A paralegal job is ideal for individuals who want a career in law but do not want to go through the rigors of law school or argue cases in the courtroom. Paralegals are often referred to as legal assistants because they do many legal tasks for attorneys. They can also perform many of the same duties as attorneys, however, they are forbidden to give legal advice, argue cases in court, establish legal fees, or do things that would be deemed as practicing law.
Paralegals work in law offices and are often the backbone of the practices. The tasks of a paralegal will vary depending on the type of law practice or situation. Paralegals will most often do the legal tasks that are required on cases such as doing legal research and investigation, preparing motions and writing pleads, acquiring affidavits, assisting attorneys in preparing for hearings and trials, and other similar types of duties.
Paralegals require formal training and will have either a two-year associate's degree or a four-year bachelor's degree. There are upwards of 1,000 paralegal training programs available in the United States through community colleges, technical colleges, business schools, four-year universities and law schools, yet only one fourth of these are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). While it's not a requirement to have an ABA paralegal certification, it will boost your job prospects.
Numerous organizations employ paralegals. These include law firms, legal departments in the corporate world, as well as state, local, and federal government agencies, and various other groups. The type of work that is done by paralegals will vary depending on the type of organization.
Paralegal salaries differ greatly. Salary determinations are made based on education, specialized training, geography, the type of law and past experience. Paralegals can expect to be paid more in metropolitan areas and when they are employed by large corporations and law firms. An average starting salary for paralegals is between $25,000 and $30,000 per year. The median salary is between $30,000 and $45,000. Paralegals who have much experience in the field can potentially earn up to $60,000 per year.
The job outlook for paralegals is good because new positions are opening up in both the private and public sectors every year. However, the competition is stiff and paralegals who specialize in particular areas of law are generally chosen over paralegals who have no specialties.