How to Become Paralegal and Legal Assistants

What To Do Now? Paralegal Career Training

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Do you have an interest in the law? Are you detail-oriented and good at following directions? Retraining as a paralegal could be an interesting path for you. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for paralegals is expected to continue to grow at a rapid rate as companies try to cut down costs and opt for using paralegals over lawyers for their legal needs.

Online paralegal training courses can provide classes to improve your skills for this in-demand occupation.

Paralegal Career Skills

Do you want to be involved in legal matters, but aren't interested in the full law school curriculum? Becoming a paralegal may be a good alternative. Paralegals directly assist attorneys with their cases, doing much of the research and preparatory work, and often some of the analysis. Paralegals are detail-oriented, good at research, task-focused, and careful. They understand how to read legal materials and communicate with lawyers. Other career skills of paralegals include writing clarity, data management, and following directions. As a paralegal, you might be involved in many aspects of a case, but you wouldn't present before a court or give actual legal advice.

Paralegals are found in all areas of law, from civil cases to criminal. Environmental law is an important and growing field, as are elder issues and health care.

Career Advice for Paralegals

What does it take to become a paralegal? There are many routes to this occupation including a two-year education at a community college, experience in the field, or a four-year liberal arts degree. Online paralegal training courses can be another way to improve your skills in order to work in the legal field. It is often important to get some "hands on" training with a lawyer who can supervise and oversee your work. If you have always been attracted to the legal field and are a hard worker with an eye for detail, perhaps becoming a paralegal could be a good match for you.

Career Outlook

  • Where the Work Is: Approximately 72 percent of paralegals work for law firms, while the rest work for corporate and government legal agencies
  • Best Opportunities. Formally trained paralegals have the best opportunities for jobs
  • Paralegal Education: Most paralegals have either an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in addition to a certificate in paralegal studies
  • Growth in the Field: Employment of paralegals is expected to grow faster than other occupations due to employers reducing operating costs by using paralegals in tasks that were once done by lawyers
  • What You'd Be Doing: Paralegals help lawyers to prepare for trials, closings, hearings, and corporate meetings. Paralegals may occasionally help lawyers in investigating facts and information to verify accuracy
  • Opening Doors: Getting certified as a paralegal with a professional society may help open more doors and opportunities in securing work as a paralegal
  • Job Outlook: The field is projected to grow at 17 percent through 2012-22.
  • Median Annual Salary: In May 2013, the paralegal and legal assistants earned $51,170 with top 10% earning more than $76,960.
  • States with Highest Employment: California, Florida, New York, Texas, Illinois.
  • Highest Paying States: District of Columbia, California, Alaska, New Jersey, Oregon.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Paralegals and Legal Assistants, May 2013 Wages