What You Need to Know About a Career As a Paralegal

A paralegal is in many respects a highly trained lawyer’s assistant that has a strong background in working within the legal system. There job is to perform many of the tasks a regular lawyer would do however paralegals are not authorised to give legal advice. This means that much of the lime light is on the lawyer which is what attracts some people to becoming a paralegal.

If, like many, you are looking to get into a career as a paralegal then there are number of things you may want to consider. The first and foremost is the type of work you will be expected to carry out. Lawyers depend on their paralegals to manage a range of activities for their clients including account management. On the other side paralegals can also be asked to perform case investigations and witness interviews under the instructions of a lawyer. This is a part of the job that excites many.

Paralegal jobs also offer a great opportunity for people who are looking to develop their legal skills on streamlining procedures for cases. This skill is one of the things law firms and lawyers look for when hiring a paralegal. They are interested in people who have knowledge of various different backgrounds and who are well rounded. This provides the opportunity for paralegals to work in a range of areas and provides diversity to the job role.

Although paralegal jobs are highly sort after working hours can be long and unsociable. Deadlines are often tight however the salaries are high in this sector and paralegals are highly regarded within society. The varied work and flexible working options are also highly attractive. For example the government is often looking to use freelance paralegals and your options after a career as a paralegal are very strong.

As with any role there are a number of core skills you are required to possess to become a paralegal. One of the most important is good communication skills. You not only need to be able to understand the terminology but also be able to speak and write in an accurate and effective manner. Candidates also need to be proficient computer users and be able to work well with others. As a result a great level of training is required and a degree at a well established university.

These are some of the fundamentals you may want to look at when thinking about a career as a paralegal. It is also worth noting that you will need to continually update your skills and is a job that is more suited to some than others. Having said this it is one that is highly rewarding and provides plenty of challenges for driven individuals

If a paralegal job isn’t for you then you might want to consider the one of many different types of legal careers. This ranges from everything from clerk to high power lawyer with each presenting their own opportunities. Whichever you decide the legal sector is an exciting sector to work within and is thriving in the UK.

Lawyer Salaries – Are They As High As Everyone Claims?

The legal profession has been around for a good many years and there has been a common notion that lawyering is a stable, lucrative profession. There may have been a time when that was the case, but is it still so now?

The United States has more lawyers than any other country in the world, turning out about 38,000 law graduates a year from the more than 200 law schools across the country. This has led a ranking member of the judiciary to comment that there are too many lawyers in the United States, that the number of legal professionals far outnumbers the jobs and clients available out there.

What are the determinants of lawyers’ salaries?

Several factors that determine the amount of professional fees that lawyers can demand, or the salaries they are entitled to as members or partners in law firms or as part of the public legal system.

• The kind of law being practiced influences lawyers’ salaries. For example, corporate lawyers, lawyers who handle mergers and acquisitions and have the opportunity to deal with clients who have more money will definitely receive more than public prosecutors or lawyers for nonprofit organizations.
• Geographical area of operation also has a bearing on lawyer salaries. The average salary for a lawyer is highest in Washington, San Francisco and New York. Incidentally, the most popular cities for lawyers, based on median salary charts, are New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, Chicago, Washington and San Francisco. This data can be accessed at http://www.payscale.com.
• Government as employer vs. private practice. Private practice, with profits in mind, often gives salaries that are higher that what the government, as an employer, gives.
• Stringent requirements for entry into big law forms. Large, firmly established law firms give higher salaries to their lawyers than smaller or medium-sized ones. While entry into a large law firm is not always easy, the salaries they get are worth the effort. The candidate for membership needs to be a graduate of a reputable, prestigious law school and higher than average grades. Still, graduates of law schools of less distinction can still make it into these big law firms, provided they are on top of their class, have articles published in law journals, and have participated in law evaluations and/or debates. Back door entry into a big law firm can be done if a lawyer can present a record of demonstrated success over years of legal practice.
• Experience in litigation is also a determining factor in the amount of salary to which a lawyer is entitled. A senior partner of a firm gets a higher salary than a junior partner, by virtue of his or her years of practice in the profession.

Because a law degree is a graduate degree, lawyers normally start with fairly high salaries. The average starting salary for a lawyer, based on the Lawyer Starting Salary register, is around $56,000. This average starting salary is just a jumping-off point. It is projected that in 20 years of practice, this amount should more than double.

The National Association for Legal Career Professionals (NALP), however, states that in 2008, the salary for entry level lawyers in public or civil jobs ranged from $40,000 to $47,435. Attorneys wages in private practice for 2007 ranged from $68,000 to $130,000, on the average.

Despite these high figures, there are those who contend that Law is an overrated career that is glamorized by television. It does not take into account such realities as debts accrued while attending law school, time and effort needed by lawyers to establish a client base, and the fact that lawyers put long working hours into honing their skills in their profession.

Paralegal Career: Working Like a Lawyer on a Paralegal’s Salary

What is a Paralegal?

Paralegals or legal assistants are the backbone of law firms and corporate legal offices; they practically perform a lawyer’s job – save for the handshaking with clients and the word-sparring in court. This article details a paralegal’s scope of work, compensation, and education and training options to start a career in the legal services.

Paralegal Job Description

Paralegal job duties include the following routine duties that are traditionally part of a lawyer’s responsibilities:

– Assist lawyers in preparing for trials, hearings, closings, corporate meetings, etc.;

– Check facts for verification and complete all necessary research work to ensure the correctness and accuracy of all data that lawyers use in their cases;

– Assist lawyers in preparing legal arguments, in drafting motions and pleadings, and in obtaining affidavits; – Assist lawyers in the actual court trials;

– And other administrative and clerical duties as seen fit by the employer. This may include coordination of the activities of law office employees, maintaining financial records, maintaining legal archives and records, preparing tax returns, etc.

Paralegals basically perform many of the duties of a lawyer, but with certain limitations. Paralegals are prohibited by law to perform any of the following:

– Dispense legal advice to clients;

– Appear in court in the capacity of a lawyer or present a case before the court;

– Set legal fees, etc.

Paralegal Earnings

Average paralegal salary is currently pegged at $46,120 per year, according to the Occupational Employment Statistics’ latest data, with the top earning legal assistants bagging as much as $73,450 annually. The differences in earnings is directly related to training and education, experience on the job, and the size and type of employer. Employment can be found in federal, state, and local government offices, as well as courts of law, and insurance companies; according to OES data, legal offices hire the most number of paralegals, owning 71% of the employment opportunities for trained paralegals.

Paralegal Training Options

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently 260 American Bar Association (ABA)-approved programs for paralegal studies. If you are seriously considering a career in the paralegal, here are some options you can take to start on this path:

Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies

Look for community colleges that offer paralegal programs which can be expanded into an associate degree given that you have completed all the necessary coursework for an associate degree certificate.

Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies

You can take your associate degree a notch further by enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. If you are a bachelor’s degree-holder in a different field and wish to jump overboard, you can sign up for graduate studies in paralegal studies.

On-the-job Paralegal Training

Yet another option is to look for a law firm that would hire to train their own paralegal. Make sure to take advantage of paralegal programs while you are on the job to ensure that your knife is sharp and you get to advance in this career.

To further advance your training, you can seek for paralegal certification through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). Certified Paralegals or Certified Legal Assistants enjoy better employment opportunities and advancement in the paralegal career.

How Can You Choose the Right Career

How can you choose the right career? It can be hard to know which career will be a good fit for you. These are ways that you can choose the right career.

o Take a career aptitude test- Career aptitude tests are great tools which can help you determine which job skills you have. A career aptitude test will ask you questions and will give you a list of careers that you might be suited for that matches your answers.

o Talk to a career counselor- career counselor can offer you sound advice on career choices that might suit you.

o Try internships- internships are a great way to try careers before committing to one in particular. High schools and colleges usually have listings for great internships for students.

o Meet with people who have different careers- the best way to learn about different careers is to go directly to the source. You should try and get in contact with family members, and other people that you know and see what their careers entail and see if you are interested in pursuing any of those careers.

How can you choose the right career? This answer depends on your attitude and goals towards your potential career. You need to know what you like to do and what your interests are.

You need to know how dedicated you are. For instance, if you do not like going to school then being a doctor, lawyer, or teacher is probably not the right career choice for you. You need to know the education and credentials that are necessary in each potential career choice that you are interested in.

Deciding on a career choice is a very difficult thing to do. You need to really contemplate your career choice before investing time and money into trying to achieve the necessary education and credentials that your career choice entails.

Hopefully, this article will answer the question how can you choose the right career?

The Right Career Path

One of the scariest things is not knowing whether you’re on the right career path. After years and years of studying for a career, you suddenly discover that you don’t even like the profession and you’re only a year away from graduation.

Many people go into careers because it’s expected of them. Everyone in the family is a doctor or a lawyer, so junior must be one, too. It doesn’t even matter whether he loves the field; the expectation is there that he follows in his parent’s footsteps.

There are so many students who don’t know what they want to do with their lives that they change their major almost as often as they change their underwear. They keep pushing the graduation date further and further away so that they don’t have to make such a momentous decision.

When I was going to college, I wanted to become a philosopher. The trouble was that there were no job listings in the Classified Ads section of the newspaper for a philosopher. And I didn’t know what else I could be. I certainly didn’t have the job skills to be anything else.

I wish I knew at seventeen what I know now about picking a career. It would have saved me years and years of trying to figure out what I might be good at and what would hold my interest.

With age and experience come a lot of wisdom. Nowadays, I tell my clients to make a list of all the things they feel passionate about. Then, I tell them to take summer jobs in those fields, without pay, and see if they love the work. Not just like the work, but love the work.

I had a client who was in her mid-thirties when she came to me with a career decision. She wanted to get out of the field she was in but she didn’t know what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. I knew she was good at science and math but she wasn’t the type of person who could be described as the milk of human kindness. She also didn’t like to get dirty.

There was one branch of medicine that I thought would be perfect for her. When I suggested it to her, she blanched and told me she couldn’t stand blood. She had been my client for a couple of decades and I had a feeling that as long as it wasn’t her blood, she could stand to see someone else’s.

At three o’clock in the morning, I took her to one of the hospitals and introduced myself to the floor nurse and told her that my client was considering going into medicine but she didn’t know if she could stand the sight of blood, and asked her if she could visit the surgical floor.

The nurse was very kind. She cleared the way for us, introduced us to the nurses on the surgical floor, and gave us clearance to visit all the rooms.

We looked at the IVs that were attached to arms, listened to people crying, screaming, or moaning, watched the nurses attending the patients, changing dressings, and all the other things that my client didn’t think she could endure.

As long as it wasn’t her blood, or her pain, she not only endured it, she was fascinated. The next week she signed up for a branch of med school that didn’t involve her getting dirty or drawing blood, and to this day, she enjoys her work. She also has staff to do the dirty work and to keep the exam rooms clean.

For students who have no idea what they feel passionate about and who want a career direction but don’t want to take unpaid summer jobs to see if they would like working in the field, I often send them to take an Interest and Aptitude test.

Many people have an interest in something but they don’t have the aptitude for it and there are just as many people who have the aptitude for something but they have no interest in it. The Interest and Aptitude test scores it so that you see if you can match your interests with your aptitudes. Then, you have a conference with a counsellor to help you select a career based on your interests and aptitudes.

I don’t think these tests were available in my day but even though they are available today, I don’t think many students are aware of their existence. Moreover, I don’t even know if they have counsellors who have the expertise to put these scores together in a meaningful way for students who are grappling with career choices for their future.

But I do know, now that I am so very much older, if I were starting out today, I would find a way to get tested for my interests and aptitudes and I would find a way of doing an internship without pay, to make sure that I really wanted to go into that field.

Instead of rushing through school so that I could graduate from college at twenty, I would have taken the time to apply for different summer internships to see what I wanted to do with my life.

The only thing I knew about myself at seventeen, is that I was always fascinated by the way people think, how they behave, and how one little word could change the way a person’s thinking and behavior could be changed. And, most of all, I loved fixing everyone’s problems and finding workable solutions for everyone’s problems. It took me half a lifetime to find a career that lets me do the things I feel passionate about.

Now, I feel passionate about helping people find their own passion and directing them into careers that will bring them joy. Almost all careers depend on the economy but if you love what you’re doing, even the toughest economy will be easier to endure than a good economy where you dread getting up in the morning to go to work.

Find your passion. Make a career out of it, and you will never feel as though you are working a day in your life.

by Connie H. Deutsch