A paralegal is one of those professions in which no two days are ever quite the same. Paralegals typically work with attorneys in all aspects of their practices including helping them prepare cases for trial, researching matters, speaking with clients, and preparing documents for court deadlines. A paralegal is often vital to a lawyer's success.
The work of a paralegal is often challenging, as a legal office can provide a high stress environment with demanding attorneys and relentless court deadlines. When a deadline is looming, a paralegal might have to put in extra hours to complete an assignment. However, if you thrive under pressure and derive satisfaction from completing a task with a deadline on time, you could find this type of work situation stimulating. Just keep in mind that the work of a paralegal can also become tedious, as paralegals often must deal with numerous administrative tasks such as running the office and screening calls for the attorneys.
If you enjoy working with people and have strong interpersonal skills, you might consider becoming a paralegal. A paralegal interacts with clients, court administrators and other attorneys every day. He typically makes phone calls, encouraging clients to turn in all the necessary documents on time and deals with the opposing counsel. A paralegal might also attend depositions or trials to take notes or present research.
Love of Writing and Research
A good portion of a paralegal's job involves legal research, organizing documents and writing. A paralegal typically needs to organize trial documents so an attorney can access them quickly in court. A paralegal might also need to prepare court memos and briefs, or write the minutes of meetings. Depending on the field of law in which she works, a paralegal might help attorneys draft contracts, assist with tax returns or file other agreements. In short, a paralegal has to write and research frequently, so if you have good verbal and research skills -- and the legal field appeals to you -- you might want to consider becoming a paralegal.
Test the Legal Field
If you are considering becoming a lawyer, but aren't quite sure if you're ready to commit to law school, you would likely benefit from working as a paralegal to determine if pursuing an advanced degree is the right choice for you. Law school internships might not provide the same benefit because law firms often try to impress interns to lure them into accepting full time employment later. A paralegal, on the other hand, will see what working for a law firm is really like -- the good, the bad and the ugly.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, paralegals make a median annual salary of $46,680 per year, as of 2010. When they work overtime, they are paid time-and-a-half. The job outlook is expected to grow by 18 percent through the year 2020. Although competition will also grow for these jobs, paralegals who have experience or are formally educated will have a better chance at getting work.
2016 Salary Information for Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants earned a median annual salary of $49,500 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, paralegals and legal assistants earned a 25th percentile salary of $38,230, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $63,640, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 285,600 people were employed in the U.S. as paralegals and legal assistants.