Paralegals are a specialized kind of assistant that work closely with lawyers.
They aren’t exactly lawyers as they cannot offer legal advice, can’t represent a client in the court of law nor can they charge any kind of fees. They also don’t have the authority to sign legal documents.
Paralegal jobs allow those interested in potentially going into law without committing to 6+ years of education. If you’ve ever considered becoming an attorney but weren’t sure the best way to go about it, consider becoming a paralegal to see if you’d like practicing law.
What Do Paralegals Do?
Paralegals do much of the “behind the scenes” work on behalf of the law firms and attorneys they work for.
They investigate facts and figures and spend great deal of time methodically researching and interviewing witnesses and clients. There’s also strong clerical demands in a paralegal role.
Drafting reports, organizing files, and submitting relevant paperwork to courts are tasks that many paralegals accomplish on a daily basis.
Although experienced paralegals often end up performing niche tasks such as specializing in research, there are several universal skills that every interested paralegal candidate should possess.
- A good paralegal should have basic knowledge about the legal terms in use, the rules and procedures used in federal and state courts. If you don’t know these terms and rules, that’s OK, but you should have the desire and intent to study them.
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are a must as the job requires constant interaction between clients, court officials and other lawyers.
- The ability to organize is essential due to the large amount of legal documents, case files, and research papers that are managed on a day to day basis.
- Accomplished in researching for information.
- A competent paralegal is an articulate writer able to concisely communicate complex concepts and ideas to less technically savvy audiences such as clients.
Most paralegal jobs require applicants to have a 2 or 4 year degree majoring in some aspect of the law. Examples include criminal justice, dedicated paralegal degrees, and pre-law coursework.
Paralegal certifications are also widely acceptable and can be obtained via vocational training centers and community colleges.
It’s a competitive field so if you’re seriously considering becoming a paralegal, it’s strongly recommended that you obtain a certification or degree to give your foot in the door.
The skills and the amount of experience an individual possesses go a long way in determining the salary in a paralegal job just like many other fields.
Paralegal jobs offer a generous salary to those who have the required talent with the average being around $50,000 annually.
So how do you find a Paralegal Job?
Most law firms and corporations are on the lookout for experienced personnel for paralegal jobs and are reluctant to offer inexperienced applicants the chance to work with them.
That being said, it’s not impossible to land a paralegal job with little to no experience.
Here are some surefire ways to help give you a competitive advantage.
- Volunteering or interning is a great way to pad your resume with experience. Check with your local community college to see if there are volunteer programs your can help with.
- Paralegals work with professionals all day long so it’s important to project your image as a professional. Spend time cleaning up your resume, creating a compelling LinkedIn profile, and always dress to impress when interviewing or networking.
- Consider studying to take become certified. Certifications are a great way to quickly bridge the experience gap.
Next Steps To Becoming A Paralegal
Paralegal jobs are a great career option to people who possess strong communication skills and an analytical mind.
As the business climate around the world becomes more complex, the amount of lawyers and paralegals to aid them will only increase.
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