What to Know About Being a Paralegal

Paralegals provide great support to lawyers. If you are interested in having this career in law, follow this guide to learn how to get started.
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Updated on March 1, 2024
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Portions of the following article were drafted using an in-house natural language generation platform. The article was then reviewed, fact-checked, and edited by multiple members of our editorial team prior to publishing.

People who possess a strong interest in the law but do not want to become lawyers can train as paralegals to support lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that there will be 14,800 openings for paralegals each year between 2022-2023.

Many trade schools and community colleges provide paralegal training. While in school, aspiring paralegals acquire skills and knowledge in research, criminal processes, documentation, and case law. Read this guide to help you decide if the paralegal career path is right for you.

Popular Online Associate in Paralegal Studies Degrees

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Does a Paralegal Do?

Paralegals conduct legal research, draft documents, interact with clients and witnesses, and manage the day-to-day operations of a law office.

They offer invaluable support to attorneys, aiding in preparing for trials by gathering and analyzing pertinent information and then creating detailed reports and presentations for the client.

They may also accompany attorneys to trials, depositions, real estate closings, and administrative hearings.

How to Become a Certified Paralegal

Getting a certificate from a paralegal training course is not the same as becoming a certified paralegal (CP). To become a CP, you must take the Certified Paralegal Exam offered by NALA. You'll need to meet one of three eligibility requirements to be able to sit for the CP exam:

  • Graduate from or be enrolled in a paralegal associate or certificate program
  • Have a bachelor's degree in any subject with at least one year of paralegal experience
  • Have a high school diploma or GED certificate with at least five years of paralegal experience

Check the NALA website to learn about the details of each CP exam eligibility pathway.

Upon passing the exam, you'll receive a 'Certified Paralegal' certificate and can list the 'CP' credential on your resume.

Subjects Covered in Paralegal Certificate Programs

Paralegal certificate programs provide a comprehensive understanding of the legal structure and the paralegal's role within it. Areas of study may include introduction to law, tort law and personal injury, legal research and writing, civil litigation, contract law, and family law.

This curriculum is designed to equip students with the practical skills and knowledge necessary for a successful paralegal career.

What Is a Paralegal's Career Outlook?

The BLS projects that jobs for paralegals will increase by 4% between 2022-2032. That translates to 14,800 openings each year.

Top locations for paralegals and legal assistants include California, Florida, New York, Texas, and Georgia. These cities offer some of the highest average annual salaries for paralegals, with California paralegals earning an average salary of $76,080 as of May 2022.

Paralegals can work in a variety of settings, from law firms and financial services companies to local and federal government agencies.

What Is a Paralegal's Salary Potential?

Professionals in this field tend to earn relatively higher salaries than individuals with similar degrees or work experience. According to the BLS, the median earnings of a paralegal were approximately $59,200 in 2022, which is more than $28 per hour.

Paralegals working in finance and the federal government earned median salaries of $73,050 and $72,320, respectively, according to the BLS. Paralegals in state government (except for hospitals and educational institutions) earned less than the median pay for all paralegals in 2022, with a median annual salary of $46,310.

Frequently Asked Questions About Paralegal Careers

Do paralegals do a lot of writing?

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Paralegal work can involve a lot of writing, including drafting legal briefs, client emails, and internal memorandums. Strong writing skills are crucial for paralegals.

What is the most important role of a paralegal?

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The most important role of a paralegal is conducting legal research and investigation to support attorneys. They play a crucial role in organizing case files, interviewing witnesses, and drafting legal documents.

What type of paralegal makes the most?

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Paralegal managers typically earn the highest salaries in the field due to their role in overseeing paralegal departments, managing staff, and handling departmental operations.

Experience as a paralegal and some supervisory experience, along with the relevant education and certifications, are required for this position. These professionals can make more than $94,960 annually, according to the BLS.

What type of person makes a good paralegal?

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A good paralegal is detail-oriented, curious, and has strong writing, research, and communication skills. They should be organized, patient, and able to work independently, manage large amounts of information, and remain professional under pressure. Being tech-savvy and having the ability to work with various personalities are also important traits.

Why choose paralegal as a career?

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Choosing a paralegal career can be financially rewarding, with competitive salaries and expected growth. The field offers job security, with a projected growth rate slightly exceeding the average for other professions.

Paralegals work in diverse environments, from corporations to hospitals, and have the chance for career advancement. If you earn a bachelor's degree, the role can also help you prepare for law school and a future career as a lawyer.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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