Paralegal Job Description – What is a Paralegal?
Are you looking to start a new career as a Paralegal, or use your existing skills to get a start in the legal field? This article will answer several questions about becoming a paralegal. Specifically, what is a paralegal, what does a paralegal do, what is the average paralegal salary, what education or credentials are needed, and what is a paralegal job?
Paralegals are essentially assistants to attorneys, sometimes called legal assistants or legal secretaries. While the word secretary or assistant doesn’t glorify the position in any way, paralegals have vastly more responsibilities and skill-sets than the average secretarial or assistant position.
Paralegals assist attorneys in the everyday management of their practice and basically do anything and everything besides provide legal advice or represent legal clients. For example, they often perform legal research, data retrieval, collection of judicial decisions, legal precedence, reading articles and much more.
Perhaps one of the more important roles a paralegal will undertake is assistance in the preparation for hearings, trials, depositions and the like. They may also be requested to prepare written reports, case documents, motions, pleadings, etc.
The demand for paralegals is not limited to law firms as most think. In fact, they can work for a very wide range of organizations including corporations doing business involving legalities such as real estate, bankruptcy, immigration, labor unions, banking and government.
This being the case, the skillsets and requirements of a paralegal can vary quite widely as well. Usually the range of activities any single paralegal will find themselves in depends on the size of the firm they work for. Generally the smaller the firm, the more wide ranging and less focused their activities will be.
For those seeking a legal career, a paralegal can be a great place to start if you need to actually pay the bills and can’t afford going to law school. Also, most community colleges offer 2 year degrees in paralegal studies, and can be taken at night. An estimated 1,000 organizations, colleges, and law schools offer training for paralegals.
The pay grade for paralegals, like their positions and responsibilities can vary greatly. A paralegal salary is largely dependent on previous education, experience, level of training and type of previous employer. Those who are just starting as paralegal, or are entry level can expect somewhere around $25,000 to $30,000, however this is a nationwide average and may be significantly different depending on what area of the country you live.
Education and certification plays a heavy role when it comes to paralegal salary as well. A certified paralegal can command $5,000 to $10,000 more than one without it. Senior level paralegals earned up to $80,000 in a 2002 survey.