When you want to work in the legal field without becoming a lawyer or attorney, a paralegal career could be the ideal option. Paralegals provide lawyers with assistance as needed, such as updating legal files and calling clients and witnesses. Being a paralegal involves developing a number of skills that allow you to perform multiple tasks and duties on the job. If this sounds like it might be a great option for you, learn more about this career path, including how to become one and what kinds of duties paralegals typically do. The following paralegal job description can help you decide if this is a suitable career path for you.
What Is a Paralegal?
A paralegal is a professional who assists lawyers in law firms, government agencies, and other legal departments. Paralegals have many responsibilities on the job, although they are not allowed to provide clients with any legal advice. While other professionals handle some of the same tasks, such as legal secretaries, paralegals have more technical training in the field of law.
When you work as a paralegal, you can select a certain area of law, such as family law, litigation, or real estate. The area of law you work in can affect the kinds of tasks and duties you are expected to handle. Working as a paralegal can allow you to play an important role in legal matters without needing the advanced training and education that lawyers have.
What is the job outlook for paralegals? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paralegals have a job outlook of 12 percent through 2030, which is higher than the average growth for all careers in the U.S.
The exact duties you might perform as a paralegal can vary, depending on where you work and the area of law you work in. For example, paralegals working for government agencies often have duties and responsibilities that focus on administrative law, while paralegals in estate law might spend more time reviewing trusts, wills, and similar documents. Although duties and responsibilities can differ, there are some general duties that most paralegals are expected to handle.
Paralegals are often responsible for maintaining records and documents, doing research on laws, court cases, and regulations, as well as gathering and organizing documents for lawyers to review. Other duties that paralegals typically perform include helping attorneys prepare for meetings and trials, organizing exhibits related to cases or trials, and filing legal documents. Paralegals might also be expected to draft legal documents for their supervising attorney, obtain formal statements used for evidence, and schedule interviews or meetings with witnesses, attorneys, and clients.
Paralegal duties can vary based on the size of the firm or agency they work for. In general, those working at larger firms or organizations might have a smaller scope of work, while those working for smaller firms or organizations might have a wider range of duties to perform on a regular basis.
The kinds of skills a paralegal should have can help you understand more about this type of career path. Paralegals need to have strong skills in communication and writing. Communication skills are crucial for interviewing clients and witnesses, gathering information from experts, and interacting with lawyers. Writing skills are needed for drafting documents, such as contracts, briefs, and agreements. Paralegals also need to have good investigative and research skills in order to analyze information and find relevant documents for cases.
Technology skills are also important for paralegals to have. Paralegals should be comfortable with using different kinds of software programs, such as spreadsheets and word processing programs. Other abilities paralegals find highly useful include teamwork skills, organizational skills, and multi-tasking skills. Paying attention to detail is also a good skill for paralegals to develop.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Paralegal?
The length of time it takes for you to become a paralegal can vary depending on the degree program you take. For example, an associate degree might only take you two years to become a paralegal. However, it could take four years to become a paralegal if you decide to earn an advanced degree, such as a bachelor’s degree. You might choose to pursue a higher degree if you are aiming to advance your career in the legal field.
If you want to start working in this career sooner, you can also explore other educational paths to becoming a paralegal such as a certificate program, which typically takes a year to complete. These programs can offer a quicker way to learn the skills you will need to become a paralegal.
Top Paralegal Career Opportunities
What are some of the top career opportunities that might be available to you as a paralegal? Some of the top careers include intellectual property paralegal, employment and labor law paralegal, and government paralegal. Depending on your career interests, you can work in a specific area of law as a paralegal. Some of these opportunities include corporate paralegal, criminal law paralegal, bankruptcy paralegal, litigation paralegal, personal injury paralegal, real estate paralegal, and family law paralegal. Corporate paralegals spend much of their time assisting with legal matters that are relevant to corporations, such as researching and reviewing business regulations, while litigation, personal injury, and criminal law paralegals might spend a lot of time preparing cases for trial.
Alternative Careers for Paralegals
Having an education that prepares you for a paralegal career does not mean you have to work as a paralegal in a specific area of law. You can use your skills and training to work in alternative careers for paralegals, such as being an administrative assistant, banking professional, contracts administrator, human resources representative, or legal secretary. If you are looking for a career in the courtroom, you can become a court clerk with your background as a paralegal.
Looking to Start Your Paralegal Career?
When you are ready to get started on your paralegal career, Post University offers a Certificate in Paralegal Studies. This certificate program provides you with education and training in legal studies, including introductory courses in law, business law, civil litigation, and more. During this program, you can expect to develop the skills you will need to work as a paralegal. The Certificate in Paralegal Studies program, which is available online or on campus, could provide you with the education and the knowledge needed for working in the legal field. While you are in this program, you will study how to prepare various legal documents, conduct legal research, interview clients, and handle other aspects of paralegal duties, such as participating in real estate closings. By completing the Certificate in Paralegal Studies at Post University, you will show potential employers that you have received the foundational training and education needed to play a critical role in the legal system as a paralegal.
If you are looking for more information on obtaining a paralegal certificate, please contact Post University. With our Paralegal Studies Certificate, you can go through the right training to learn the skills needed for this career.
Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.