The definition of the term “paralegal” depends on the specific type of activities these professionals perform. That said, paralegal jobs greatly vary in both the number and activities they encompass.
The most typical way to define the role of a paralegal includes presenting them as legal administrative assistants. Regardless of the specific role paralegals perform in their respective organizations, it is essential to note that they are critical to any legal system. The main reason behind the fact that paralegals continue to be popular is that they help create equal access to legal aid.
Put simply, one could say that paralegals careers are equal to that of attorneys’ assistants. In the absence of the paralegal, it would be an attorney that would perform their work. These legal professionals adhere to recognized rules and ethical standards of professional responsibility.
Additionally, they can show legal action because they possess knowledge of the law, thanks to education or education combined with work experience. The truth is that no day is entirely alike in the life of a paralegal. These skilled individuals perform numerous different tasks across different positions, but more on that later.
- Litigation Paralegal
- Family Law Paralegal
- Estate Planning Paralegal
- Environmental Law Paralegal
- Criminal Defense Paralegal
- Corporate Paralegal
- Bankruptcy Paralegal
- Banking & Finance Paralegal
- Work From Home Paralegal
Paralegal Job Description
There are a variety of different organizations and positions within such organizations that paralegals can occupy. Some paralegals work for nonprofits, others find employment in government agencies, and some prefer working for corporations or even part-time paralegal jobs. We should note that working as a paralegal in such entities is slightly different than the regular employment of such legal professionals.
For example, working in the aforementioned entails offering only limited legal services according to law. Additionally, paralegals in such entities also conduct their work under the responsibility of a chosen attorney.
On the other hand, working in a law office and under the direct supervision of a lawyer is the more colloquial job definition when it comes to different types of paralegals. This position involves conducting proper legal work as an administrative assistant.
Daily activities include everything from preparing retainers and interviewing clients to filing motions and drafting documents. However, the specific type of work these professionals perform changes according to the law firm’s respective specialty.
One example of the variations in daily work activities between different jobs of a paralegal may involve those working in litigation versus those engaged in real estate transactions. When looking at a litigation paralegal, their typical workday usually involves hours of research for an upcoming court case. A real estate paralegal, however, may typically spend days filling out documents regarding disclosures and purchase documents.
Paralegals' Career Skills
There are several different requirements for becoming a successful paralegal. Given the nature of the position and irrespective of the specific job in question, professionalism is an essential quality. A confident manner of conducting yourself and a smart appearance is significant for paralegals as well.
The reason for emphasizing such “skills” and putting them at the forefront is the nature of the position. Paralegal roles often involve going to court suddenly or unexpectedly, which is precisely the type of situation the aforementioned plays a significant part.
Equally important are qualities such as communicating specifics or details, as well as exceptional organizational skills. The logic behind such requirements involves not only reading but also processing and digesting large amounts of information. This information then needs to turn into data you can use to your advantage in a legal case.
With jobs for paralegals, quick typing is often also a critical skill to have. The reason for this skill comes from keeping up with all of the research and notes.
Although it may seem to go without saying, it’s also essential to note that working well under pressure is among the top skills to have as a paralegal. While this skill is equally crucial for most positions and jobs involving the law, it doesn’t end there.
While maintaining composure under pressure, paralegals must also ultimately retain their ability to focus on even the tiniest of detail. Don’t be surprised if you see this requirement in black in white for some of the best paralegal jobs out there.
At the same time, having tact, sensitivity, and patience is equally essential for paralegals, as you’ll be handling sensitive and confidential information almost daily. In other words, people skills are just as necessary as professional skills when it comes to this legal position.
Witnesses and clients need to be able to connect with you and trust you. If you don’t demonstrate you’re a team player and trustworthy, you’ll soon find yourself looking for new jobs as a paralegal.
Getting a Job as a Paralegal - Qualifications
The essential requirement for becoming a paralegal is a detailed understanding of the legal system and the law. When looking beyond a generally good standard of education, no specific paralegal certification requirements are standing in your way to seek out this legal career.
Getting an excellent general education under your belt should only be the first step in your paralegal adventure. The majority of graduates hoping to become solicitors hold a degree, meaning paralegal job opportunities are scarce. Your resume will be much more attractive to potential employers if it contains a degree in law, as you’re considering a career in a highly competitive legal field.
The next step in becoming a paralegal is to make yourself stand out from the rest. The best way to do this is to add work experience to your resume. There are two benefits to obtaining hands-on experience when pursuing this career.
The first is demonstrating to potential employers that you’re a motivated go-getter-type of a candidate. The second benefit is that work experience can give you a better idea as to which area of law you’d potentially want to specialize in further.
You may discover you’re particularly fond of intellectual property paralegal jobs, for instance, or criminal defense paralegal jobs. Demonstrating your dedication could be as simple as getting just a week’s experience in an office. Alternatively, you could aim for an internship or even shadowing a lawyer or another paralegal.
It’s always a good idea to boost your understanding of the law and its intricacies, as well as demonstrate your enthusiasm even further. There are several ways you can do this, including learning of any court hearings you could attend, as well as attending open days and other events put on by law firms.
There is also value for your resume in volunteering for charities or similar organizations. As far as paralegal training jobs go, you can do a lot, depending on what legal area you’d like to select. For instance, you could consider volunteering in the community if you’re looking to specialize in family law.
Choosing Between Different Paralegal Positions
While most paralegal job listings will have a specific position in their description, these legal professionals typically fall into several general categories.
The first and most frequent category involves traditional paralegals, as they comprise the majority of this profession. Traditional paralegals perform jobs in a law firm and are most often under the direct supervision of an attorney of law.
The second category is non-traditional paralegals, which differ from the former in one crucial aspect. While these legal professionals also work directly under attorney supervision, they do not conduct activities in a law firm environment.
Non-traditional paralegals typically find employment at corporate paralegal jobs, federal paralegal jobs, government paralegal jobs, and so on. This category of legal professionals is among the fastest-growing.
The third category groups virtual/contract/freelance paralegals together. The exciting aspect of these positions is that lawyers often retain such paralegals on an as-needed or case-by-case basis. In other words, these legal professionals still work under the supervision of a lawyer, but as independent contractors. Virtual paralegal jobs, freelance paralegal jobs, and remote paralegal jobs have a higher level of flexibility.
The final category encompasses so-called independent paralegals. This category is the newest addition to the profession, though one whose members provide invaluable legal aid to the public. Consumers receive law-related services from independent paralegals, who offer such services without being supervised by a lawyer.
Additionally, outside of these four typical categories, there are several new career paths out there for paralegals. These legal professionals can also offer their education and skills in positions such as estate and trust officers, individual advocates, arbitrators, mediators, real estate brokers, ombudsmen, and many more.
If you’re currently looking up “paralegal jobs near me,” feel free to consider positions like legal software writer, technology consultant, litigation support manager, and similar. Generally, paralegal jobs outlook is bright, with more and more of these skilled individuals piquing the interest of a wide variety of professionals and companies worldwide.
Paralegals Careers & Jobs
Working in litigation can be very exciting both for attorneys of law and paralegals. This position mostly involves working alongside lawyers defending or enforcing a legal right. More specifically, examples of such legal rights include civil and commercial civil litigation, public interest, personal injury, and so on.
Daily activities of litigation paralegals involve a wide range of duties. Examples include creating drafts of stipulations and motions for dismissal, as well as settlement agreements.
At the same time, if working in this position, you may also need to prepare witness files, analyze documentary evidence, participate in interviews with clients, conduct fact investigation and analysis, and so on.
Paralegal salary is another critical aspect of this career. When it comes to litigation paralegals, in particular, their average yearly salary revolves around $55,336. More generally, the lowest 10% of litigation paralegals (typically working at entry-level paralegal jobs) earn around $40,000.
Conversely, the highest 10% of litigation paralegals manage to come out at around $77,000. Regardless, the paralegal starting salary ranges between $30,000 and $40,000.
Family Law Paralegal
Among the various paralegal job openings available today, you might notice that many are focusing on family law. Similar to litigation, family law paralegals also spend their days assisting attorneys enforcing or defending legal rights in the area of family law.
When it comes to the duties of family law paralegals, one of the most critical activities involves obtaining information for pleadings by interviewing clients initially. At the same time, these paralegals also prepare pleadings like waivers of service, responses, summons, and petitions.
You may also expect to draft affidavits to support motions of temporary relief and compile financial information by working with clients. Equally important are the analyses of proposed settlements for the review of the attorney.
Many focus on the salary of a paralegal when considering this career path. Family law, as the area of choice for a paralegal’s legal practice, results in the average base pay of $50,169 per year.
Additionally, the low end of the spectrum yields around $37,000 per year as the average salary, whereas the high-end family law paralegals make approximately $68,000. The former mostly applies to paralegal assistant jobs, while the latter corresponds to more experienced professionals.
Estate Planning Paralegal
Real estate paralegal jobs may not be the first position you might consider in this area, but estate planning can be highly engaging. Mostly involving activities surrounding estate plans, other duties you may encounter in this position typically include working with lawyers to oversee document preparation.
For example, your primary responsibilities may include recording trade name affidavits and deeds and witnessing or supervising the execution of trusts and wills. At the same time, you may find yourself involved in interviewing clients to begin gathering facts. If working with numbers happens to be one of your strong suits, you could also be in charge of preparing tax calculations required for estate plans.
As far as paralegal job salary in estate planning goes, you’re typically looking at a yearly average of $53,253. However, the numbers go as low as $21,500 for most estate-planning paralegal internships and as high as $87,500 for more experienced legal professionals.
If this is a position you’re keen on landing, your best bet is to expect a salary range between $41,500 and $62,000, as this is where the majority of paralegals in estate planning take place.
Environmental Law Paralegal
In the event you care deeply about the environment and are currently browsing paralegal degree jobs, environmental law positions might be worth a look. Environmental enforcement cases are becoming more and more frequent nowadays, especially since environmental awareness is higher than ever before.
Most of the time, working in such a position will include working alongside attorneys and learning from them firsthand. Your daily activities will consist of developing memorandums of understanding, drafting proposed legislation for clients, working firsthand on lobbying, and so on.
As far as specific activities go, environmental law paralegals perform many different job tasks daily. For instance, you’ll need to analyze information deriving from factual investigations and draft various petitions for formal administrative hearings. At the same time, you might be responsible for responding to public inquiries for agency documents and reviewing pending or new legislation for agency impact.
Environmental law paralegal jobs salary is undoubtedly a crucial factor in one’s consideration. Records show that the average yearly salary for this position amounts to $71,740. However, annual salaries range from as low as $21,000 to as high as $103,500.
This fact alone puts environmental law in the high paying paralegal jobs category. Realistically, you’re best off expecting a yearly salary between $44,000 and $99,500 for a position as an environmental law paralegal.
Criminal Defense Paralegal
Criminal defense law is highly intriguing and engaging, especially when it comes to paralegal jobs. You’ll be participating in pretrial motions, investigation, and pretrial activities every day.
There are numerous examples of activities and tasks you can expect to perform in this position. They include verifying information and locating (interviewing) witnesses, as well as discovering evidence and exhibits.
You may also assist in selecting a jury, as well as coordinate the witnesses’ appearances at trial. Most importantly and interestingly, you’ll be able to assist in developing a trial strategy, the theory of the case, and defense.
Although being a criminal defense paralegal may not be among the highest-paying paralegal jobs, it can still be worthwhile. On average, you’re looking at a yearly salary of $54,016. On the other hand, records show that wages for this position range from $25,500 to as high as $97,000. Realistically, depending on location and years of experience, you should expect a salary of between $40,000 and $59,500.
For those who’ve always had a good nose for business, becoming a corporate law paralegal may be an ideal career. Legal professionals that choose this area of law to specialize in may expect to work alongside attorneys in corporate environments.
In other words, this position is often involved in the formation of limited partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations. Additionally, corporate paralegals may also participate in acquisitions, mergers, and even dissolutions.
When it comes to your daily job tasks, you can expect to draft entity formation documents and perform due diligence. There’s also preparing and filing diverse state and federal forms, as well as those having to do with the SEC.
At the same time, you’ll likely need to prepare and file annual reports, draft documents for board meetings, and draft various organizational documents (fictitious name registration, for example).
At the moment, the salary for corporate paralegal careers averages at $65,873 yearly. However, the range goes from as low as $46,000 to as high as $92,000, depending on location and years of experience.
Interestingly, corporate paralegal positions continue to be in high demand mostly because they open the doors to attorneys, legal experts, and various other contacts from the legal field.
As the word implies, bankruptcy paralegal jobs mostly involve working with attorneys that focus on representing various types of debtors. The daily job tasks of paralegals specializing in bankruptcy law include fact-gathering to prepare statements, schedules, and petitions.
Additionally, you can expect to conduct an asset search and obtain the credit report of the debtor to ensure compliance. Most of the time, however, you’ll participate in interviewing clients alongside attorneys.
Salary-wise, bankruptcy paralegals tend to be in the mid-lower area of the range, with the average yearly salary at $42,569. Also, on average, the range goes as low as $22,500 per year and as high as $61,000. As before, those interested in pursuing this position should expect a realistic range of $33,000 to $51,500 annually, depending on years of experience, skills, and location.
Banking & Finance Paralegal
The banking and finance sector is somewhat unusual when it comes to a paralegals job description and daily duties. There are four types of counsel roles a firm in this sector can fulfill — special tax counsel, disclosure counsel, underwriters’ counsel, and bond counsel.
Generally speaking, you may expect to participate in due diligence review and draft various documentation (opinions, agreements, resolutions, deeds, leases, etc.). You may also need to review primary financing documents or assist attorneys in research bond issue documents.
The average base pay for a banking and finance paralegal is $50,169 every year. At the same time, the range drops as low as $37,000 for those with no experience or an unfavorable location.
However, if you have excellent skills, years of experience, and proximity to a major city, you could be looking at a yearly average salary of as high as $68,000.
Work From Home Paralegal Jobs
When it comes to paralegal jobs you can perform from home, there are very few differences compared to standard paralegal jobs. In terms of specific activities and tasks you need to complete, they still depend on your particular employer and its chosen area of law.
Home-based paralegal jobs often mean you’ll need to prepare written reports, conduct legal research, draft and edit legal documents, and conduct interviews. Additional activities may include communicating with clients and office administration.
As far as paralegal work from home opportunities go, it’s always good to know that the salary options go in hand with other, regular paralegal positions. The average yearly salary for these legal professionals is $56,173, with the range dropping to $48,362 and going up to $61,752 depending on location, experience, and skill set. Working from home does offer increased flexibility, but you’ll still need to get your tasks done by the due date.
Whether you’re looking for a position where you can learn more and polish your skillset or put your senior-level knowledge to good use, any of the paralegal jobs mentioned above should be a good fit.
Paralegals are very skilled individuals with a vast knowledge base they typically use to make the legal aid more available. Be it immigration paralegal jobs, patent paralegal jobs, personal injury paralegal jobs, or telecommute paralegal jobs, there’s a growing number of requirements for these educated professionals. We hope the aforementioned proves to be helpful in your future career path. Good luck!