralegal in Illinois involves a combination of education, experience, and networking. Pursuing a paralegal degree or certificate from an ABA-approved institution, gaining hands-on experience through internships and on-the-job training, and obtaining optional certification can pave the way for a rewarding career in the legal field. Moreover, joining professional paralegal associations, attending industry events, and staying informed about industry trends are crucial for continued success and growth in the profession.

Whether you opt for a traditional education, an online program, or a combination of both, the Illinois paralegal profession offers diverse opportunities and a promising career path. By following the guidance provided in this comprehensive guide, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your dream of becoming a paralegal in the vibrant and competitive Illinois legal market.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a degree to be a paralegal in Illinois?

In Illinois, a degree is not required to become a paralegal, as work experience and/or completion of a paralegal education program can also qualify an individual for the position. However, most paralegals in Illinois typically hold at least an associate’s degree in paralegal studies or a related subject.

Do paralegals need a license in Illinois?

No, paralegals in Illinois do not need a license to practice law as the state does not have any specific requirements. However, employers may prefer to hire job candidates with some form of formal education and those seeking certification must meet experience and/or educational requirements.

What is a paralegal salary in Illinois?

Paralegals in Illinois earn an average of $60,000 per year or $29.03 per hour, which is about $4,000 more than the national average. The range typically falls between $60,956 and $77,740.

What is a paralegal in Illinois?

A paralegal in Illinois is a legal professional who assists an attorney with tasks such as writing contracts and filing briefs. Paralegals must have sufficient knowledge of legal concepts through education, training, or work experience and must work under the direction of an attorney. Those interested in becoming a paralegal should follow the proper path for success.

What are the pathways to becoming a paralegal in Illinois?

Becoming a paralegal in Illinois requires an educational background, applicable work experience, or certification.

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