Legal studies is an excellent field to go in to. The demand for paralegal rises each year as new law firms are established. With ideal working conditions, full time hours, and good pay and benefits, the amount time you need to spend in school preparing for such a position is well worth the stable career you will land.
Paralegals posses the legal knowledge and education to provide legal work to attorneys and lawyers. They work directly under the supervision of attorneys, and they work on legal cases provided to them by the overseeing attorney. They provide a very important service to attorneys by helping them with tasks that they don’t have time to complete on their own.
So what do paralegals do, exactly? For the most part they act as assistants, doing whatever task is needed of them at the time. This can include things like extensive legal research, preparing documents for court, drafting documents, making contracts, writing legal letters, participating in client meetings, and making phone calls when needed. They play a major role in helping lawyers build cases by organizing and analyzing information and data specific to a case. Paralegals also partake in some administrative tasks for the firm. Maintaining files, computer spreadsheets, and paper work are some other daily aspects of the position. The work paralegals do is similar in each law firm, but the work can vary slightly depending on which type of law the firm practices. For example, corporate law, criminal law, bankruptcy, etc all have different concentrations. The paralegal needs to be completely educated in the law type they work with, and need to perform the tasks based on those guidelines.
To become a paralegal you must obtain an associates degree in paralegal studies, or a the minimum of a specialized certificate in the field. There is very little on the job training, and generally the worker is expected to have the skills needed to perform the jobs tasks with very little direction from the attorney. This can vary a little, with some agencies providing some hands on training. An example of this would be a college graduate with a bachelors degree who an attorney decides to hire and train them on the job.
If you’re thinking about becoming a paralegal, you may be wondering how much do paralegals make? The pay range for a paralegal is about $ 36,000 to $65,000 per year. The medium yearly income for a paralegal is $46,990 which equals out to be about $22.59 per hour. This is exceptionally high for needing only a specialized certificate or 2 year associates degree in the field. The pay varies with experience and the type of agency you are employed with, and the type of law the firm practices. Paralegals working for the federal government can make $65,000 per year on average. State and local government employees are the next highest paid making between $45,000 and $50, 000 per year.
The work environment of a paralegal is usually in an office setting in a law firm, government office, or corporate office. They have legal books, reference books, and research material handy and convenient to them at all times. Their work space is very similar to a lawyer in that they have a well lit comfortable office, chair, and desk where they perform the majority of their work. They have a 40 hour per week schedule with lunch and breaks. Over time may be required depending on the workload. They have personal, sick, and vacation time. The work environment of a paralegal is an ideal setting. The job can be very demanding and stressful at times though. Deadlines must be met on time, and all documents and information must be correct.
You may be wondering if paralegals have to be knowledgeable in the law, and do so many important tasks and duties for the attorney or lawyer, then why are they not considered a lawyer as well? The main difference between a lawyer or an attorney and a paralegal is that paralegals are not qualified, nor are they allowed to do any duties that are considered to be “practice of law”. This duty requires a high level law degree along with passing the bar exam. Paralegals perform the “behind the scenes” tasks and they are not part of the court process when an attorney takes a party to court.
If you are thinking of becoming a paralegal, make sure you have high scores in all your coursework related to legal studies. Make sure you have a good understanding of the law, and that you have the skills necessary to research and write documents. Many firms are looking for experience, and if you’re just out of college with limited experience, the best way to land your first job as a paralegal is to show your future employer that you have the basic knowledge and ability to perform the job.