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.
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:
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.
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.
Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the right jobs to get there.
As you move along in your career, you may start taking on more responsibilities or notice that you've taken on a leadership role. Using our career map, a paralegal can determine their career goals through the career progression. For example, they could start out with a role such as legal secretary, progress to a title such as office manager and then eventually end up with the title managing partner.
Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.
|Job TitleCompany||Company||Start Date||Salary|
Focus of Georgia, Inc.
Focus of Georgia, Inc.
Public Finance Paralegal
Kutak Rock LLP
Kutak Rock LLP
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Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Paralegal. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.
Learn How To Write a Paralegal Resume
At Zippia, we went through countless Paralegal resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.View Detailed Information
Hispanic or Latino
Black or African American
Cambridge, MA • Private
Philadelphia, PA • Private
Washington, DC • Private
Fort Worth, TX • Private
Evanston, IL • Private
Berkeley, CA • Public
Los Angeles, CA • Public
La Verne, CA • Private
Cincinnati, OH • Public
Saint Paul, MN • Private
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.
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, Alaska, Connecticut, and Colorado. Paralegals make the most in Washington with an average salary of $54,806. Whereas in Alaska and Connecticut, they would average $53,707 and $53,297, respectively. While paralegals would only make an average of $52,547 in Colorado, 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.
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 $44,303. United States Army follows up with an average salary of $42,421, and then comes Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy with an average of $46,110. 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 Ally Financial, Energizer, and Fairway Independent Mortgage