Paralegals and legal assistants do a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents.
Paralegals and legal assistants are found in all types of organizations, but most work for law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies. They usually work full time, and some may have to work more than 40 hours a week to meet deadlines.
How to Become a Paralegal or Legal Assistant
Most paralegals and legal assistants have an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies. In some cases, employers may hire college graduates with a bachelor’s degree but no legal experience or specialized education and train them on the job.
Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 8 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. This occupation attracts many applicants, and competition for jobs will be strong. Experienced, formally trained paralegals with strong computer and database management skills should have the best job prospects.
This occupation supported 277,000 jobs in 2012 and 279,500 jobs in 2014, reflecting an increase of 0.9%. In 2012, this occupation was projected to increase by 16.7% in 2022 to 323,300 jobs. As of 2014, to keep pace with prediction, the expected number of jobs was 286,200, compared with an observed value of 279,500, 2.3% lower than expected. This indicates current employment trends are worse than the 2012 trend within this occupation. In 2014, this occupation was projected to increase by 7.7% in 2024 to 300,800 jobs. Linear extrapolation of the 2012 projection for 2022 results in an expected number of 332,500 jobs for 2024, 10.5% higher than the 2014 projection for 2024. This indicates expectations for future employment trends are much worse than the 2012 trend within this occupation.