What does a paralegal do?
Paralegals are to an attorney what nurses are to a physician. As a paralegal, you support attorneys by undertaking such duties as filing affidavits, preparing court cases, and organizing sensitive files. Your major responsibility is to free attorneys of remedial work so they can focus on the business of defending or prosecuting a case. Ultimately, most attorneys in private practice depend on their paralegals to help them enhance the firm's billable hours.
A paralegal conducts investigative research, collecting documents and conducting statistical analyses. The responsibility of locating witnesses often falls on you. Once located, you will interview witnesses, often without the assistance of an attorney. You summarize your findings, including data from your research and results of depositions. You keep a record of court testimonies, maintaining a consistent line of communication between the attorney and the client, making initial contact and conducting any interviews. Additional duties typically include:
• Finding and summarizing supporting court documents
• Drafting legal documents, correspondence to the opposing team and the client, and file pleadings and hearings
• Organizing the information you collect as well as track the hours spent on cases
• Keeping files organized and accessible to your team while maintaining the utmost security and confidentialityView Roles
What is the average paralegal salary?
You can expect paralegal salaries to range between $48,270 and $69,680 per year depending on your field, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average median monthly salary of paralegals is about $4,685.
Factors that affect salary
Your salary depends on your region, industry, education, and experience. You can increase your starting salary with additional education beyond a four-year high school degree. However, your experience, industry, and location will have the most influence on how your salary compares to that of other paralegals. Government jobs, whether at the federal or state level, pay significantly higher than most other sectors. Federal paralegal positions offer a median monthly salary of over $5,800 with finance and insurance coming in a close second at just under $5,400 a month.
Working as a paralegal
A career as a paralegal is among the most demanding careers you can choose. It provides a viable way to make a difference in the legal community behind the scenes. Although you will not have a law license, you are likely to be the busiest person at the courthouse. While you can ease your workload with artificial intelligence systems for uploading and collecting data, a machine or robot cannot replace what you do as a paralegal. You will learn about your responsibilities, work environment, and potential colleagues in this section.
What is the career outlook for a paralegal?
The job market for paralegals has a projected growth of 12% over the decade between 2020 and 2030. A steady growth above the national average for most jobs reflects the increased recognition of a need for paralegals. It also suggests that employers have previously underutilized paralegals, using legal secretaries or assistants instead. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that you will have 43,000 paralegal openings available to you each year across the nation. There will likely be a steady increase in paralegal demand for the foreseeable future.
What education do you need as a paralegal?
You do not need any formal education to become a paralegal. However, the highly competitive nature of the field puts you at a disadvantage if you fail to acquire at least an associate degree. Moreover, some states require certification to work as a paralegal. A combination of no degree and no experience may still get you a job with a small outfit depending on your location. Nevertheless, you need at least a high school diploma or GED equivalency because a paralegal requires proficiency with writing, reading, and math. Your next level of education is either a two-year associate degree or certification program in paralegal studies or paralegal science.
Attorneys would struggle to stay atop their challenging workloads and trial obligations without a paralegal's support. Becoming a paralegal means entering a field that’s in-demand and fulfilling. Learn the answers to some frequently asked questions about the career path to paralegal jobs below.