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Working As A Legal Specialist

  • 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

  • $103,028

    Average Salary

What Does A Legal Specialist 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 Legal Specialist

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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Legal Specialist Jobs

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Legal Specialist Career Paths

Legal Specialist
Real Estate Paralegal Office Manager Property Manager
Asset Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Contracts Manager Program Manager Deputy Director
Chief Of Staff
7 Yearsyrs
Investigator Account Executive Relationship Manager
Client Relationship Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Investigator Claim Processor Recovery Specialist
Collections Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Assistant Vice President President/Chief Executive Officer Chairperson
Commissioner
6 Yearsyrs
Contractor-Paralegal Contracts Administrator Compliance Specialist
Compliance Director
12 Yearsyrs
Contractor-Paralegal Contract Attorney Attorney
Compliance Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Analyst Product Manager Purchasing Manager
Contracts Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Analyst Project Manager Program Manager
Deputy Director
9 Yearsyrs
Office Manager Human Resources Coordinator Human Resources Generalist
Human Resources Business Partner
10 Yearsyrs
Compliance Analyst Contracts Manager Legal Counsel
Legal Department Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Contract Attorney Adjunct Professor Vice President, Business Development
Managing Member
8 Yearsyrs
Contract Attorney Attorney Office Manager
Office Manager Of Human Resources
7 Yearsyrs
Compliance Analyst Logistics Analyst Senior Logistician
Property Management Specialist
7 Yearsyrs
Contracts Manager General Manager Property Manager
Real Estate Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Account Executive Assistant Vice President Risk Manager
Risk Management Director
10 Yearsyrs
Account Executive Personal Banker Legal Assistant
Senior Legal Assistant
5 Yearsyrs
Real Estate Paralegal Paralegal
Senior Paralegal
7 Yearsyrs
Assistant Vice President Vice President Partner
Senior Partner
10 Yearsyrs
Office Manager Branch Manager Manager, Assistant Vice President
Vice President And Manager
10 Yearsyrs
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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Do you work as a Legal Specialist?

Legal Specialist Demographics

Gender

Female

65.4%

Male

31.7%

Unknown

3.0%
Ethnicity

White

58.9%

Hispanic or Latino

17.0%

Black or African American

11.6%

Asian

9.0%

Unknown

3.5%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

45.8%

French

11.1%

Chinese

6.9%

Russian

6.9%

German

5.6%

Mandarin

5.6%

Japanese

4.2%

Vietnamese

2.8%

Portuguese

1.4%

Georgian

1.4%

Cantonese

1.4%

Armenian

1.4%

Polish

1.4%

Arabic

1.4%

Greek

1.4%

Korean

1.4%
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Legal Specialist Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

11.0%

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

6.4%

New York Law School

6.4%

American University

6.4%

Strayer University

6.4%

Saint Cloud Technical College

5.5%

Thomas M. Cooley Law School

5.5%

Villanova University

5.5%

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

4.6%

University of Connecticut

4.6%

Northeastern University

4.6%

University of Southern Maine

3.7%

National University

3.7%

Central Piedmont Community College

3.7%

Minnesota School of Business

3.7%

Pace University - New York

3.7%

Fordham University

3.7%

University of Florida

3.7%

DePaul University

3.7%

John Marshall Law School

3.7%
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Majors

Law

22.9%

Business

17.5%

Legal Support Services

17.3%

Criminal Justice

5.7%

Political Science

4.7%

Legal Research And Advanced Professional Studies

3.6%

Legal Studies

3.3%

Accounting

2.8%

Management

2.4%

Psychology

2.4%

Liberal Arts

2.1%

Human Resources Management

2.1%

General Studies

1.9%

English

1.7%

Health Care Administration

1.7%

History

1.7%

Sociology

1.7%

Nursing

1.6%

Finance

1.6%

Social Work

1.2%
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Degrees

Bachelors

31.2%

Doctorate

17.0%

Other

16.1%

Masters

14.9%

Associate

10.1%

Certificate

9.3%

Diploma

1.5%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Legal Specialist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Foreign Legal Specialist Baker & McKenzie LLP Chicago, IL Nov 10, 2014 $270,000
Foreign Legal Specialist Baker & McKenzie LLP Chicago, IL Oct 27, 2014 $270,000
Foreign Legal Specialist Baker & McKenzie LLP New York, NY Nov 19, 2015 $250,000
Foreign Legal Specialist Baker and McKenzie LLP San Francisco, CA Sep 15, 2016 $250,000
Foreign Legal Specialist Baker & McKenzie LLP New York, NY Sep 15, 2015 $250,000
Foreign Legal Specialist Baker & McKenzie LLP Chicago, IL Oct 14, 2013 $210,000
Foreign Legal Specialist Baker & McKenzie LLP Washington, DC Sep 01, 2015 $210,000
Foreign Legal Specialist Baker & McKenzie LLP Chicago, IL Sep 14, 2013 $210,000
Foreign Legal Specialist Baker & McKenzie LLP Chicago, IL Mar 25, 2016 $185,000
Foreign Legal Specialist Baker & McKenzie LLP Chicago, IL Mar 05, 2015 $185,000
Foreign Legal Specialist Baker & McKenzie LLP San Francisco, CA Sep 15, 2015 $180,000
Foreign Legal Specialist Baker & McKenzie LLP Chicago, IL Nov 10, 2014 $170,000
Foreign Legal Specialist Baker & McKenzie LLP Chicago, IL Oct 27, 2014 $170,000
Foreign Legal Specialist Baker & McKenzie LLP Chicago, IL Sep 14, 2013 $170,000
Legal Specialist Technosoft Corporation Southfield, MI Jan 20, 2015 $121,347
Legal Specialist Dacheng Law Offices LLP New York, NY Jul 30, 2014 $120,399
Business and Legal Affairs Specialist Xsolla (USA) Inc. CA Sep 23, 2016 $120,000 -
$160,000
Legal Specialist TMI Associates Silicon Valley Office Palo Alto, CA Oct 09, 2016 $120,000
Foreign Legal Specialist Baker & McKenzie LLP New York, NY Sep 01, 2015 $120,000
Senior Legal Specialist Sodexo, Inc. Gaithersburg, MD Sep 15, 2016 $120,000 -
$150,000
Legal Specialist JPI Construction Inc. San Diego, CA Jan 10, 2016 $120,000
Legal Specialist Pac-Dent International, Inc. Walnut, CA Sep 15, 2014 $85,567
Business and Legal Affairs Specialist Digitechx, LLC Torrance, CA Jan 14, 2016 $84,822
Legal Specialist Dacheng Law Offices LLP Los Angeles, CA Nov 01, 2014 $84,273
Legal Affairs Specialist Radiusip, Inc. New York, NY Sep 24, 2013 $83,480
Foreign Legal Specialist Prime Focus North America, Inc. New York, NY Sep 10, 2014 $83,000
Intellectual Property Legal Specialist Hilborne, Hawkin & Co. Irvine, CA Feb 10, 2016 $82,701 -
$105,000
Intellectual Property Legal Specialist Hilborne, Hawkin & Co. Irvine, CA Sep 23, 2016 $82,701 -
$105,000
Legal Specialist Pemex Procurement International, Inc. Houston, TX Sep 06, 2015 $81,972

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Top Skills for A Legal Specialist

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  1. Legal Documents
  2. Counsel
  3. Court Hearings
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Reviewed, interpreted and authenticated of a variety of legal documents before final court appearance.
  • Facilitated informed leadership decision-making by providing monthly and quarterly updates about department projects to the General Counsel and business leads.
  • Prepared for depositions and court hearings including organization of exhibits and preparation of summaries of deposition transcripts and hearings.
  • Resolved conflicting guidance, performed office-wide training, and developed implementation strategies for achieving compliance.
  • Managed customer disputes and consumer complaints escalated to the legal department by multiple business units.

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