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Career options: paralegals and legal assistants

Sat, 06/22/2013 - 10:00am | by Guest Author

Considering a career change?  Why not think about becoming a paralegal.  Paralegals, or legal assistants, paralegals and legal assistants do a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents.

The job outlook for paralegals and legal assistants is good. Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is expected to grow by 18 percent from 2010 to 2020. While competition for paralegal jobs exists, experienced, formally trained paralegals have the best job prospects, according to the Department of Labor.

How to Become a Paralegal or Legal Assistant

Most paralegals and legal assistants have an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies. In some cases, employers may hire college graduates with a bachelor’s degree but no legal experience or education and train them on the job. Paralegal courses are offered at colleges and universities, as well as online paralegal courses.

Paralegals and legal assistants are found in all types of organizations, but most work for law firms, corporate legal departments, or government agencies. They usually work full time, and overtime is sometimes needed to meet important deadlines. 

The median annual wage of paralegals and legal assistants was $46,680 or $22.44 an hour in 2010, according to the Department of Labor.

Paralegals and legal assistants typically do the following:

  • Investigate the facts of a case
  • Conduct research on relevant laws, regulations, and legal articles
  • Organize and present the information
  • Keep information related to cases or transactions in computer databases
  • Write reports to help lawyers prepare for trials
  • Draft correspondence and other documents, such as contracts and mortgages
  • Get affidavits and other formal statements that may be used as evidence in court
  • Help lawyers during trials

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