Paralegals are law firm or legal department employees who work on cases with lawyers. They handle different activities, usually administrative or clerical, such as organizing and maintaining files, updating records, and managing correspondences, among others. Paralegals also handle different activities directly related to active cases being worked on by lawyers in the firm or department. They assist lawyers on cases by preparing materials needed for trials, conducting legal research, verifying trial facts, helping during interviews, getting statements from those involved in the case, and creating presentation materials. Paralegals should have knowledge of laws and should be familiar with landmark cases.

Paralegal Responsibilities

Here are examples of responsibilities from real paralegal resumes representing typical tasks they are likely to perform in their roles.

  • Manage attorney calendar, schedule depositions, hearings using online scheduling system and coordinate same with opposing counsel.
  • Manage discovery process of lawsuits by preparing pleadings and subpoenas for records and answering requests for production and interrogatories.
  • Research and prepare legal documents in hotel bankruptcy issues and lender liability litigation.
  • Work with various local counsel (plaintiff & defense) summarizing/analyzing medical records and drafting various pleadings/discovery documents.
  • Prepare final drafts of pleadings and assist home equity foreclosure and bankruptcy attorneys in determining litigation and settlement strategies.
  • Provide administrative support and paralegal assistance by drafting and preparing legal documents such as motions and affidavits for self- represent parties.
  • Produce innovative bankruptcy PowerPoint marketing presentation
  • Handle single-touch specialty cases in addition to standard H-1B petitions and filings.
  • Draft, redact & proofread correspondences, motions, briefs, & misc.
  • Submit same to court via ECF and to client, counsel and opposing counsel.
Paralegal Traits
Communication skills shows that you are able to relay your thoughts, opinions and ideas clearly to those around you.
Computer skills involves understanding how to operate a computer, as well as computer programs and applications.
Interpersonal skills involves being able to communicate efficiently with multiple people regarding your thoughts, ideas and feedback.

Paralegal Job Description

Between the years 2018 and 2028, paralegal jobs are expected to undergo a growth rate described as "much faster than average" at 12%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So if the thought "should I become a paralegal?" Has crossed your mind, maybe you should take the growth rate into account. In addition, the number of paralegal opportunities that are projected to become available by 2028 is 39,000.

On average, the paralegal annual salary is $46,939 per year, which translates to $22.57 an hour. Generally speaking, paralegals earn anywhere from $35,000 to $62,000 a year, which means that the top-earning paralegals make $27,000 more than the ones at the lower end of the spectrum.

It's hard work to become a paralegal, but even the most dedicated employees consider switching careers from time to time. Whether you're interested in a more challenging position or just looking for a fresh start, we've compiled extensive information on becoming a litigation assistant, summer associate, law internship, and executive legal assistant.

Paralegal Jobs You Might Like

Paralegal Resume Examples

Paralegal Skills and Personality Traits

We calculated that 13% of Paralegals are proficient in Legal Advice, Legal Documents, and Law Firm. They’re also known for soft skills such as Communication skills, Computer skills, and Interpersonal skills.

We break down the percentage of Paralegals that have these skills listed on their resume here:

  • Legal Advice, 13%

    Advised management on legal issues identified and research conducted and prepares draft legal documents for Senior/Executive Management approval and signature.

  • Legal Documents, 12%

    Generate correspondence, status reports and legal documents Client contact Process authorizations Review and summarize medical records Billing Trial preparation

  • Law Firm, 8%

    Provide paralegal support to law firm concentrating in plaintiff representation for personal injury, premises liability, and wrongful death litigation.

  • Discovery Responses, 7%

    Interpreted legal documents; summarized discovery responses; reviewed, indexed, and summarized pleadings and correspondence produced by opposing parties.

  • Medical Records, 5%

    Review, organize, analyze and summarize medical records for parties in preparation for mediation and depositions in pharmaceutical litigation.

  • Trial Preparation, 5%

    Managed approximately 20 trial groups for local Westinghouse asbestos defense counsel - Assisted with trial preparation for national asbestos defense counsel

Most paralegals list "legal advice," "legal documents," and "law firm" as skills on their resumes. We go into more details on the most important paralegal responsibilities here:

  • The most important skills for a paralegal to have in this position are communication skills. In this excerpt that we gathered from a paralegal resume, you'll understand why: "paralegals must be able to document and present their research and related information to their supervising attorney." According to resumes we found, communication skills can be used by a paralegal in order to "manage expert witness and client communication by scheduling depositions, providing them with necessary documentation and coordinating trial appearances. "
  • While it may not be the most important skill, we found that many paralegal duties rely on computer skills. This example from a paralegal explains why: "paralegals need to be familiar with using computers for legal research and litigation support." This resume example is just one of many ways paralegals are able to utilize computer skills: "act (computerized calendar system), scheduling appointments/conferences, preparing invoices, and billing units. "
  • Paralegals are also known for interpersonal skills, which can be critical when it comes to performing their duties. An example of why this skill is important is shown by this snippet that we found in a paralegal resume: "paralegals spend most of their time working with clients and other professionals and must be able to develop good relationships" We also found this resume example that details how this skill is put to the test: "update computer system; conduct internet searches; possess strong interpersonal and organizational skills. "
  • A paralegal responsibilities sometimes require "organizational skills." The responsibilities that rely on this skills are shown by this resume excerpt: "paralegals may be responsible for many cases at one time" This resume example shows how this skill is used by paralegals: "interfaced with governmental agencies, developed forms and organizational methods for ordering plaintiff medical records as part of nursing home docket. "
  • As part of the paralegal description, you might find that one of the skills that might be helpful to the job is "research skills." A paralegal resume included this snippet: "paralegals gather facts of the case and research information on relevant laws and regulations to prepare drafts of legal documents for attorneys and help them prepare for a case." This skill could be useful in this scenario: "performed research about real estate closings and ordered/gathered necessary documents for closing. "
  • See the full list of paralegal skills.

    After discovering the most helpful skills, we moved onto what kind of education might be helpful in becoming a paralegal. We found that 50.7% of paralegals have graduated with a bachelor's degree and 4.8% of people in this position have earned their master's degrees. While most paralegals have a college degree, you may find it's also true that generally it's possible to be successful in this career with only a high school degree. In fact, our research shows that one out of every six paralegals were not college graduates.

    Those paralegals who do attend college, typically earn either legal support services degrees or business degrees. Less commonly earned degrees for paralegals include criminal justice degrees or political science degrees.

    Once you're ready to become a paralegal, you should explore the companies that typically hire paralegals. According to paralegal resumes that we searched through, paralegals are hired the most by Robert Half International, Facebook, and Wells Fargo. Currently, Robert Half International has 167 paralegal job openings, while there are 41 at Facebook and 13 at Wells Fargo.

    If you're interested in companies where paralegals make the most money, you'll want to apply for positions at Microsoft, Moss Adams, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges. We found that at Microsoft, the average paralegal salary is $86,361. Whereas at Moss Adams, paralegals earn roughly $65,610. And at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, they make an average salary of $64,799.

    View more details on paralegal salaries across the United States.

    In general, paralegals fulfill roles in the professional and manufacturing industries. While employment numbers are high in those industries, the paralegal annual salary is the highest in the professional industry with $49,264 as the average salary. Meanwhile, the manufacturing and hospitality industries pay $48,349 and $46,879 respectively. This means that paralegals who are employed in the professional industry make 9.0% more than paralegals who work in the retail Industry.

    The three companies that hire the most prestigious paralegals are:

      What Litigation Assistants Do

      Litigation assistants are professionals who provide administrative support as well as perform tasks such as filing legal documents, communicating with clients, and conducting legal research for law firms or legal departments. These assistants are required to draft and prepare a variety of court and legal documents that include expert witness designations, motions for preference, and complaints. They must receive many phone calls from clients they are handling as well as examining information about the cases they are working on. Litigation assistants must also work closely with bookkeepers to ensure that all invoices are paid.

      In this section, we take a look at the annual salaries of other professions. Take litigation assistant for example. On average, the litigation assistants annual salary is $3,915 higher than what paralegals make on average every year.

      Even though paralegals and litigation assistants have vast differences in their careers, a few of the skills required to do both jobs are similar. For example, both careers require legal advice, legal documents, and law firm in the day-to-day roles.

      These skill sets are where the common ground ends though. A paralegal responsibility is more likely to require skills like "counsel," "affidavits," "due diligence," and "internet." Whereas a litigation assistant requires skills like "phone calls," "office procedures," "expense reports," and "conference calls." Just by understanding these different skills you can see how different these careers are.

      Litigation assistants really shine in the professional industry with an average salary of $56,616. Whereas paralegals tend to make the most money in the professional industry with an average salary of $49,264.

      The education levels that litigation assistants earn is a bit different than that of paralegals. In particular, litigation assistants are 0.9% less likely to graduate with a Master's Degree than a paralegal. Additionally, they're 5.0% more likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      What Are The Duties Of a Summer Associate?

      Summer associates are law students hired seasonally by law firms. The aim is for future lawyers to be exposed to the practical aspects of a firm. Typically, this program lasts for nine weeks, beginning in May and running through July. Summer associates are expected to be friendly and kind to people, preserve company reputation, support other associates, and perform legal tasks appropriately.

      The next role we're going to look at is the summer associate profession. Typically, this position earns a lower pay. In fact, they earn a $7,336 lower salary than paralegals per year.

      While the salary may be different for these job positions, there is one similarity and that's a few of the skills needed to perform certain duties. We used info from lots of resumes to find that both paralegals and summer associates are known to have skills such as "legal advice," "legal documents," and "law firm. "

      While some skills are similar in these professions, other skills aren't so similar. For example, several resumes showed us that paralegal responsibilities requires skills like "affidavits," "litigation support," "client files," and "attorney review." But a summer associate might use skills, such as, "financial models," "legal memos," "private equity," and "financial statements."

      On average, summer associates earn a lower salary than paralegals. There are industries that support higher salaries in each profession respectively. Interestingly enough, summer associates earn the most pay in the professional industry with an average salary of $101,738. Whereas, paralegals have higher paychecks in the professional industry where they earn an average of $49,264.

      On the topic of education, summer associates earn higher levels of education than paralegals. In general, they're 15.4% more likely to graduate with a Master's Degree and 5.0% more likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      What technology do you think will become more important and prevalent for Paralegals in the next 3-5 years?

      Sharon Sawyer

      Program Coordinator of Justice Studies, Assistant Professor, University of Maine at Augusta

      Our Justice Studies paralegal students worked in virtual internships for social justice organizations and law firms. Our students were already very comfortable working online with video conferencing tools when law firms and non-profits moved online. In fact, they found that they had an advantage because of the skills they developed here at UMA in their online courses. If you think about it, most law-related office work involves research, document preparation, email, sending signed documents, and face-to-face meetings. We have found that all of this is easily done with secure signature and document editing software, email accounts, and video conferencing. While personal meetings in an office are desirable, they are not strictly necessary and might be unsafe in the current circumstances.Show more

      How a Law Internship Compares

      A law internship is a program that is designed for law students to give them valuable insight into the professional lives of attorneys and judges. Law interns need to understand and observe what being a lawyer involves. They are required to conduct research and present it to their superiors for case preparations. They must assist their senior lawyers in organizing all of their legal paperwork that includes case files, evidence records, and legal documents. Law interns are also required to be present in the courtroom to assist lawyers and experience actual courtroom proceedings.

      The third profession we take a look at is law internship. On an average scale, these workers bring in lower salaries than paralegals. In fact, they make a $8,078 lower salary per year.

      By looking over several paralegals and law interns resumes, we found that both roles utilize similar skills, such as "legal advice," "legal documents," and "law firm." But beyond that the careers look very different.

      Some important key differences between the two careers are a few of the skills necessary to fulfill responsibilities. Some examples from paralegal resumes include skills like "affidavits," "due diligence," "litigation support," and "internet," whereas a law internship might be skilled in "legal memos," "legal intern," "intellectual property," and "employment law. "

      Law interns typically study at similar levels compared with paralegals. For example, they're 2.3% less likely to graduate with a Master's Degree, and 38.1% less likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      Description Of an Executive Legal Assistant

      An Executive Legal Assistant provides comprehensive support to lawyers and legal offices. They start as entry-level assistants before specializing in a field after a few years with experience; litigation, criminal law, family law, international law. Their duties include performing legal research by gathering case information for presentation, writing legal reports based on research and interviews, scheduling meetings, organizing travel arrangements, and organizing documentation for easy accessibility. An Executive Legal Assistant must be well organized, analytical research skills, and experience in case management. They typically spend long work hours spent in libraries and offices, requiring occasional travel.

      Now, we'll look at executive legal assistants, who generally average a higher pay when compared to paralegals annual salary. In fact, the difference is about $16,958 per year.

      While both paralegals and executive legal assistants complete day-to-day tasks using similar skills like legal advice, legal documents, and law firm, the two careers also vary in other skills.

      While some skills are shared by these professions, there are some differences to note. "discovery responses," "document review," "affidavits," and "litigation support" are skills that have shown up on paralegals resumes. Additionally, executive legal assistant uses skills like expense reports, confidential information, legal department, and special projects on their resumes.

      In general, executive legal assistants make a higher salary in the retail industry with an average of $76,771. The highest paralegal annual salary stems from the professional industry.

      Executive legal assistants reach similar levels of education when compared to paralegals. The difference is that they're 2.1% more likely to earn a Master's Degree more, and 4.9% less likely to graduate with a Doctoral Degree.