What is a Paralegal

A paralegal is in charge of substantive legal work. Typically, they serve lawyers who are so busy building a case that they need help sorting out all of the legal work. That's where you come in.

Paralegals take pride in their responsibilities by administering their knowledge of the law and legal procedures. It can be a great thing to have a paralegal on the case because the law will determine what direction a lawyer may swing a case.

While you definitely need a working knowledge of what the law is, you really only need to obtain an associate's degree for this line of work. Sure, you could probably spend your entire life going through and memorizing every single law out there, but laws change all the time so chances are you're going to have to look it up anyway.

What Does a 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.

Learn more about what a Paralegal does

How To Become a 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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  1. Cozen O'Connor Jobs (40)
  2. CACI International Jobs (70)
  3. The Weitz Company Jobs (74)
  4. Wells Fargo Jobs (58)
  5. Liberty Mutual Insurance Jobs (83)
Average Salary
$46,712
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
12%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
5,647
Job Openings
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Average Salary for a Paralegal

Paralegals in America make an average salary of $46,712 per year or $22 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $64,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $33,000 per year.
Average Salary
$46,712
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12 Paralegal Resume Examples

Learn How To Write a Paralegal Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Paralegal resumes and compiled some information about how to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Paralegal Resume Examples And Templates

And if you’re looking for a job, here are the five top employers hiring now:

  1. Cozen O'Connor Jobs (40)
  2. CACI International Jobs (70)
  3. The Weitz Company Jobs (74)
  4. Wells Fargo Jobs (58)
  5. Liberty Mutual Insurance Jobs (83)

Choose From 10+ Customizable Paralegal Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Paralegal templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Paralegal resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

Paralegal Resume
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Paralegal Resume
Paralegal Resume
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Paralegal Resume
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Paralegal Resume
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Paralegal Resume

Paralegal Demographics

Paralegal Gender Distribution

Male
Male
22%
Female
Female
78%

After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among Paralegals, 77.6% of them are women, while 22.4% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among Paralegals is White, which makes up 65.1% of all Paralegals.

  • The most common foreign language among Paralegals is Spanish at 55.7%.

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Paralegal Education

Paralegal Majors

10.6 %

Paralegal Degrees

Bachelors

50.7 %

Associate

28.8 %

Certificate

6.2 %

Top Colleges for Paralegals

1. Harvard University

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$50,420
Enrollment
7,582

2. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

3. Georgetown University

Washington, DC • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,104
Enrollment
7,089

4. Texas Wesleyan University

Fort Worth, TX • Private

In-State Tuition
$30,300
Enrollment
1,445

5. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

6. University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$14,184
Enrollment
30,845

7. University of California - Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$13,226
Enrollment
31,568

8. University of La Verne

La Verne, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$43,050
Enrollment
5,098

9. University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati, OH • Private

In-State Tuition
$11,000
Enrollment
25,973

10. Hamline University

Saint Paul, MN • Private

In-State Tuition
$41,290
Enrollment
2,077
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Online Courses For Paralegal That You May Like

Effective Legal Office Administration
udemy
4.5
(583)

Effective Legal Office Administration...

Basic Japanese Civil Law
edX (Global)

This course teaches Japanese law. It covers the legal system and basic concepts. The course starts with the study of concepts that are common to many countries, such as sovereignty, constitution, separation of three rights, basic human rights and personal security. Furthermore, it covers current issues in Japan, for example, those faced in daily life from a legal perspective based upon laws and related practices. By studying Japanese law, you learn about the relationship between law and...

AI & Law
coursera

About this Course This four-week course titled AI and Law explores the way in which the increasing use of artificially intelligent technologies (AI) affects the practice and administration of law defined in a broad sense. Subject matters discussed include the connection be between AI and Law in the context of legal responsibility, law-making, law-enforcing, criminal law, the medical sector and intellectual property law. The course aims to equip members of the general public with an elementary ab...

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Top Skills For a Paralegal

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 12.9% of Paralegals listed Legal Advice on their resume, but soft skills such as Communication skills and Computer skills are important as well.

  • Legal Advice, 12.9%
  • Legal Documents, 12.2%
  • Law Firm, 8.0%
  • Discovery Responses, 7.4%
  • Medical Records, 5.4%
  • Other Skills, 54.1%

Best States For a Paralegal

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a Paralegal. The best states for people in this position are Washington, California, Oregon, and Connecticut. Paralegals make the most in Washington with an average salary of $60,641. Whereas in California and Oregon, they would average $56,289 and $55,627, respectively. While Paralegals would only make an average of $55,182 in Connecticut, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Washington

Total Paralegal Jobs:
108
Highest 10% Earn:
$76,000
Location Quotient:
1.28
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Colorado

Total Paralegal Jobs:
101
Highest 10% Earn:
$71,000
Location Quotient:
1.47
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. California

Total Paralegal Jobs:
479
Highest 10% Earn:
$73,000
Location Quotient:
1.42
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Paralegals

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Top Paralegal Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ Paralegals and discovered their number of Paralegal opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that Robert Half International was the best, especially with an average salary of $46,610. Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy follows up with an average salary of $49,787, and then comes Liberty Mutual Insurance with an average of $52,266. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as a Paralegal. The employers include IBM, Equitable Holdings, and Splunk

Most Common Employers For Paralegal

RankCompanyZippia ScoreAverage Paralegal SalaryAverage Salary
1
1.Steptoe & Johnson
$60,232
2$57,007
3
3.Special Counsel
$56,891
4$56,594
5$53,618
6$53,164

Paralegal Videos

Becoming a Paralegal FAQs

How long does it take to become a Paralegal?

It takes 5 years of professional experience to become a paralegal. That is the time it takes to learn specific paralegal skills, but does not account for time spent in formal education. If you include the normal education requirements to complete a college degree, then it takes 8 to 10 years years to become a paralegal.

Do paralegals make good money?

Yes, paralegals make good money. The average paralegal makes an average of $50,940 a year. The range, however, can start from as low as $31,400 a year to as high as $82,050 a year. Factors such as location and years of experience impact the earning potential of a paralegal.

Years of Experience and Pay Rate for Paralegals:

  • An entry-level Paralegal (less than one year experience) averages $39,729 a year.

  • An early career (1 to 4 years of experience) averages $43,497 a year.

  • A mid-career (5 to 9 years of experience) averages $51,047 a year.

  • An experienced Paralegal (10 to 19 years of experience) averages $55,356 a year.

  • Late career (20 or more years) averages $60,203 a year.

Top-Paying Cities for Paralegals:

  • Sunnyvale, CA - $56,702 a year ($27.26 an hour)

  • Santa Rosa, CA - $54,842 a year ($26.37 an hour)

  • Napa, CA - $54,087 a year ($26.00 an hour)

  • Williston, ND - $53,957 a year ($25.94 an hour)

  • Manhattan, NY - $53,814 a year ($25.87 an hour)

  • Princeton, NJ - $53,425 a year ($25.69 an hour)

  • Cambridge, MA - $53,150 a year ($25.55 an hour)

  • Arlington, VA - $52,850 a year ($25.41 an hour)

  • Dickinson, ND - $52,526 a year ($25.25 an hour)

  • Ketchikan, AK - $52,330 a year ($25.16 an hour)

Do paralegals need a degree?

No, paralegals do not need a degree. Unlike most legal positions, paralegals can enter the field without a degree. However, it is a highly competitive job, and having some educational credentials and certifications can help you get your foot in the door.

Many paralegal jobs, especially at big firms, require candidates to have a college degree requirement to qualify. At a minimum, an Associate of Applied Science Degree is highly recommended for anyone pursuing a paralegal career.

In addition, prospective paralegals can earn a Certificate in Paralegal Studies, which is not required; it shows employers that you have the training needed to work as a paralegal.

Is it hard to be a paralegal?

Yes, it is hard to be a paralegal. Being a paralegal is stressful, and burnout is a real issue. Although paralegals are highly sought after, the competition for paralegal positions is fierce.

Paralegals work notoriously long hours, and their tasks include everything from office management to doing case research and preparing and editing legal contracts and documents.

A paralegal's tasks have a direct impact on the outcomes of matters and cases. In addition, paralegals often work on critical documents that are presented in court. Meaning any mistake will be delayed.

Paralegals also deal with multiple deadlines daily, with clients depending on the paralegal and the legal team. There can be a lot of balls to keep in the air at any given time.

Tight deadlines, high workloads, and a dwindling workforce combine to create an environment in which long hours, overtime, and weekend work are the norm.

Is it hard to become a paralegal?

No, it's not hard to become a paralegal. While working as a paralegal can be intensive, getting a paralegal certificate is not difficult. There are several paths towards becoming a paralegal. Each state has its own requirements for becoming a paralegal.

One path towards becoming a paralegal is by working directly for a lawyer who will help train you as a paralegal. Although in large firms, it may be difficult to land an entry-level position with no experience. Moreover, the competition is fierce for paralegal positions making it even harder to get into the field.

One way to improve your chances of getting a paralegal position is to earn a bachelor's or associate's degree in a field similar to that of a paralegal, such as criminal justice.

Another option is to earn a certification. A paralegal certification can be obtained in a year or less and does not require a degree. While it is not required to receive certification, in many cases, more prestigious law firms tend to only hire entry-level paralegals positions to those who have certification.

Although certification is not required, it can make the difference in getting hired quicker.

What should I major in to become a paralegal?

You should major in paralegal studies to become a paralegal. However, having a bachelor's degree can be in almost any academic subject, such as English, history, political science, psychology, criminal justice, business administration, or accounting also helps.

Overall, education and training requirements vary by region, field, and between companies but usually involve a minimum of two years of post-secondary study, sometimes culminating in an associate degree, as well as experience.

Students can also earn certifications, a bachelor's degree, and even a master's degree in paralegal studies.

Depending on your specialty as a paralegal, you can focus your studies based on the type of paralegal you wish to become.

Paralegal specialties include:

  • Corporate paralegal

  • Litigation paralegal

  • Estate planning and probate paralegal

  • Family law paralegal

  • Immigration paralegal

  • Intellectual property paralegal

  • Real estate paralegal

  • Debt and bankruptcy paralegal

  • Freelance paralegal

What's the difference between a lawyer and a paralegal?

The main difference between a lawyer and a paralegal is training, licensing requirements, and relationship with the client.

While some paralegals, acting under the supervision of an attorney, become very knowledgeable in the law, a paralegal cannot represent a client in any legal proceeding and cannot generate legal documents or give legal advice to a client without the oversight and approval of a licensed attorney.

Some of the main differences include:

  • Educational requirements - A lawyer needs a Juris doctorate (or J.D.) degree from a school approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) to qualify to take the bar and receive a professional license. Paralegals, on the other hand, often require little or no specialized education.

  • License - To obtain a license to practice law, an attorney must obtain a J.D. From an ABA-accredited law school, pass an exhaustive background check (much more than a simple criminal background check).

    They must also pass a grueling licensing test called the bar examination. A paralegal may or may not need a certification depending on the state or law firm.

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