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Working As A Paralegal 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

  • $53,655

    Average Salary

What Does A Paralegal 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 Paralegal 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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Paralegal Specialist Videos

The Paralegal Profession: an insider's perspective (career panel discussion)

U.S. Army Paralegals (27D)

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Paralegal Specialist Career Paths

Paralegal Specialist
Paralegal/Office Manager Office Manager Property Manager
Asset Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Law Clerk Analyst Finance Analyst
Assistant Vice President
7 Yearsyrs
Investigator Program Manager Deputy Director
Chief Of Staff
7 Yearsyrs
Bankruptcy Paralegal Litigation Paralegal Justice
Commissioner
6 Yearsyrs
Contractor-Paralegal Contracts Administrator Compliance Specialist
Compliance Director
12 Yearsyrs
Court Reporter Legal Assistant Attorney
Compliance Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Paralegal Paralegal/Office Manager Attorney
Contracts Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Paralegal Contracts Manager Program Manager
Deputy Director
9 Yearsyrs
Bankruptcy Paralegal Real Estate Paralegal Corporate Paralegal
Legal Department Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Attorney Office Manager Branch Manager
Manager, Assistant Vice President
7 Yearsyrs
Attorney Project Manager President
Managing Member
8 Yearsyrs
Analyst Assistant Vice President Operations Vice President
President Of Operations
9 Yearsyrs
Contractor-Paralegal Contracts Manager Managing Director
Risk Management Director
10 Yearsyrs
Investigator Operations Manager Assistant Vice President
Risk Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Court Reporter Legal Secretary
Senior Legal Assistant
5 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Operations Director Chief Of Operations
Senior Officer
5 Yearsyrs
Paralegal/Office Manager Office Administrator Paralegal
Senior Paralegal
7 Yearsyrs
Analyst Project Manager Partner
Senior Partner
10 Yearsyrs
Law Clerk Adjunct Professor Senior Project Manager
Vice President And Manager
10 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Paralegal Specialist?

Paralegal Specialist Demographics

Gender

Female

62.7%

Male

34.5%

Unknown

2.8%
Ethnicity

White

60.1%

Black or African American

15.0%

Hispanic or Latino

14.3%

Asian

6.9%

Unknown

3.6%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

46.4%

French

12.4%

Italian

6.2%

Japanese

4.1%

Korean

4.1%

Portuguese

3.1%

German

3.1%

Russian

3.1%

Mandarin

3.1%

Ukrainian

2.1%

Turkish

2.1%

Arabic

2.1%

Hindi

1.0%

Chinese

1.0%

Romanian

1.0%

Tatar

1.0%

Venetian

1.0%

Dakota

1.0%

Kinyarwanda

1.0%

Kazakh

1.0%
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Paralegal Specialist Education

Schools

University of Maryland - University College

9.8%

University of Phoenix

9.2%

Howard University

8.7%

Strayer University

6.4%

Ashford University

6.4%

University of Maryland - College Park

5.2%

Liberty University

5.2%

George Mason University

4.6%

Central Texas College

4.6%

American University

4.6%

Kaplan University

4.6%

George Washington University

4.0%

University of the District of Columbia

4.0%

Webster University

3.5%

Southern New Hampshire University

3.5%

Graduate School USA

3.5%

Belhaven University

3.5%

University of Alabama

2.9%

University of North Texas

2.9%

University of California - Irvine

2.9%
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Majors

Legal Support Services

24.4%

Law

15.4%

Criminal Justice

13.1%

Business

12.3%

Political Science

6.6%

Legal Studies

5.8%

Psychology

2.7%

General Studies

2.4%

Public Administration

2.4%

Legal Research And Advanced Professional Studies

2.1%

Human Resources Management

1.5%

Management

1.4%

History

1.4%

Accounting

1.4%

Education

1.3%

General Education, Specific Areas

1.3%

Finance

1.2%

Health Care Administration

1.2%

Counseling Psychology

1.0%

International Relations

1.0%
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Degrees

Bachelors

32.1%

Masters

16.8%

Other

15.5%

Doctorate

12.7%

Associate

11.4%

Certificate

10.2%

Diploma

1.1%

License

0.1%
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Paralegal Specialist Videos

The Paralegal Profession: an insider's perspective (career panel discussion)

U.S. Army Paralegals (27D)

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Top Skills for A Paralegal Specialist

  1. Legal Documents
  2. Trial Preparation
  3. Commander
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Drafted legal documents for employees requesting polygraph examinations and compiled quarterly reports for the Secretary of State.
  • Participated in pretrial preparations by preparing, reviewing and organizing discovery, notifying, interviewing and managing witnesses.
  • Prepared disciplinary documents for military commanders to assist in administrative actions.
  • Prepared monthly Civil Division Private Counsel Budget Report.
  • Provide technical guidance to subordinates maintain law/administrative library monitor and review actions for accuracy.

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Top Paralegal Specialist Employers

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Paralegal Specialist Videos

The Paralegal Profession: an insider's perspective (career panel discussion)

U.S. Army Paralegals (27D)

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