To become a Paralegal, you must be able to effectively conduct research as well as evaluate and analyze law sources in order to apply theories and principles to issues and cases.
Many paralegal specialists are working full-time in corporate legal offices, private firms, or government agencies.
Those paralegals working in major cities for larger corporations or legal firms are usually making bigger paychecks than those working for smaller firms.
Paralegals working for the federal government generally make the most, followed by insurance and finance, and then come paralegal working for local governments.
- Average Annual Salary: $51,500
- Expected Lifetime Earnings: $2,140,000
A related associate’s degree or undergraduate degree is a prerequisite to pursuing a career as a paralegal. Completion of a paralegal course or work and internship experience in a legal setting prepares the aspiring paralegal for certification.
Paralegal courses are offered in community colleges, higher education institutes, and accredited paralegal schools or training institutes. Topics like legal theory, introduction to the legal system, ethics and litigation are included in the curriculum.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has a list of approved paralegal schools and programs throughout the country. ABA-approved courses cover the essentials for paralegal certification and practice. After completion of core course requirements in a paralegal school, the student may pursue an internship to acquire practical experience.
Paralegals are employed by independent lawyers, corporate legal departments, government agencies, private law firms, and other legal organizations or entities to assist in different aspects of legal work. Although most of the tasks done by paralegals and lawyers are similar, paralegals and legal assistants are not allowed to practice as lawyers.
Paralegal – The Job
There are core tasks and responsibilities that are generally assigned to paralegals. These core tasks include legal research, investigation and analysis, and legal document preparation. In addition, they may be assigned to organize legal files and case documents and provide other types of administrative work.
Specific tasks may vary with the nature of the company or firm. Paralegals employed in a corporate setting may be assigned to work on business contracts, agreements, and other corporate legal documents. On the other hand, those who are working with private criminal law firms may be assigned to do legal case research and preparations for trials and hearings.
Paralegals working full-time for corporate legal departments, private law firms, and government organizations typically put in at least 40 hours during a week. However, their actual hours may vary with the amount of work needed at the time. Others are hired on a temporary or freelance basis to help ease the workload in the office.
Just like lawyers are paralegals often specialized in specific law types. They may be experts in corporate, criminal, family, or immigration law. Paralegals are also referred to as legal assistants, and their involvement in law cases is depending on the discretion of their employers.
Some paralegals work in situations where a high level of autonomy and responsibility is required, whereas others work in situations where their roles are limited and narrower. The highest respected paralegals mostly work in a team and are operating behind the scenes. Paralegals can be found in various positions. They mostly work at law firms or are employed by government bodies, or at corporations at their legal departments.
Paralegal – Career Outlook
The demand for paralegal professionals and legal assistants is projected to increase over the next decade. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) made this projection on the basis of the anticipated increase in demands for legal services as the population continues to grow. In addition, the legal profession has expanded its focus areas to include emerging specializations like intellectual property, environmental, healthcare, and other areas. These highly specialized areas require paralegals and legal assistants with sufficient training and experience.
The BLS indicates that the average income for paralegals was around $51,500 in 2016 on an annual basis. The profession’s best-compensated ten percent earned just under $80,000 while at the bottom, the annual earnings were still some $30,000.
Best Paralegal Training Schools
1. Keiser University Campus
2. South University – Campus
3. Berkeley College
4. The Salter School
5. ITT Technical Institute
6. National College
7. Fortis Institute
8. Robert Morris University
9. Brookline College
10. Charter College
Online Paralegal Programs
1. Kaplan University
2. Virginia College
3. Westwood College
4. Harrison College
5. Penn Foster Schools
6. Stratford Career Institute
7. Post University
8. Ashworth College
9. Keiser University
10. Everest University Online
The areas where we see the highest earnings are the metropolitan San Francisco region, New Bedford (Massachusetts), and the metropolitan DC area.