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

Tallahassee Job Guide – The Best Careers in Tallahassee, Florida

Tallahassee is the capital city of arguably one of our nation’s most productive states, Florida. With a population of roughly $172,000 residents, Tallahassee is considered to be one of the fastest growing and most vibrant cities in the entire state. The city is also home to several different educational institutions, including Florida A&M University, Florida State University and Keiser University. Tallahassee Community College is one of the city’s largest employers.

This confluence of colleges and universities has had a very positive effect on the city, both culturally and economically. The growth of the student population ensures vibrant community life, bringing with it a number of restaurants, shops, and nightlife spots. The colleges and universities in the area also directly provide many job opportunities, from purely academic positions to careers like accountant or lawyer. To take full advantage of the high number of graduates in the area, many companies have established regional branches in the area, promoting economic growth and ensuring employment opportunities well into the future. Tallahassee is one of the most highly educated cities in the country, with over 45% of residents over the age of 25 holding at least a bachelor’s degree. The colleges and universities in the area also directly provide many job opportunities, from purely academic positions to careers like accountant or lawyer.

Several major companies have established a presence in the area, making it hotspot for all kinds of high-level corporate careers. Sprint, General Dynamics and Elbit Systems of America are among the city’s top employers. Tallahassee is also well-known for its fast-growing tech industry; computer hardware, telecommunications and software developers have all become significantly more prominent in recent years.

Tallahassee is somewhat unique when it comes to its most popular careers. For example, management analyst is the single most popular career among educated professionals, giving it one of the highest concentrations in the entire country. Generally, management analysts tend to work with companies to help streamline operations, maximize profits, and reorganize staff. This career offers rare flexibility in the corporate world; 27% of all management analysts nationwide are self-employed, independently contracting with companies instead of working in-house. There are almost 5,000 of these analysts working in Tallahassee today, each one earning an average salary of about $53,000 a year. An experienced and talented worker can expect to earn up to $78,000 annually.

Accountant is the second most popular career in the entire city. Pursuing a career in accounting is often a smart choice since almost all companies require their services at one time or another, ensuring a reasonable level of job stability well into the future. There are approximately 3,500 accountants working in Tallahassee’s many companies on any given business day. Accountants and auditors in Tallahassee earn an average salary of about $51,000 a year, with salaries for talented employees reaching up to $77,000.

Lawyer is another uniquely popular career choice in Tallahassee. For anyone with the interest, means and drive to complete law school, it is good decision in almost any city. But in Tallahassee in particular, lawyer seems to be even more popular than in most cities. There are about 1,600 lawyers living and working in Tallahassee today, making it the fourth most popular career choice in the entire city. Lawyers are well-paid nationwide, and Tallahassee is no exception; the average lawyer in the city earns close to $100,000 a year.

With the tech industry booming in the city, almost any career path in this field is sure to be successful in the city. Network systems analyst, for example, is the seventh most popular career in the city, followed directly by computer systems analyst. Computer programmers, too, are in high demand in the city. Network and computer systems administrator is another popular choice and it is also very lucrative. Network administrators in Tallahassee earn an average salary of about $64,000 a year.

Productivity Profiles – The Lawyer

People are productive in many ways. There are a few — what I would call archetype productive — roles that are generic and performed by anyone without having the archetypical background. Think, for example about the lawyer. We are all at one or other moments in our lives a lawyer.

The term lawyer has a general use, in practice the activities of a lawyer is split up into two “careers;” that of the barrister and the solicitor.

“Solicitors have more direct contact with the clients, whereas barristers often only become involved in a case once advocacy before a court is needed by the client.” (Wikipedia).

This difference can be compared with that of the medical specialist and the more general physician “… a solicitor, like a general practitioner is the regular point of contact for a client, who will only be referred to a barrister (or … a consultant) for specialist advisory or advocacy services. … barristers tend to be instructed in complex litigation and in certain other specialist fields.” (wikipedia).

The difference in focus will bring a difference in productivity. The Solicitor operates more as a client relation manager. The barrister is the one involved in the plea and engaged in the process of convincing.

In business, the lawyers type of productivity is visible in a few situations, like that during discussions for example about a business case. “a devil’s advocate” can be anyone who pleas in favor or against (criticizes) a decision in order to assess the risk, impact or weakness of the decision to be taken.

Often, as lawyers are trained and educated in the world of language and where language is their main tool, lawyers are very skilled in presentation.
We only have to think about the recent democratic elections which both candidates having a background in law.

“…Rodham … specialized in patent infringement and intellectual property law,while also working pro bono in child advocacy; she rarely performed litigation work in court.” (wikipedia – Hillary Clinton)

“Obama taught constitutional law… worked as an associate attorney … worked on cases where the firm represented community organizers, pursued discrimination claims, and on voting rights cases. He also spent time on real estate transactions, filing incorporation papers and defending clients against minor lawsuits.” (wikipedia – Barack Obama)

From the democratic elections it is hard not to remember the archetypical productive roles of both Hillary and Obama, both with a background in law and both practising the productive role of the lawyer: which is to plea for their case in order to attract the public (vote or attention).

This is what people do when being productive, it is one of the most important roles. Whether in the office or at home.

Think about it.

H.J.B.