Since there will always be people who break laws and need legal representation, pursuing a paralegal career is an excellent choice for one looking for job security. A paralegal assists lawyers with tasks such as conducting legal research, preparing paperwork, filing and interviewing clients. They are not, however, allowed to represent clients or give legal advice.
In order to begin your paralegal career, you should be familiar with law terminology and state and federal rules. Good organizational and research skills are essential. Communication skills, both verbal and written, are also required in order to communicate clearly with lawyers and other co-workers.
In the past, many paralegals had no formal training and were trained on the job. This is no longer the case, as lawyers are now busier than ever and have no time to train. Nowadays, a minimum of a certificate or an associate’s degree is required. Those with a bachelor’s degree have the most opportunities. Many paralegals choose to become certified. Certification requires at least one year of legal experience and a passing score on an exam.
Paralegals can work for a variety of companies. Although most work for law firms, many opportunities exist in libraries, accounting firms, bank, insurance agencies and other large corporations. Law-related jobs are also plentiful in the state and federal governments. Many local governments also hire paralegals to work with city attorneys on various issues such as zoning laws and utilities such as gas and water.
Paralegals may focus on areas such as welfare, health care, unemployment compensation, disability benefits and tenant/landlord issues, especially in the public sector. Those who work in the private sector may focus on a specific type of law, such as employee benefits, real estate, probate, corporate and taxation. Paralegals typically work in two places: an office and a courtroom. No matter where they work, the environment can be stressful and deadline-driven. It is not uncommon for paralegals to regularly work overtime.
There are several ways in which you could find a paralegal career. The most common way is to look online. There are many websites that post jobs in the legal field. However, many job openings are not posted, so you may want to contact law firms in your area and send them your resume. Many people also work their way up in law firms by starting out as a receptionist and then moving up to a paralegal position by offering to take on additional duties as they prove they can handle more responsibility. Some colleges also offer job placement assistance and can often direct you to companies or law firms that are hiring. Some experienced paralegals prefer to freelance and work from home part-time to make extra income.
The average annual salary for paralegals is above $50,000. This can vary based on factors such as experience level, type of company and location. Seasoned professionals with management duties may make six-figure incomes, while entry-level paralegals in smaller markets may earn only $20,000 a year. In addition to the salary, those who work for government agencies can also expect excellent benefits and retirement plans. The legal profession allows plenty of room for growth, so you can always move up from being a paralegal and gain more education and experience to become a consultant, mediator, lawyer or even a judge.
The job outlook for a paralegal is very promising. Paralegal is ranked as one of the top professions due to the enormous amount of potential. Jobs are expected to increase by 18% in 2020. A healthy legal market and job attrition account for the rise in jobs. In addition, with lawyer fees becoming steep, more people are turning to paralegals to save money.