Judge or magistrate
A bachelor’s degree and work experience usually constitute the minimum requirements for a judgeship or magistrate position. A number of lawyers become judges, and most judges have first been lawyers. In fact, Federal and State judges usually are required to be lawyers. About 40 States allow non lawyers to hold limited-jurisdiction judgeships, but opportunities are better for those with law experience.
Arbitrator, mediator, and conciliators
Training and education requirements for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators differ from those for judges. Mediators who practice in State-funded or court-funded mediation programs usually must meet specific training or experience standards, which vary by State and court. In most States, individuals who offer private mediation services do not need a license, certification, or specific coursework; however, many private mediators and most of those affiliated with mediation organizations and programs have completed mediation training and agreed to comply with certain ethical standards. For example, the American Arbitration Association (AAA) requires mediators listed on its mediation panel to complete an AAA training course, receive recommendations from the trainers, and complete an apprenticeship.
Training for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is available through independent mediation programs, national and local mediation membership organizations, and postsecondary schools. In 2004, 16 colleges or universities in the United States offered master’s degrees in dispute resolution or conflict management, and 2 offered doctoral degrees. Many more schools offer conflict-management specializations within other degree programs. Degrees in public policy, law, and related fields also provide good background for prospective arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators.
Legal training and mediation skills are useful to those in many other occupations, including counselors; lawyers; paralegals and legal assistants; title examiners, abstractors, and searchers; law clerks; and private detectives and investigators.
Paralegal or legal assistant
There are several ways to become a paralegal. The most common is through a community college paralegal program that leads to an associate’s degree. The other common method of entry, mainly for those who already have a college degree, is through a program that leads to a certification in paralegal studies. A small number of schools also offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in paralegal studies. Some employers train paralegals on the job, hiring college graduates with no legal experience or promoting experienced legal secretaries. Other entrants have experience in a technical field that is useful to law firms, such as a background in tax preparation for tax and estate practice or in criminal justice, nursing, or health administration for personal injury practice.
Among the other occupations that call for a specialized understanding of the law and the legal system, but do not require the extensive training of a lawyer, are law clerks; title examiners, abstractors, and searchers; claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators; and occupational health and safety specialists and technicians.
The amount of training required to become a court reporter varies with the type of reporting chosen. It usually takes less than a year to become a voice writer, while electronic reporters and transcribers learn their skills on the job. In contrast, the average length of time it takes to become a stenotypist is 33 months. Training is offered by about 160 postsecondary vocational and technical schools and colleges. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) has approved about 70 programs, all of which offer courses in stenotype computer-aided transcription and real-time reporting. NCRA-approved programs require students to capture a minimum of 225 words per minute, a requirement for Federal Government employment as well.
Some States require court reporters to be notary publics. Others require the Certified Court Reporter (CCR) designation, for which a reporter must pass a State test administered by a board of examiners. The NCRA confers the entry-level designation Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) upon those who pass a four-part examination and participate in mandatory continuing education programs. Although voluntary, the designation is recognized as a mark of distinction in the field. A reporter may obtain additional certifications that demonstrate higher levels of competency, such as Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) or Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR). The RDR is the highest level of certification available to court reporters. To earn it, a court reporter must either have 5 consecutive years of experience as an RMR or be an RMR and hold a 4-year bachelor’s degree.
The NCRA also offers the designations Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC), and Certified CART Provider (CCP). These designations promote and recognize competence in instantaneously converting the spoken word into the written word.