Career Advice: How To Become A Paralegal

Here you will find details on attaining formal education as a paralegal as well as information on the duties performed and a paralegal's realistic job outlook.

Have you always enjoyed the subject of law and legal terminology? Do you love to research a variety of topics and compile your findings for others to read and discuss? If so, perhaps a career as a paralegal is right for you. In this article you will find details on attaining formal education as a paralegal as well as information on the duties performed and a paralegal's realistic job outlook.

A paralegal, also known as a legal assistant, is a trained, educated and qualified person who works under the supervision of a lawyer or attorney. The terms paralegal and legal assistant are considered identical and interchangeable in the legal industry. A paralegal is not permitted to give legal advice of any kind and must make very clear their non-lawyer status. Legal assistants are to always work under the supervision of an attorney and are not allowed to set legal fees or present cases in a courtroom. Despite the previously mentioned restrictions, there are many duties performed regularly by the paralegal. Along with general clerical tasks, a legal assistant may also: handle client interviews and sustain regular contact with clients; manage investigations, including locating and interviewing witnesses; conduct legal research to verify the facts in a case, as well as identify judicial decisions, previous legal articles and other information, which would prove useful to the case; prepare written materials to be submitted to a lawyer for determining how to proceed on a case; prepare legal arguments; draft the pleadings and motions, which are to be filed in court and then file them with the appropriate court and/or courts; organize and maintain all pertinent documents related to active and inactive cases for quick and easy access by the lawyer and/or legal department; assist the lawyer in the courtroom during a trial; draft separation agreements, contracts, mortgages and other legal documents; and much more. There are also more specialized tasks depending on the particular employer's company, corporation and/or legal practice.

Many different companies and corporations consult lawyers and employ legal assistants. Some paralegals are experienced legal secretaries who have worked in an office for several years and were then promoted to the position of legal assistant. Other professionals are hired for their technical background in areas such as tax preparation, health administration and criminal justice, and are then trained by an attorney in the specific duties of a paralegal. Most commonly, employers hire college graduates who have no prior legal experience and then train them on the job. Employment possibilities include government offices, law firms, consumer organizations and a corporation's legal department. The areas of the law in which a paralegal may work include, but are not limited to, the following; family law, litigation, corporate law, personal injury, real estate, criminal law and bankruptcy. Due to the ever increasing complexity of the law, paralegals are choosing to become specialized in one particular area of the law rather than covering a broad range of subjects. For example, a legal assistant who chooses to specialize in bankruptcy may deal only with cases involving Chapter 11 bankruptcies. No matter what area of the law you choose, it's quite obviously a strategic career move to perfect one's skills in a specified area making your services focused and highly valuable. If you would like to learn more about the many areas of law in which one can specialize or if you're already a paralegal but want to become certified you should visit the web site for the National Association of Legal Assistants.



Formal education is not a requirement to work as a legal assistant but is becoming more widely requested by employers. With more than an estimated 600 colleges and proprietary schools offering formal paralegal training programs, locating a program that fits your needs is now easier than ever. There are four generally accepted forms of training/education in the area of paralegal studies: Associate Degree programs are offered through community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and some business schools; Bachelor Degree programs are offered through four-year colleges and universities, and require about twice as many semester units to complete as Associate Degree programs; Master's Degree programs are now being offered for those wishing to earn a highly advanced degree; and Certificate Programs are generally offered to individuals who have already attained an Associate or Bachelor's Degree but want to become more adept in a specific area or subject. There are also several online schools offering home-based paralegal studies, such as At-Home Professions, who are nationally accredited and provide a flexible way to complete your studies in today's hectic world. As with any school you're considering please check the school's accreditation, testimonials, job placement upon graduation and transferability of credits if might wish to further your education later on. If you would like to research the educational requirements of becoming a paralegal or read further on the American Bar Association's approval of certain educational programs, check out the American Association for Paralegal Education.

Now for the pay off to all your long hours of college studies and job hunting""job growth and your projected salary. The growth rate for paralegals is growing rapidly and expected to continue growing, at an estimated 33% over the next 10 years, as lawyers delegate more and more of their duties to prevent the hiring of another lawyer or having to acquire a partner. Several factors are contributing to the faster than average job growth, including the increasing use of pre-paid legal service plans, corporations cutting in-house costs, and the increasing population. The largest employers of legal assistants will continue to be private law firms but public sectors will provide a great numbers of jobs, too. Federal, State, local governments, community legal service programs (those which provide services to the aged, middle-income, poor and minorities), and city courts are but a few of the job possibilities in the public job market. You can expect to earn between $30,200 and $48,760 per year as a paralegal.

If you like what you've read in this article and think you might enjoy this career then you should do further research on becoming a paralegal. The job market looks great! The salary is quite fair for the duties performed and conditions in which one would work daily.

© High Speed Ventures 2011