Establishing a career as a paralegal provides workers with important court experience, expertise and a number of additional benefits. Specific education, work experience and/or training can qualify an entry-level applicant to receive a job offer in this field. Once hired, paralegals participate in the day-to-day work requirements of a legal institution under the discretion of an attorney.
In addition to working in an office, the profession requires attendance and monitoring of certain court proceedings.
The benefits of this career area include a steady income, connections within the legal realm and relevant experience and knowledge. For many, a job as a paralegal is a stepping-stone to other legal professions, including becoming a lawyer. Career growth is available to those who excel within a paralegal position.
Requirements for Paralegal Careers
Law offices and other institutions hiring paralegals are usually specific in their requirements for open positions. Applicants can ensure they meet all necessary qualifications in order to have the best chance of receiving a job offer. Additionally, individuals with related interests and personal qualities often make a good fit for a paralegal career.
Individual legal institutions determine specific requirements for employment. In some offices, applicants must have a year or more of prior experience and/or pass an exam to be hired. Although this is less common, some law offices accept entry-level paralegals for employment without prior experience.
Academic credentials are important in providing preparation for a paralegal career. Although a college degree is not specifically required for employment in some law offices, applicants with post-secondary degrees are usually given preference for job opportunities.
Most paralegals have a two-year or a four-year degree from traditional or online institutions with accreditation. Many institutions offer college degree programs for paralegal studies. This paralegal studies degree, or related college courses and programs, provide basic knowledge of legal terminology to future applicants. Obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies is the best qualification for an entry-level paralegal applying for a job. Additionally, a related four-year degree paired with a paralegal certificate is an acceptable qualification for a future paralegal. Neither the paralegal degree nor certificate is specifically necessary to advance in the field.
Personality Qualities and Interests
Certain skills and abilities are necessary for paralegals to perform their job at an optimum level. A paralegal career requires a worker to have solid writing capabilities for composing drafts and final pleas, memorandums and other documents. Additionally, paralegals should have genuine interest in researching laws and finding new information. The result of having genuine interest in legal subjects is often success, recognition and growth within the field.
The ability to handle multiple cases and associated documents all at once is imperative. A significant amount of legal reading is necessary to excel in this career. Paralegals must know how to cover large amounts of information and retain the bits and pieces useful to a case. Remaining organized when researching multiple cases is helpful, so the research for one case is never applied to another case.
Both in and out of the courtroom, understanding legal terminology and the laws in both federal and state courts are necessary. This way, paralegals can communicate effectively and properly understand a case. Lastly, strong interpersonal skills are needed to efficiently communicate with individuals in a courtroom. Examples of these individuals include an attorney’s clients, legal experts and other staff.
Work Environment for Paralegal Careers
Paralegals often work alongside attorneys and other legal professionals in a law office. During a typical day, a paralegal will prepare legal documents, conduct law research and organize court cases for future presentation. This career also requires workers to attend specific court proceedings at courthouses. Before many proceedings occur, the professional prepares basic documents such as motions, subpoenas and summons.
Paralegals typically work in a stable, quiet environment during regular office hours. Most are employed full-time and work during regular business hours. However, part-time employment is not uncommon. The usual workweek for this profession is Monday to Friday with evenings, weekends and public holidays off. Additional research and/or preparation for a case is sometimes required outside of the regular workday. This depends on the workload in a law office or legal institution.
Daily Responsibilities in Paralegal Careers
Individuals in this career field work under the direction of a lawyer. Law firms, large organizations or government institutions usually employ paralegals. Unlike lawyers, paralegals cannot provide legal counsel or sign official court documents. Additionally, only lawyers can provide representation for the client in the courtroom and determine required fees.
Paralegals are also referred to as legal assistants because their primary responsibilities are handling exhibits, files and case documents. Additionally, researching the details of current cases and verifying the information described in a trial are important responsibilities in this career. The purpose of these duties is to provide only necessary information to an attorney involved in a case.
Paralegals must be present at certain hearings and mediations. Before these meetings, the professional must draft required legal documents. By completing the necessary research and paperwork for an attorney beforehand, they can focus on the most important aspects of a case. Federal and state court documents for various cases must also be filed by paralegals. The lawyer involved in a case uses all of these documents to research the event.
Income for Paralegal Careers
The income provided for this career field is substantial, even at the entry level. The average yearly compensation for a paralegal is $50,000. However, pay rates fluctuate based on the individual’s experience and the location of the employment institution. Some paralegals with additional skill sets can earn much higher income amounts each year.
Urban areas provide higher income incentives for paralegals. This is due to the increased number of court cases that occur in cities. Rural areas usually do not provide increased wages for paralegals, since the profession is in less demand in these areas.
Potential for Growth
Job potential in the paralegal field has increased over the past few years and is expected to continue growing over time. Lawyers who use paralegals are becoming increasingly popular among clients. This is because the cost of utilizing the service of paralegal is much lower than the cost of an expensive attorney. Based on this information, the need for paralegals will most likely continue to grow.
Increased education is always beneficial for the advancement of a paralegal’s career. Obtaining a paralegal certificate, in addition to current education level, provides an individual with potential for growth within the field.
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