A paralegal is a profession that has seen an increase in demand over the past few decades. Paralegals are usually employed by law firms or government agencies and work as legal assistants, providing support to lawyers and judges.
There are many reasons why someone might want to become a paralegal, such as for personal fulfillment, job satisfaction, financial security, or even just curiosity about how the law works. However, there are also some drawbacks to this career that should be considered before making any decisions. Here we will take a look at both sides of the issue so you can make up your own mind on whether a paralegal is right for you.
1. What Is a Paralegal?
A paralegal is a legal professional who assists lawyers, often in a support role. Paralegals are not lawyers and may not give legal advice or represent clients in court. However, they often have a deep knowledge of the law and the legal system and play an important role in helping lawyers prepare for cases and trials. Whatever country they are in, paralegals have a set of national or regional rules governing their contracts with clients and the scope of their activities.
The word “paralegal” is also used to refer to an untrained person who knowingly assists in the violation of the law, either by processing forged legal documents or providing other services that aid lawbreakers. Such activities are considered a form of “assisting in the crime.”
In the United States, paralegals must possess at least an associate degree or have completed a formal legal training course that qualifies them to work as a paralegal. In addition to working under the supervision of lawyers, paralegals may also be employed by government agencies, legal aid clinics, and law offices.
2. Duties of a Paralegal
• Keeping legal records such as pleadings and correspondence
• Preparing legal forms, checklists, and reminders
• Researching the law and factual information to be used in court cases
• Assisting lawyers with legal research by providing relevant materials from various databases
• Drafting correspondence, discovery requests, declarations, subpoenas, etc.
• Preparing for depositions or hearings by doing background checks and drafting questions for witnesses
• Attending and taking notes during depositions or hearings
• Drafting reports of deposition proceedings, court decisions, and other legal matters
• Organizing files to keep track of important information
3. How to Become a Paralegal?
Often, paralegals are referred to as legal assistants or legal secretaries. However, although a secretary may handle some tasks usually assigned to a paralegal, the two positions remain distinctly different: Paralegals and Legal Assistants (also known as “Legal Secretaries”) should not be confused with other forms of administrative staff such as the secretary in an office setting.
The terms paralegal and legal assistant are used interchangeably, yet it is important to note the difference between the two titles: A paralegal is a person who has received formal training in law with some real-world experience under their belt. A legal assistant may have little to no education or experience related to law and may be employed in a non-legal capacity (such as a secretary).
Earning a paralegal certification can be a first step towards finding employment as a paralegal. Certification will not only prove the holder’s dedication to the field of paralegal studies, but it also allows them to stand out from other job applicants. It can help them obtain promotions and salary increases and make them more valuable to their employers.
The Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) designation is one of the most widely recognized paralegal-specific credentials. Earning it requires passing an exam, plus some hands-on experience and education in addition to holding a high school diploma or GED.
Law schools provide students with the opportunity to gain practical legal experience through law clinics and internships. Students also have the opportunity to gain experience through a variety of internships.
One way students can gain experience is by joining a moot court club at their school and/or competing in interscholastic moot court competitions. These provide students with an opportunity to learn how to research, write briefs, and argue cases under pressure. Many paralegal career training courses include moot court competitions.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has established various requirements for the certification of paralegals across the country.
Paralegals work closely with attorneys in providing legal information and services, which is why it’s crucial to be aware of what you can and cannot do when working for a law firm. Once you have obtained a degree in paralegal studies, you should then continue to gain hands-on experience by completing an internship while still in school and applying to various law firms once you’ve graduated.
After becoming a working member of the legal team at a law firm, it is important for paralegals to continually seek opportunities to increase their knowledge and skills. New technology brings a fresh array of legal issues that paralegals must be aware of if they want to stay abreast with the law.
The following are related positions:
- Legal Secretary/Legal Assistant
- Records Clerk/Court Reporter
- Court Administrator/Bailiff
- Legal Administrator/Assistant
- Legal Transcriptionist
- Paralegal Specialist
- Certified Legal Document Preparer (for example, in Arizona) Paralegal Licensing and Certification Board.
4. Skills Required for a Paralegal
A paralegal is a legal assistant who performs delegated legal work. They usually have an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies. In order to be successful as a paralegal, they need to have strong organizational skills, research skills, writing skills, and communication skills. They should also be able to work independently and be able to manage their time efficiently.
A paralegal’s core is the ability to research and organize information. In order to do this, they need strong computer skills, including writing in Microsoft word and excel as well as understanding how the internet works. They should have excellent written communication skills so that they can create accurate legal documents. Paralegals also handle a lot of administrative work that requires attention to detail, so they should have good keyboarding skills.
5. Salary of a Paralegal
A paralegal is a person who is trained in the law but who is not a lawyer. A paralegal’s job is to help lawyers with their work. Paralegals usually earn a salary, which can vary depending on the country where they work. In the United States, for example, the average salary of a paralegal is around $50,000 per year. This is a good salary in the United States, but paralegals in London can earn an average of £37,000 per year.
In New York City and Chicago, the average salaries for paralegals are closer to $60,000 per year. In California, the average salary of a paralegal is under 50,000 U.S. dollars per year, but this can vary depending on the area of California where they work. The average salary in rural areas is under $40,000 per year. This low salary may be due to the fact that there are fewer jobs in rural areas than in cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco.
6. The Job Outlook for a Paralegal
A paralegal’s job outlook is good. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 17 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. The main reason for this growth is the increasing demand for legal services from a growing and aging population. As the need for legal services increases, so does the demand for paralegals.
According to the BLS, “advancements in technology that allow firms to perform more tasks in-house have led to decreased demand for paralegals, especially in large law firms.” This is not necessarily a bad thing considering recent reports of overworked and overstressed lawyers.
7. Pros and Cons of Being a Paralegal
Pros of being a paralegal include:
- You can be more involved in various aspects of the law.
- Being a paralegal is a stepping stone to becoming a lawyer.
- There are different career paths you can take as a paralegal depending on your educational background and interests.
- You can get paid more than most other jobs for an undergraduate degree.
- Paralegal experience is helpful when applying to law school or considering a legal career.
Cons of being a paralegal include:
- Generally, you will have to pay for college if paralegal classes are not offered at your high school.
- You may or may not be able to find a job as a paralegal without going to college first.
- It takes time and dedication to become a competent paralegal. Many new graduates lack experience and rely on senior paralegals for guidance.
- The field is very competitive and may not offer a lot of job security or room to advance.
- You must have an interest in the law, as it is difficult to become a competent paralegal on just a part-time basis. Many lawyers rely on their paralegals for a variety of tasks, which means most paralegals are overworked.
8. Paralegal Job Satisfaction
The Paralegal job satisfaction survey was conducted to understand the level of satisfaction that paralegals have with their current position. The survey was sent to a random sample of 2,500 paralegals and had a response rate of 24%.
The results of the survey showed that the majority of paralegals (82%) are satisfied with their current position. Only 18% of respondents said they were dissatisfied with their current position.
When asked about the factors that contribute to job satisfaction, the top three responses were: good work/life balance (35%), interesting work (33%), and good pay and benefits (30%).
9. Top Recruiting Companies for a Paralegal
The top recruiting companies for a paralegal are:
- 1. Pro skills Group
- 2. Actionable Intelligence Resources
- 3. Veracity Staffing Inc
- 4. Ridgeline Law, PLLC
- 5. Jobaline Inc
- 6. Justice Professionals Inc
- 7. Galorath Incorporated
- 8. Learning Tree International, LLC
- 9. CareerSource Florida, Inc., dba CareerSource Tampa Bay
- 10. Stokes Law Group, PLLC
10. Best Colleges to Study Paralegal
There are various colleges that offer paralegal courses. The best colleges to study paralegal, however, are those that have a dedicated paralegal program. The college should also have well-qualified and experienced faculty who can provide students with the right training. The curriculum of the program should be updated regularly to ensure that students are getting the latest information and skills. Finally, the college should have good placement opportunities so that students can get a job after they graduate. Some of the best colleges to study paralegal are listed below.
- University of the District of Columbia Community College
- Northeastern University
- Glendale Community College
- The University of New Mexico
- New England Law | Boston
- University of West Los Angeles
- Lincoln University
- Western State College of Law
- Saint Joseph’s University
Paralegals enjoy a good career outlook, with job prospects projected to grow by 16 percent from 2016 to 2026. This is much faster than the average for all occupations. Paralegals are in high demand due to their knowledge of legal procedures and their ability to help lawyers prepare for cases. If you’re looking for a challenging and rewarding career, becoming a paralegal may be the right choice for you.