What Can I Do with a Degree in Paralegal Studies?

Learn more about what you can do with a degree in paralegal studies. Find information on paralegal careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers as paralegals.

Overview

The practice of law has changed significantly in recent years. Tasks that were once commonly completed by lawyers are now typically completed by paralegals, also known as legal assistants. Although paralegals assume many of the responsibilities of lawyers, these professionals are prohibited from acting in specific areas of legal practice. Specifically, paralegals are not allowed to set legal fees, provide legal advice to clients and present cases in a court of law. Outside of these particular prohibitions however, paralegals do provide invaluable support for lawyers. Typical duties of paralegals in working with lawyers include: preparing documents for hearings and trials, investigating the facts of cases and identifying appropriate laws and legal decisions that may influence the outcomes of a case.

In addition to the legal duties performed by paralegals in assisting attorneys, these professionals also engage in other types of legal work including: drafting contracts, helping to establish trust funds, creating mortgages and preparing taxes for clients. Paralegals may also be asked to maintain financial records for a law office and coordinate schedules for attorneys. Generally speaking, paralegals provide a number of important services and supports for lawyers and for clients seeking legal advice. As demand for legal services increases so too will the scope of the responsibilities and duties performed by paralegals.

Careers

Paralegals work in a number of different organizations. While paralegals are most commonly seen in law firms, these professionals may also be employed by corporations and government agencies. In these environments, paralegals may specialize in a specific area of law that is important to the organization. One example is a paralegal that works in the human resource department of a large corporation. This paralegal may be responsible for reviewing human resource policy to ensure that it complies with current labor laws.

Because the job duties of paralegals typically differ depending on the organization in which they work, professionals in this job may be broadly classified as either corporate paralegals or litigation paralegals. Corporate paralegals are responsible for providing legal support for the operations of a law firm or large company. Litigation paralegals, on the other hand, work directly with lawyers to prepare documents for court, research cases and collect evidence for hearings.

Salary

Salaries for paralegals differ based on a host of variables including: the education of the professional, the experience of the professional, the place of employment and the geographical location of the job. Generally speaking, paralegals working in large law firms in metropolitan areas will earn more than professionals that work in small organizations in rural areas. For all paralegals employed in 2008, the average annually salary was 46,120. Those employed at the top of the profession earned $73,450 annually and those at the bottom of the field earned $29,260. When reviewing the salary information for paralegals it is important to note that these professionals often receive bonuses for their work, based on the profitability and success of the organization for which they work. In addition paralegals are typically employed as full-time workers, providing them access with benefit packages that include healthcare, vacation, paid time off and reimbursement continuing their education.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for paralegals is quite good overall. Growth in the field is expected to be higher than average when compared with other professions, at 28 percent until 2018. However, there are currently a number of students seeking training and education to become paralegals. As such, even though growth is substantial, there are currently a number of qualified professionals seeking employment in the field. Individuals that have both education and experience will be able to command higher salaries and better employment opportunities. In addition paralegals that specialize in specific areas of law will have more opportunities for employment. Specifically, demand for paralegals working in real estate, medical malpractice and product liability is expected to increase in the coming years. While a majority of paralegals will continue to be employed in private legal practice and law firms, opportunities for professionals will increase in corporate legal departments, banks and insurance companies.

Recommended Schools

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