We know: All About Being a Paralegal

What do paralegals or legal assistants do?

While lawyers assume ultimate responsibility for legal work, they often delegate many of their tasks to paralegals.

Paralegal duties may include:

  • helping lawyers prepare for closings, hearings, trials, and corporate meetings
  • investigating the facts of cases and ensuring that all relevant information is considered
  • identifying appropriate laws, judicial decisions, legal articles, and other materials that are relevant to assigned cases
  • preparing written reports that attorneys use in determining how cases should be handled and preparing legal arguments, drafting pleadings and motions to be filed with the court

What are the employment opportunities for paralegals?

According to the government's Occupational Outlook Handbook, paralegal jobs are projected to grow faster than average, as law offices try to reduce costs by assigning them tasks formerly carried out by lawyers.

What kind of education or training do paralegals need?

While some paralegals train on the job, employers increasingly prefer graduates of post secondary paralegal education programs; college graduates who have taken some paralegal courses are especially in demand in some markets.

The most common way of becoming a paralegal is through a community college paralegal program that leads to an associate's degree. The other common method of entry, mainly for those who have a college degree, is through a certification program that leads to a certification in paralegal studies.

Where do paralegals work and how many are there?

Paralegals and legal assistants held about 200,000 jobs in 2002. Private law firms employed 7 out of 10 paralegals and legal assistants; most of the remainder worked for corporate legal departments and various levels of government.

How much do paralegals make?

In 2002, full-time, wage and salary paralegals and legal assistants had median annual earnings, including bonuses of $37,950. The middle 50 percent earned between $30,020 and $48,760. The top 10 percent earned more than $61,150, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $24,470.

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