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Working As A 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

  • $50,000

    Average Salary

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.

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 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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Average Length of Employment
Senior Paralegal 5.3 years
Legal Secretary 5.0 years
Probate Paralegal 4.6 years
Paralegal 4.0 years
Legal Assistant 3.6 years
Legal Clerk 2.3 years
Top Careers Before Paralegal
Internship 7.4%
Secretary 2.5%
Cashier 2.3%
Law Clerk 2.1%
Attorney 1.8%
Assistant 1.7%
Top Careers After Paralegal
Law Clerk 4.1%
Attorney 4.0%
Internship 3.3%
Associate 2.3%
Manager 2.2%

Do you work as a Paralegal?

Paralegal Demographics

Gender

Female

69.6%

Male

20.4%

Unknown

9.9%
Ethnicity

White

60.1%

Hispanic or Latino

17.9%

Black or African American

12.0%

Asian

6.7%

Unknown

3.4%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

55.7%

French

10.5%

Mandarin

4.0%

Russian

3.9%

Chinese

3.7%

Portuguese

3.2%

Italian

3.0%

German

3.0%

Korean

1.8%

Cantonese

1.7%

Hindi

1.4%

Arabic

1.4%

Japanese

1.4%

Polish

1.1%

Urdu

1.0%

Greek

1.0%

Hebrew

0.7%

Vietnamese

0.5%

Tagalog

0.5%

Romanian

0.5%
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Paralegal Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

14.3%

Kaplan University

12.4%

George Washington University

5.1%

Roosevelt University

5.0%

New York University

4.7%

Florida International University

4.6%

Fairleigh Dickinson University

4.3%

University of Maryland - University College

4.3%

Saint John's University - New York

4.3%

Suffolk University

4.0%

University of San Diego

3.9%

Hofstra University

3.9%

University of Houston

3.9%

Boston University

3.9%

Northeastern University

3.7%

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

3.7%

Montclair State University

3.6%

Center for Advanced Legal Studies

3.5%

University of Central Florida

3.5%

New York Law School

3.5%
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Majors

Legal Support Services

38.4%

Law

12.7%

Business

10.3%

Criminal Justice

8.3%

Political Science

5.2%

Legal Studies

5.0%

Psychology

2.8%

English

2.3%

Legal Research And Advanced Professional Studies

2.1%

Accounting

1.5%

Communication

1.4%

Liberal Arts

1.4%

History

1.3%

Management

1.3%

Sociology

1.2%

Education

1.1%

Human Resources Management

1.1%

Nursing

0.9%

General Studies

0.9%

Health Care Administration

0.9%
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Degrees

Bachelors

31.7%

Associate

17.6%

Other

14.8%

Certificate

13.9%

Masters

11.2%

Doctorate

9.4%

Diploma

1.0%

License

0.3%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$50,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$30,000
Min 10%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$83,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Hill International
Highest Paying City
San Francisco, CA
Highest Paying State
Washington
Avg Experience Level
3.7 years
How much does a Paralegal make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Paralegal in the United States is $50,820 per year or $24 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $30,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $83,000.

Real Paralegal Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Paralegal III Amazon Corporate LLC Seattle, WA Jan 02, 2016 $122,000
Paralegal Jarvis, Krieger and Sullivan LLP Long Beach, CA Apr 01, 2015 $90,000 -
$100,000
Paralegal Baker and McKenzie LLP Chicago, IL Jan 08, 2016 $80,000
Paralegal Baker and McKenzie LLP Chicago, IL Feb 22, 2016 $80,000
Paralegal BP Management LP New York, NY Oct 31, 2015 $80,000
Supervisory Paralegal Law Offices of Rakesh Mehrotra Reston, VA Jul 29, 2015 $75,774
Paralegal Benchmark Electronics, Inc. Angleton, TX Aug 13, 2015 $73,000 -
$78,000
Business/Transnational Paralegal Marili Cancio Johnson P.A. Miami, FL Dec 27, 2016 $68,702
Paralegal Just Energy (U.S) Corp Houston, TX May 13, 2015 $66,790
Paralegal Reid & Wise LLC New York, NY Sep 20, 2016 $65,219
Paralegal J.Bruce Weinman, ESQ. New York, NY Sep 30, 2015 $62,941
Paralegal Winston & Strawn LLP New York, NY Sep 15, 2015 $62,610
Paralegal Baker and McKenzie LLP Chicago, IL Apr 15, 2016 $62,000
Paralegal Cohen & Gresser, LLP New York, NY Jul 15, 2016 $61,152
International Paralegal, German Desk Arnall Golden Gregory LLP Atlanta, GA Sep 10, 2015 $45,843
Paralegal Eric S. Montalvo PLLC Washington, DC Sep 11, 2015 $45,000
Paralegal I.S. Law Firm, PLLC Alexandria, VA Sep 23, 2016 $45,000
Paralegal Researcher Webb Development Services Corp. Mount Vernon, NY Sep 22, 2015 $45,000
Paralegal MacMurray and Associates Boston, MA Jan 26, 2015 $44,750
Paralegal Financial Legal Group, Inc. Miami, FL Nov 18, 2015 $44,620
Paralegal Kulik Law Firm, P. C. New York, NY Jun 01, 2015 $40,000
Paralegal Song Law Firm LLC Fort Lee, NJ May 14, 2016 $40,000
Paralegal Song Law Firm LLC Fort Lee, NJ Apr 01, 2016 $40,000
Paralegal Law Offices of Guang Jun Gao, LLP NY Jan 09, 2016 $40,000
Paralegal Kulik Law Firm, P. C. New York, NY Jan 06, 2016 $40,000
Paralegal The Law Office of John C. Kim, P.C. NY May 25, 2015 $40,000
Paralegal Law Offices of Gary S. Park, P.C. NY Sep 18, 2015 $40,000

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Top Skills for A 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:
  • Composed and edited legal documents.
  • Generate correspondence, status reports and legal documents Client contact Process authorizations Review and summarize medical records Billing Trial preparation
  • Review discovery responses and order medical, employment, administrative agency records from document service companies.
  • Performed general paralegal tasks for real estate transactions.
  • Testify at court hearings regarding company procedure.

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Top 10 Best States for Paralegals

  1. Connecticut
  2. District of Columbia
  3. Georgia
  4. Illinois
  5. Texas
  6. Colorado
  7. Nevada
  8. Florida
  9. Washington
  10. Maryland
  • (74 jobs)
  • (150 jobs)
  • (118 jobs)
  • (192 jobs)
  • (287 jobs)
  • (89 jobs)
  • (19 jobs)
  • (284 jobs)
  • (77 jobs)
  • (53 jobs)

Top Paralegal Employers

Jobs From Top Paralegal Employers

Paralegal Videos

Paralegal: Job Profile

Paralegal, Career Video from drkit.org

Paralegal (Transactional), Career Video from drkit.org

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