Legal Careers

Paralegals work hand in hand with attorneys to handle complex legal matters. Whether it is litigation, bankruptcy, personal injury or family law, paralegals play a part in helping attorneys manage all information required to perform their work.

Paralegals manage a massive amount of data each day. They collect evidence, conduct research and organize information. They use strong critical thinking, reading comprehension and presentation skills to make that information easier for attorneys to navigate. The work is especially rewarding for those who enjoy showing excellence in their career while working in a fast-paced and high-pressure environment.

The profession is also an excellent stepping stone to those who desire to become lawyers. Paralegals earn an impressive salary, with an average median wage of $65,970. Once they have completed appropriate college coursework and certification, paralegals enjoy some of the most rewarding work in the legal and business industries.

The Vital Role of Paralegals

Paralegals are responsible for much of the behind-the-scenes work of the legal system. Attorneys rely on paralegals to assist with all aspects of legal services. For example, paralegals who work with litigation attorneys collect information pertaining to cases. This includes evidence, witness statements or police records. They then organize that information in the appropriate format to make it easy for the attorney to review.

Due to the massive amount of data involved with the role, paralegals often use computers and specialized legal database software to organize and store the data. Additionally, they help attorneys prepare for cases by scheduling interviews with witnesses, other attorneys, those providing expert testimony or anyone else relevant to the case.

During trials, paralegals take notes, review transcripts and handle exhibits. They spend most of their day performing their work at a computer. Sometimes, they travel to collect evidence, deliver documents or accompany lawyers on their appointments. These professionals mostly work in teams with other paralegals to perform their job. Often, the work is fast paced, requiring them to work under pressure and within tight deadlines.

Career Path for Paralegals

Opportunities for paralegals exist outside of litigation. Some work in government offices organizing legal information, drafting updates to local rules and regulations and assisting government officials as necessary. Others work in large corporations. Much of the work of these paralegals involves research and documentation for a legal department.

They may draft contracts and correspondence for attorneys, assemble information for the corporate prospectus or take notes during legal proceedings for the company. Real estate is another area of opportunity for the paralegal. In this role, they draft documents relevant to real estate sales and purchases. They collect signatures on documents, review documents for accuracy and organize them for final review. Paralegals also specialize in other areas, such as bankruptcy, family law and personal injury. Finally, many paralegals go on to obtain a law degree.

Pay and Job Outlook for Paralegals

The pay for paralegals varies by industry and the size of the firm. Those working in the federal government earned a median salary of $65,970, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Jobs for paralegals are expected to grow faster than average, at a rate of 15 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Training and Education Required to Become a Paralegal

Most employers prefer paralegals who hold a two-year or four-year degree in legal studies. Many employers also prefer their paralegals to hold a certificate from a program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).

The coursework for paralegals consists of legal writing, legal research and topics on corporate law. Additionally, most professionals continue their education with advanced courses to demonstrate their knowledge and commitment to excellence in their work. Once they have completed their coursework, aspiring paralegals complete an internship which gives them valuable on-the-job training as they begin their careers.

Skills and Character Traits Required for Paralegals

Good paralegals must possess exceptional communication skills. They must be able to present their research to attorneys, whether written or verbal, in a clear and organized manner. Paralegals must also have the interpersonal skills to interact with clients, other attorneys and vendors to develop good working relationships.

Due to the massive amount of information involved in legal proceedings, paralegals must be extremely organized. They must keep all documents properly filed and maintain appropriate records for locating necessary information. Due to rapidly changing deadlines, successful paralegals should be able to adapt quickly to change and work well under pressure.

Paralegals must possess expert research skills and must be able to locate valuable information for the legal team quickly. Lastly, teamwork is a vital skill for paralegals. They often work as a part of a legal time and must coordinate their information and tasks with other members of the team.

Paralegals perform a great deal of work necessary to help attorneys succeed. They collect and organize massive amounts of information and present that information in a manner easy for attorneys to navigate. Additionally, paralegals prepare paperwork, gather evidence, schedule interviews with witnesses or case experts and take notes during legal proceedings.

The career is full of opportunities to advance to specializing and gain more knowledge of advanced topics. From real estate to bankruptcy law or family law, there are plenty of niches available for the paralegal. With a median salary of $65,970, paralegals enjoy a rewarding wage while taking on some of the most challenging work in the legal field. A career as a paralegal is also an excellent chance for those desiring a career as an attorney to see firsthand if the field is right for them.

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