Why Be a Paralegal?
Posted Friday, Jul 31, 2009 by
Law is a fascinating and often rewarding profession, but many people don’t have the time, money or opportunity to go to law school. If you are interested in a law career but don’t wish to be a practicing attorney, then becoming a paralegal may be just the thing for you.
Paralegals help licensed attorneys do research, organize information and prepare arguments. They often write reports summarizing cases, citing past decisions, articles and precedents that may help their client’s cause. They may also draft contracts, mortgages and separation agreements. Paralegals may not provide actual legal services, such as setting legal fees, giving legal advice and presenting cases in court, except as permitted by law.
Why consider a paralegal career? Here are some key reasons for choosing this exciting career path:
• The Nature of the Work. The law is wide and deep, offering opportunities for people of varied interests. Specialties you can pursue include criminal law, corporate law, intellectual property, health care, international law, entertainment law, environment law, and many, many more. The work itself can be varied and challenging. This is also a field for ambitious individuals who are eager to assume ownership for complex tasks and who enjoy uncovering and organizing information.
• Work environment. Seventy percent of paralegals work in law offices. The rest tend to work for either corporations or government agencies. All of these environments tend to be very professional, clean and well-organized. Co-workers tend to be well-educated.
• Qualifications. Most law firms require that candidates have at least an Associate’s degree in Paralegal studies, or a Bachelor’s degree with a separate certificate in paralegal studies.
• Income Potential. The earning power of paralegals varies widely depending on such factors as location, experience and the type of company/firm worked for. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) most recent data (May 2008), the median annual income of paralegals and legal assistants nationwide was approximately $43,000 in 2006, with half making more than that and half making less. The middle 50 percent earned between $33,920 and $54,690. The top 10 percent earned more than $67,540 while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $27,450.
Note that income potential varies significantly from state to state and from city to city depending on local economic and employment conditions, as well as the number of hours you choose to work and the type of facility where you choose to practice. For more information, please consult the Bureau of Labor Statistics and your local state labor department Web site.
• Benefits. Because hours can be long, paralegals often receive bonuses, especially when they’re involved in winning cases. They usually also receive paid vacations, sick leave, a 401K savings plan, health insurance and similar corporate-style perks.
• Job Prospects. Again, according to the BLS, employment opportunities for paralegals are expected to increase faster than average over the next six years. On a national level, approximately 53,000 new paralegal positions are expected to have been created between 2006 and 2016, driven by both population growth and continuing pressure on law firms to reduce expenses. At the state level, 2006-2016 growth projections vary widely. The strongest percentage growth is projected for Wyoming (43%), Florida (42%) and Utah (41%), while the weakest percentage growth is projected for Alaska and Colorado (14% each), Hawaii (12%) and North Dakota (11%). (Occupational growth rates are projections only, and will vary from community to community.)
• Opportunities for Advancement. As your career progresses, you can look forward to assuming additional responsibilities, up to and including management positions where you supervise groups of paralegals.
Paralegal Training Courses Offered at Everest University Online
Everest has dozens of urban campuses conveniently located throughout the United States, many offering paralegal training programs. Men and women interested in pursuing this exciting and rewarding career can likely find a campus conveniently close to their home or work. An Associate’s Degree program is also available through Everest University Online. Everest’s Career Placement teams work to prepare each graduate for their job search and interface directly with major law firms, corporations and government agencies to help fill new job openings. All Everest campuses also provide financial aid services for those who qualify.
People interested in paralegal training should contact Everest today for information on class schedules.