A paralegal career can be both challenging and rewarding. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities in this field should be strong in the years to come. Paralegal positions are expected to grow 17% by 2022 from their levels in 2012, a rate greater than the average for all occupations in the U.S. Paralegal work offers variety, a professional environment, and solid earning and advancement potential.
What Paralegals Do
Paralegals assist attorneys with a broad array of responsibilities and tasks. Paralegals can be found in all manner of law firms, from small single attorney offices to the largest metropolitan law firms. In addition, opportunities exist for paralegals in court systems, legislative offices and other organizations that require detailed legal work.
Daily activities include research on a wide variety of legal issues and assistance in drafting documents. In addition, paralegals regularly meet with clients and attend depositions, court proceedings and other meetings. Many paralegals are also responsible for general office organization and the maintenance of files and records.
Education and Training Requirements
While there is no formal certification required for paralegal work, most successful paralegals have earned at least an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies prior to obtaining a position. Many attorneys will also consider hiring accomplished college graduates with a variety of degree backgrounds, and in many cases these individuals have no formal legal training. Programs in paralegal studies are available at many community colleges, universities and professional schools, and related classes may also be offered through local bar associations.
Given the professional environment and strong demand for paralegal services, compensation levels are generally attractive for these positions. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition reports that nationwide median pay for paralegals stood at $46,990 in 2012. The range of pay fell between a starting salary level near $30,000 to top pay in excess of $75,000. In general, pay is higher at larger law firms and governmental entities and also varies geographically with higher pay in large metropolitan areas.
Paralegals play a vital role in many organizations and in our legal system in general. The work is rewarding, offers strong compensation, and requires training that is within the reach of most motivated individuals. For anyone wishing to pursue a professional career, paralegal work is worth consideration.