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Working As A Contractor-Paralegal

  • Interacting With Computers
  • Getting Information
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work
  • Communicating with Persons Outside Organization
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Deal with People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Stressful

  • $62,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Contractor-Paralegal Do

Paralegals and legal assistants do a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents.

Duties

Paralegals and legal assistants typically do the following:

  • Investigate and gather the facts of a case
  • Conduct research on relevant laws, regulations, and legal articles
  • Organize and maintain documents in paper or electronic filing systems
  • Gather and arrange evidence and other legal documents for attorney review and case preparation
  • Write or summarize reports to help lawyers prepare for trials
  • Draft correspondence and legal documents, such as contracts and mortgages
  • Get affidavits and other formal statements that may be used as evidence in court
  • Help lawyers during trials by handling exhibits, taking notes, or reviewing trial transcripts
  • File exhibits, briefs, appeals and other legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
  • Call clients, witnesses, lawyers, and outside vendors to schedule interviews, meetings, and depositions

Paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers prepare for hearings, trials, and corporate meetings. 

Paralegals use technology and computer software for managing and organizing the increasing amount of documents and data collected during a case. Many paralegals use computer software to catalog documents, and to review documents for specific keywords or subjects. Because of these responsibilities, paralegals must be familiar with electronic database management and be current on the latest software used for electronic discovery. Electronic discovery refers to all electronic materials obtained by the parties during the litigation or investigation. These materials may be emails, data, documents, accounting databases, and websites.

Paralegals’ specific duties often vary depending on the area of law in which they work.

Corporate paralegals, for example, often help lawyers prepare employee contracts, shareholder agreements, stock-option plans, and companies’ annual financial reports. Corporate paralegals may monitor and review government regulations to ensure that the corporation is aware of new legal requirements.

Litigation paralegals maintain documents received from clients, conduct research for lawyers, retrieve and organize evidence for use at depositions and trials, and draft settlement agreements. Some litigation paralegals may also help coordinate the logistics of attending a trial, including reserving office space, transporting exhibits and documents to the courtroom, and setting up computers and other equipment.

Paralegals may also specialize in other legal areas, such as personal injury, criminal law, employee benefits, intellectual property, bankruptcy, immigration, family law, and real estate.

Specific job duties may also vary by the size of the law firm.

In small firms, paralegals’ duties tend to vary more. In addition to reviewing and organizing documents, paralegals may prepare written reports that help lawyers determine how to handle their cases. If lawyers decide to file lawsuits on behalf of clients, paralegals may help draft documents to be filed with the court.

In large organizations, paralegals may work on a particular phase of a case, rather than handling a case from beginning to end. For example, paralegals may only review legal material for internal use, maintain reference files, conduct research for lawyers, or collect and organize evidence for hearings. After gaining experience, a paralegal may become responsible for more complicated tasks.

Paralegals and legal assistants often work in teams with attorneys, fellow paralegals, and other legal support staff.

Unlike the work of other administrative and legal support staff employed in a law firm, the paralegal’s work is billed to the client.

Paralegals may have frequent interactions with clients and third-party vendors. In addition, experienced paralegals may assume supervisory responsibilities, such as overseeing team projects or delegating work to other paralegals.

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How To Become A Contractor-Paralegal

Most paralegals and legal assistants have an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, or a bachelor's degree in another field and a certificate in paralegal studies.

Education

There are several paths a person can take to become a paralegal. Candidates can enroll in a community college paralegal program to earn an associate’s degree. However, many employers prefer, or even require, applicants to have a bachelor’s degree.

Because only a small number of schools offer bachelor’s and master's degrees in paralegal studies, applicants typically have a bachelor’s degree in another subject and earn a certificate in paralegal studies.

Associate’s and bachelor's degree programs in paralegal studies usually offer paralegal training courses in legal research, legal writing, and the legal applications of computers, along with courses in other academic subjects, such as corporate law and international law. Most certificate programs provide intensive paralegal training for people who already hold college degrees.

Employers sometimes hire college graduates with no legal experience or legal education and train them on the job. In these cases, the new employee may have experience in a technical field that is useful to law firms, such tax preparation, nursing, or criminal justice.

Other Experience

In many cases, employers prefer candidates who have at least 1 year of experience in a law firm or other office setting. In addition, a technical understanding of a specific legal specialty can be helpful. For example, a personal-injury law firm may desire a paralegal with a background in nursing or health administration.

Work experience in a law firm or other office setting is particularly important for people who do not have formal paralegal training.

Many paralegal training programs offer an internship, in which students gain practical experience by working for several months in a private law firm, the office of a public defender or attorney general, a corporate legal department, a legal aid organization, or a government agency. Internship experience helps students improve their technical skills and can enhance their employment prospects.

Certifications

Although not required, some employers may prefer to hire applicants who have completed a paralegal certification program. Many national and local paralegal organizations offer voluntary paralegal certifications to students able to pass an exam. Other organizations offer voluntary paralegal certifications for paralegals who meet certain experience and education criteria. For more information about paralegal certifications, see the More Info section.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Paralegals must be able to document and present their research and related information to their supervising attorney.

Computer skills. Paralegals need to be familiar with using computers for legal research and litigation support. They also use computer programs for organizing and maintaining important documents.

Interpersonal skills. Paralegals spend most of their time working with clients and other professionals and must be able to develop good relationships. They must make clients feel comfortable sharing personal information related to their cases.

Organizational skills. Paralegals may be responsible for many cases at one time. They must adapt quickly to changing deadlines.

Research skills. Paralegals need good research and investigative skills to conduct legal research.

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Contractor-Paralegal Jobs

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Contractor-Paralegal Career Paths

Contractor-Paralegal
Senior Paralegal Office Manager General Manager
Managing Partner
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Paralegal Office Manager Vice President
Vice President And Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Senior Paralegal Office Manager Account Manager
Relationship Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Senior Paralegal
7 Yearsyrs
Contracts Administrator Senior Contract Administrator/Contract Administrator
Contracts Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Contracts Administrator Contracts Manager Project Manager
Portfolio Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Contracts Administrator Project Manager Assistant Vice President
Manager, Assistant Vice President
7 Yearsyrs
Contract Attorney Senior Associate President
Commissioner
5 Yearsyrs
Contract Attorney Attorney Partner
Senior Partner
9 Yearsyrs
Contract Attorney Senior Associate Partner
Managing Member
8 Yearsyrs
Paralegal/Office Manager Owner Facilities Manager
Real Estate Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Paralegal/Office Manager Owner Operations Director
Compliance Director
12 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Team Manager Unit Manager
Collections Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Owner/Manager Board Member
Trustee
6 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Account Manager Client Services Manager
Client Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Contract Analyst Business Analyst Management Consultant
Vice President, Business Development
13 Yearsyrs
Executive Assistant Office Manager/Administrative Assistant
Office Manager And Legal Assistant
5 Yearsyrs
Contract Analyst Attorney Legal Counsel
Legal Department Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Executive Assistant Executive Contracts Assistant Executive Legal Assistant
Senior Legal Assistant
5 Yearsyrs
Legal Analyst Legal Consultant
Legal Specialist
5 Yearsyrs
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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Senior Paralegal 5.3 years
Probate Paralegal 4.6 years
Paralegal 3.7 years
Top Careers Before Contractor-Paralegal
Paralegal 33.0%
Internship 2.9%
Law Clerk 2.2%
Attorney 1.3%
Top Careers After Contractor-Paralegal
Paralegal 33.6%
Attorney 2.5%
Law Clerk 1.7%

Do you work as a Contractor-Paralegal?

Contractor-Paralegal Demographics

Gender

Female

65.4%

Male

24.0%

Unknown

10.6%
Ethnicity

White

59.8%

Hispanic or Latino

16.8%

Black or African American

12.9%

Asian

7.0%

Unknown

3.5%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

48.0%

French

13.4%

German

5.5%

Russian

4.7%

Portuguese

4.7%

Chinese

3.1%

Japanese

3.1%

Mandarin

2.4%

Cantonese

2.4%

Hebrew

2.4%

Italian

2.4%

Polish

1.6%

Vietnamese

0.8%

Hmong

0.8%

Hindi

0.8%

Bulgarian

0.8%

Bosnian

0.8%

Yoruba

0.8%

Malayalam

0.8%

Czech

0.8%
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Contractor-Paralegal Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

15.6%

Kaplan University

8.9%

Roosevelt University

8.0%

Center for Advanced Legal Studies

6.4%

University of California - Los Angeles

5.5%

New York University

4.9%

University of San Diego

4.9%

Fairleigh Dickinson University

4.6%

George Washington University

4.3%

University of Houston

4.3%

Tulane University

4.0%

American University

3.7%

Northeastern University

3.7%

University of Texas at Austin

3.4%

University of Texas at Arlington

3.4%

San Francisco State University

3.1%

John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York

3.1%

University of Washington

3.1%

University of San Francisco

2.8%

Temple University

2.8%
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Majors

Legal Support Services

40.6%

Law

12.9%

Business

9.4%

Legal Studies

5.7%

Criminal Justice

5.4%

Political Science

5.3%

Legal Research And Advanced Professional Studies

2.9%

English

2.9%

Psychology

2.6%

Management

1.5%

History

1.5%

Liberal Arts

1.5%

Communication

1.4%

Education

1.0%

Real Estate

1.0%

Finance

1.0%

Human Resources Management

0.8%

Sociology

0.8%

Journalism

0.8%

Accounting

0.8%
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Degrees

Bachelors

31.1%

Certificate

19.8%

Other

12.9%

Associate

12.4%

Masters

11.4%

Doctorate

11.0%

Diploma

1.0%

License

0.5%
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Top Skills for A Contractor-Paralegal

  1. Legal Documents
  2. Trial Preparation
  3. Discovery Responses
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Assisted domestic relations partners with the preparation and revision of legal documents including motions, financial statements and affidavits.
  • Assisted General Counsel with trial preparation in environmental litigation cases.
  • Prepared drafts of financial disclosures/documents, discovery responses and other pertinent pleadings.
  • Maintained existing contract database and Monitored scheduled payments pursuant to each contract.
  • Supported litigation management and interfaced with appropriate internal associates and outside counsel for records collection matters; maintained electronic data rooms.

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