One of the occupations with promising career growth is that of the paralegal. Paralegals are legal professionals who work with other people in law firms such as lawyers and legal assistants. Often considered the true essence of the law firm because without the paralegal the attorneys would never get their work done. Many who decide to begin a career as a paralegal do so from a love of the law but who do not wish to tackle the long years required for obtaining a degree to practice law in the U.S.
Paralegals can work in various locations, and even though they are capable of carrying out most any work that lawyers perform, they cannot represent a client in court, and the paralegal salary does not even come close to that of an attorney. Some states require paralegals to have certain licenses and certifications along with a certain number of hours working in the field.
Some of the duties expected of a paralegal include legal research, interviewing clients, composing contracts and organize legal documents for court. Some paralegals will assist attorneys in investigating certain cases along with various other tasks related to the job. Depending on the employer and nature of the legal field in which the paralegal works, the hours can be demanding and long with many important deadlines and decisions to attain. Although the hours and stress can be long and difficult at times, most legal firms offer their paralegal staff very good salaries, incentives, benefits and bonuses that very often will make up for the demanding work and hours.
Paralegal students will enroll in and complete a degree in paralegal studies. Most universities offer both an associate’s degree and a certification program with some offering bachelor’s and master’s degree options for paralegals interested in getting an advanced degree to be more competitive in the field. Before being accepted into a two year or four year college program, you will need to complete either a GED or have a high school diploma. Some of the course titles you can expect to take include topics such as Wills and Estates, Civil Law, Constitutional Law, Ethics and Legal Research and Writing.
The kind of salary paralegals can receive will depend on the amount of experience in the field, education and training, along with the geographical location. A beginning paralegal salary can expect somewhere around $30,000 per year, once again, depending on where the job is located and the amount of education and training. Once a paralegal gains additional experience, they can receive a median income of around $40,000 per year and after several years of working in the field, paralegals make about $60,000 annually.
The paralegal salary can additionally depend on the kind of business or firm that employs the paralegal. Naturally, a high-end corporate legal firm has the ability to pay their paralegal staff much more than that of a non-profit agency. Small, newly opened law firms will also not be able to pay as much as an experienced firm with many clients.