Legal Careers - Paralegal

If you have a mind for law but don't have the time or desire to attend three years of law school, a career as a paralegal offers a rewarding alternative to serving as a lawyer. Paralegals work and provide support for attorneys in a variety of capacities. They can prepare written reports such as motions or subpoenas; help lawyers review laws, decisions, articles, and documents; and file important paperwork with courts.

Paralegals are not limited, however, to working in law firms. Paralegals can also work for corporate entities and in government offices. Those working in law firms will usually handle a wide range of tasks, while those working for separate entities like corporations or the government might perform more specific duties.


Defining the Role

There has been some debate in recent years about whether a paralegal is interchangeable with a legal secretary. While most organizations representing paralegals do not argue that the field evolved from legal secretaries, the general consensus is that paralegals are more specialized than legal secretaries.

While legal secretaries are more often considered proficient at tasks such as typing and editing, paralegals are geared toward tasks that are considered billable by the attorneys for whom they work.

Education

There exist no regulations pertaining to what kind of education a paralegal must have. Rather, it is up to an individual firm or organization to determine what it deems a respectable level of education and training for a paralegal.

Many universities offer four-year bachelor's degrees in paralegal training while others offer certification in paralegal training. Still, some firms prefer to train their own paralegals on the job.

There are also many post-graduate programs available for paralegal training. These provide the opportunity for those with a desire for a career change to choose a path of a paralegal later in their careers.

Compensation

Those starting out as a paralegal can generally expect to make over $30,000 per year while those with more experience can eventually earn over $60,000. Of course, pay and benefits vary depending upon experience and the type of firm or organization that hires you.

By Jon Page