Paralegals receive much of the work delegated by lawyers, some of them performing many of the same tasks. Duties that are particularly important include assisting lawyers with preparation for trials, hearings, closings, and corporate meetings. A paralegal gathers and analyzes research data, investigates laws and facts of previous cases, and researches relevant sources in order to prepare cases. In addition, this individual assists with preparation of legal documents, correspondence, and arguments.
Paralegal Skill Set:
Tools Used by Paralegals:
At a Glance: Paralegal Salary Statistics
Paralegal Salaries for Industries
Federal Executive Branch
Management of Companies & Enterprises
Typical Work Activities
Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the paralegal career is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations, at a rate of about 18 percent between 2010 and 2020. Despite this, job competition is anticipated to be strong because many people are choosing to pursue this profession.
Though private law firms represent the largest number of employers, many other organizations are hiring paralegals to do many of the duties formerly performed by lawyers.
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Individuals prepare to be paralegals in several ways. Forty-four percent of respondents to a survey conducted by job analysis site O*Net reported holding a bachelor’s degree. An associate’s degree paralegal program provided at a community college was the second most common level of education, held by 30 percent of respondents. Someone who already has a college degree can receive training through a certificate program in paralegal studies. An alternate method is to receive paralegal training on the job.
An associate or bachelor degree program in paralegal studies usually combines training on the subject with courses on other topics. An associate degree program typically takes two years and a bachelor’s degree can be attained in four years. Certificate programs vary in length. Some take just a few months to complete because they focus on providing intensive training in the subject for those who already have a degree. The American Bar Association has approved approximately 260 of the over 1,000 formal paralegal educational programs available.
Admission requirements vary by school and include a high school diploma, standardized test scores, personal interviews, legal experience, certain college courses, or a degree. Tuition costs vary by type of program and school and financial aid is often available. Some programs include internships in their tuition costs. Voluntary certifications are offered by various local and national paralegal organizations. An example is the two-day exam offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) that qualifies individuals to use the Certified Paralegal (CP) or Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) credential.
Various other occupations require a detailed understanding of law without mandating the extensive training required to become a lawyer. One is that of a law clerk, who conducts research or prepares legal documents in assistance to judges or lawyers. Legal secretaries use legal documents, procedures, and terminology to prepare legal correspondence and papers and sometimes assist with legal research.
Within the insurance industry, claims investigators, examiners, and adjusters handle the claims submitted by policyholders requesting payments. Title examiners, searchers, and abstractors examine titles, search real estate records, or summarize relevant insurance or legal information for different purposes. They are employed by real estate agencies, title insurance companies, or law firms.