Why We Love It
$52,390Potential Avg. Salary
7.6%Job Growth Rate
Growing DemandJob Outlook
Good Entry Level SalaryCareer Attribute
Paralegals assist lawyers with a variety of tasks. They may help research cases for lawyers, finding relevant court decisions that can be used to strengthen arguments. They may conduct interviews with clients and document discussions. They also help by taking notes and conducting research during trials.
What is a Paralegal?
The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in paralegal roles:
- Conduct thorough research in preparation for defending clients during court trials
- Assist lawyers with drafting contracts and other paperwork
- Maintain a system of files, documents, and evidence so that it’s easily assessable when needed
- Interview clients, witnesses, and opposing parties, and document conversations
- Take notes during trials and conduct on-the-spot research to combat opposing party claims
A Day in the Life
While paralegals are not lawyers, they perform many of the same responsibilities as lawyers—everything except litigation. The work of a paralegal may vary depending on the type of law firm he/she works for. For example, paralegals who work in criminal law may conduct thorough research on historic trials to find out what arguments worked well in similar cases, or to find judgments made by the other courts and judges that support the argument that the lawyer plans to make in court.
In business or corporate law, the paralegal may help to draft contracts and other documents. The paralegal participates in discussions between the lawyer and client, taking notes that are used to later draft contracts and other agreements. While the lawyer is ultimately accountable for reviewing the documents and ensuring they’re legally binding and accurate, the paralegal may do much of the work to form the documents and revise them as needed on behalf of the lawyer.
The paralegal is often also responsible for maintaining the law firm’s library of documents, paperwork, and evidence. He/she works to make sure all important files and documents are safely stored and filed in ways that make the documents easily accessible when needed. In this way, paralegals are similar to research librarians. Their role often requires them to find evidence or supporting documents in a short amount of time to form rebuttals for claims, so they need to be very familiar with conducting research and finding exactly what they’re looking for.
Typical Work Schedule
Most paralegals work full-time schedules during normal business hours. Overtime may be required on occasion to complete work on deadline or to handle emergency requests.
Projected Job Growth
Because paralegals perform many of the same responsibilities as lawyers, they are often more cost-efficient for law firms in place of hiring additional lawyers to fulfill research and paperwork responsibilities. Because of the lower cost of hiring paralegals and an increasing need for legal services, demand for paralegals is expected to grow in the coming decade.
Most paralegals are employed by lawyers and law firms. A few may also work for government agencies, and some also work in the finance or insurance industries.
How To Become a Paralegal
The first step to becoming a paralegal is to earn a degree. The type of degree earned and the major studied can vary widely as there are many paths you can take to becoming a paralegal. Some example career paths are listed below.
Some aspiring paralegals pursue associate’s degrees in paralegal studies. These two-year degree programs teach students the basics of working as a paralegal, and they may offer the opportunity to focus on the specific field of law you hope to work in. While it’s possible to find work as a paralegal with only an associate’s degree, many law offices prefer or require candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree.
Some aspiring paralegals pursue bachelor’s degrees in English, political science, or history. After completing their bachelor’s degrees, they enter paralegal certification programs. With this background, paralegals can usually find work with any type of law firm that’s willing to conduct some on the job training for the specific field of law the firm handles.
Other aspiring paralegals earn the appropriate degrees for a completely different career. For example, a paralegal may pursue a degree in human resources and work as a human resources specialist for many years. Later in their career, they’ll be equipped to work as a paralegal for a law firm that specializes in business law because their career in human resources provided them with ample training on laws that govern employers.
In the end, the path you choose is very flexible, but you should choose a path that allows for you to gain one of the following credentials: specialized paralegal training in the form of a formal college certificate or degree, experience working in a role related to legal issues in the field of law you want to specialize in, or experience working in a law firm in an entry-level secretary or assistant role.
Paralegal Salary Data
We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.
National Anual Salary
National Hourly Wage
How do Paralegal salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Paralegal's can make an average annual salary of $52,390, or $25 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $37,880 or $18 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.
Salary Rankings And Facts
#362 Nationally for All Careers
Programs and Degrees
Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Paralegal. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.
Highest Education Among Paralegals
- 2.7% Doctorate
- 4.9% Masters
- 37.5% Bachelors
- 18.5% Associates
- 24.1% College
- 11.2% High School
- 1% Less than High School
Job Growth Projections and Forecast
2014 Total Jobs279,500
2024 Est. Jobs300,800
Job Growth Rate7.6%
Est. New Jobs21,300
How does Paralegal job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 21,300 jobs for a total of 300,800 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 7.6% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.
Growth Rankings And Facts
#294 Nationally for All Careers
What Companies Employ The Most Paralegals
|Industry||Current Jobs||New Jobs Needed||% Increase|
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||16,900||1,000||1%|
|Federal government, excluding postal service||14,000||-1,300||-1%|