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Paralegal: Career Information

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Job Description:

A paralegal assists lawyers in performing their jobs. They help them with a variety of tasks, including preparing for trials, hearings and closings; doing research; and drafting legal documents. Paralegals are sometimes called legal assistants.

Employment Facts:

There were 264,000 employed in the U.S. in 2008.

Educational Requirements:

Most aspiring paralegals receive associate degrees from paralegal training programs at community colleges. Those who already have bachelor's degrees earn certificates in paralegal studies. A few employers provide on-the-job training.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements:

Voluntary certification is available from local and national paralegal associations and can improve one's chances of finding employment.

Advancement Opportunities:

Experienced paralegals are given more responsibility. Some move into managerial positions.

Why Do You Need to Know About Advancement?

Job Outlook:

The job outlook is excellent for paralegals. This occupation is projected to grow faster, through 2018, than other occupations that require post-secondary training or an associate degree (The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?

Earnings:

Paralegals earned median hourly wages of $22.58 and a median annual salary of $46,980 in 2009.

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a Paralegal currently earns in your city.

A Day in a Paralegal's Life:

On a typical day a paralegal's tasks might include:

  • preparing legal documents such as affidavits, briefs and contracts
  • maintaining documents using a paper or electronic filing system
  • organizing exhibits for a trial
  • meeting with clients to discuss details of cases
  • filing pleadings with court clerks

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Paralegals and Legal Assistants, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos114.htm (visited April 27, 2010).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Paralegals and Legal Assistants, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/23-2011.00 (visited December 2, 2010).

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