- On average, paralegals make around $22 per hour
- Being certified will give you a leg-up in the job market
- There will be tons of job opportunities for paralegals in the coming years
What do paralegals do?
While lawyers may get the face time on shows like "Law & Order," it's the paralegals doing all the work behind the scenes (literally and figuratively). Paralegals are responsible for assisting lawyers and legal teams for hearings, trials and other meetings by doing research, preparing arguments and gathering the appropriate documentation. If it sounds like a lot of work, that's because it is.
The majority of paralegals are employed by independent law firms, but they are found in many types of organizations including corporate legal and litigation teams, and government agencies. Depending on the type of agency you're employed with as a paralegal your duties will vary, but will likely include analysis of legal materials, maintaining reference files and records, and collecting materials for court proceedings and meetings.
How much do paralegals make?
The average salary for all paralegals is about $22 per hour. Paralegals with extensive experience, or those who work for profitable companies or large law firms, can expect to earn higher wages up to $35 per hour.
There are three main ways to become a paralegal: on-the-job training, community college (associates degree in paralegal studies), or for those who have a degree there is the option of a certificate in paralegal studies.
Many employers don't require certification, but it can be a great way to give yourself an edge in the job market. Certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) requires a combination of education, experience and a written two-day examination.
Career paths for paralegals
Promotions for paralegals are usually limited to additional responsibilities and supervisorial roles. Management opportunities usually only exist in government agencies and corporate legal departments.
The future of paralegals
The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) expects huge growth in paralegal positions over the 2008-2018 decade. Paralegals are a great way to increase efficiency for law firms while reducing costs. Additionally, paralegals are continuing to expand their duties and are becoming more useful to the businesses they work for. All these things will continue to drive demand for paralegals and legal assistants.
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