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Paralegal Career Guide

If you are considering pursuing a career as a paralegal or legal assistant, you’re not alone – according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for this position is expected to grow by 18 percent between 2010 and 2020, resulting in 46,900 new jobs during that time span. While the demand for paralegal professionals continues to grow, the job market remains extremely competitive. Accordingly, it’s important to understand the roles, work environment and level of expectations for paralegals and legal assistants.

Here is a quick run down of the facts you need to know about what it takes to work as a paralegal.

What does a paralegal do?

Your role and responsibilities as a paralegal will likely vary depending on your place of employment. However, paralegals and legal assistants are generally responsible for supporting lawyers by maintaining file systems, doing legal research, and drafting cover letters and other legal documents. Developing your administrative, organizational and communication skills is a must. You also will likely serve as the first point of contact for new clients to your organization, so being personable is an additional helpful skill to have.

Where do paralegals work?

By and large, paralegals work for law firms and legal organizations. However, there are also a variety of paralegal positions available in legal departments for corporations. Banks, insurance companies and real estate agencies are just a few examples of companies that often hire paralegals and other legal professionals in-house. According to the BLS, most paralegal positions are full-time.

What level of training and education is required?

Currently, there are no concrete training or education requirements for paralegals – this will vary from organization to organization. Most paralegal professionals have an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies, which can be earned via traditional schooling or an online degree program.

You may also choose to become certified through a national paralegal organization, such as the National Association for Legal Assistants (NALA). Paralegal professionals can earn their certification by successfully completing the exam offered by the association. Some associations, like NALA, offer an advanced exam in addition to the basic certification – earning an advanced certification allows you to specialize in a particular area of law.

What is the job outlook for paralegal and legal assistant positions?

While employment for paralegals and legal assistants is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, it is still a very competitive field. Professionals who are experienced and formally trained will have the best chance of finding a job.

Thinking of pursuing a degree in paralegal studies? Bryant & Stratton College Online offers an associate’s program for paralegal studies, in addition to a variety of online degree programs. Want more information? To speak with an admissions representative, call 1.800.895.1738.

 

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