How to Become a Paralegal

Paralegal: A Quick Look
Median Salary$46,990 per year $22.59 per hour
Entry-level EducationAssociate’s degree
On-the-job trainingNone
Primary employersLaw Firms, Corporate Legal Departments, Government Agencies
Number of positions (U.S.)277,000
Job Growth (2012-2022)17% (Faster than average)
New positions (2012-2022)46,200

ParalegalParalegal Job Description

The typical Paralegal job description revolves around carrying out a wide range of duties that assists lawyers. Essentially, a paralegal worker must serve as the right hand of a lawyer in any and all situations. To learn about all of the necessary facts, click here.

Paralegal Salary

According to the 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the median annual Paralegal salary averages to $46,990. The hourly pay sits at $22.59. Salaries often vary based on the industry in which the paralegals carry out their duties.

How to Become a Paralegal

The great news when learning how to become a paralegal is that it does not involve the extensive education of the career path of a lawyer. The majority of paralegals possess either an associate’s degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor’s degree in another, related area of activity (along with a certificate in paralegal studies). Find out more here.

FIND LOCAL OR ONLINE PARALEGAL SCHOOLS AVAILABLE TO YOU

Paralegal Job Outlook

The best news for paralegals is that the job market continues to prosper for this profession. In other words, paralegals hold great chances of being hired. Authorities expect the Paralegal job outlook employment to grow by 17% percent through the current decade.

Paralegal Salary

After reviewing the paralegal job description, you probably want to know more about the financial rewards for the career. According to BLS data taken in 2012, the median annual salary for paralegals in 2012 stood at $46,990. That hourly rate equates to $22.59. If you're unfamiliar with these terms, median represents the salary in which 50% of the professionals earned more than the aforementioned amount. The other 50% obtained less. The bottom 10% received less than $29,420. The first 10% received more than $75,410. Salaries also vary depending on the industry the paralegal works in. Therefore, paralegals who work for the federal government (excluding the postal service), benefit from the highest median annual wages at $62,400. The second best-paying industries are finance and insurance. Paralegals in these field typically earn about $54,670 per year. Local governments (not including hospitals and education) reward paralegals with roughly $47,000. Paralegals who work in the state government earn approximately $42,050 every year. All in all, if you are looking for a larger salary as a paralegal, you should aim for a developed law firm in a major city or employment with the federal government. The earnings for a paralegal in that situation are greater than those in smaller law firms or in cities that are not as large. No matter the location or work environment, most paralegals work full time.

How to Become a Paralegal

Becoming a paralegal does not involve the same extensive education required to become a lawyer. The majority of paralegals possess either an associate’s degree in the field of paralegal studies, or a bachelor’s degree in another area of activity and a certificate in paralegal studies. Another optimistic fact is that many law firms employ bachelor’s degree graduates without experience or specialized education, preferring to train them in their own company. The necessary education for becoming a paralegal can be carried out in a few different ways. First of all, a future paralegal can undergo a paralegal program for an associate’s degree within a community college. Secondly, if a candidate possesses a bachelor’s degree in a separate area, he or she can obtain a certificate in paralegal studies. Thirdly, a law firm may hire a paralegal that has not had the chance to gather professional experience in the area, but these opportunities usually involve an issued bachelor’s degree. The bachelor’s and associate’s programs typically involve training for becoming a paralegal. This means that students will undergo classes regarding legal research in order to be well-prepared for their primary task. Also, as knowledge of computer software is a must for a paralegal, students will also learn about computerized legal applications. If you don’t have a lot of time at hand, you can complete a certificate program even in a matter of months. Internships are also a key part of a wide range of paralegal training programs. This means that students have the opportunity to work in a legal environment in order to gain on-the-job experience. Even though experience is not mandatory for many employers, it greatly aids a student in preparing for the actual duties of being a paralegal. An aspiring paralegal may carry out internships in a legal aid organization, a private law firm, a government agency or the office of an attorney general, among other institutions. The experience gained in an internship will help the future paralegal in becoming familiar with the technology involved in the job, as well as being well-prepared for the job market. The most significant qualities that a successful paralegal must possess regard interpersonal, research, organizational, communication and computer skills.

Paralegal Job Description

In a paralegal job description, these professionals carry out a wide range of duties that aim to complete those of lawyers. In a nutshell, a paralegal has the objective of being the right hand of a lawyer in any and all situations. One of the most significant tasks involves conducting research in order to properly build up a case, as well as putting together all the facts and preparing the case for trial in a court of law. The job also involves careful investigation of the facts included in a case, while gathering pieces of evidence and taking care of the entire preparation process. A paralegal must be up-to-date with regulations and laws, as they will supply all of the legal documentation for going into trial. Organizational skills are a must for a paralegal, due to the fact that they have to take care of all document filing. Moreover, a paralegal is always present in trial and helps out the attorney by keenly taking notes and handling various exhibits to support the case. Paralegals also play a crucial role before trials, by writing reports, obtaining formal statements, and drafting a series of legal documents. A paralegal should also be a great communicator, as they maintain relationships with attorneys, clients and witnesses and plan meetings for the lawyer they assist. All of these tasks vary, depending on the institution the paralegal performs in and their main specialization. For instance, corporate paralegals aid attorneys in preparing financial reports, contracts, agreements, and even plans regarding the stock market. A corporate paralegal is responsible for monitoring various legal regulations for a corporation, so the company is always up-to-date. On the other hand, litigation paralegals undergo court experiences more often, as they are responsible for handling evidence and documents that clients supply for trials. Both of these types of paralegals must be keen on research, as it is a primary duty in the case of corporate and litigation paralegals alike. Furthermore, paralegals should be familiar with the specific computer technology for their field of activity. It is common for them to use specialized software for filing documents necessary for cases and creating a catalog for review. Like we mentioned before, the duties of a paralegal are different based on their work environment. If a paralegal works in a big organization, they will probably handle a certain part of a case instead of an entire one. If they work in a small law firm, they are responsible for writing reports for the lawyers they assist and preparing lawsuits.  

Paralegal Job Outlook

The best news for paralegals is that the Paralegal job outlook on the job market continuously prospers. In other words, paralegals have great chances of being hired, as their employment is expected to grow 17% percent in the 2012-2022 period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is quite a great number, as it a faster growth than the median for the total of occupations on the job market. This growth is due to the continuous desire for law firms to become more and more efficient regarding the legal services they provide. As costs for legal services can become quite high for the average client, law firms are working to lower the investment involved in a solid case. Paralegals are most affordable to hire for law firms and they can carry out many of the tasks that lawyers usually due. The demand of paralegal services will constantly require law firms to build up their supply in order to please and maintain clients. International corporations are also seeking to employ more and more paralegals, so they can reduce the money spent in this direction. Lawyers can become very pricey for companies, so many of them now resort to in-house legal departments for their needs. Therefore, consulting and insurance forms and healthcare suppliers will be hiring more and more paralegals in the years to come. The professional career of a paralegal can be a great option for many graduates who want to work in the legal area. As you have discovered, there are many advantages (in comparison to becoming a lawyer), that include but are not limited to lower education requirements, decent salaries, and a prosperous future on the job market.

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