One of the foundations of American society is our commitment to the rule of law. Whether a criminal breaks the law or there is a legal dispute between people or companies, our court system is there to determine guilt and innocence, and then settle conflicts or punish offenders.
There are many different jobs in the court system. Of course, you could become a lawyer, but lawyering isn’t for everyone (lawyer jokes aside). Many people become paralegals, legal assistants, and court reporters, and these are three really great careers that don’t require a law-school education.
If you’d like to work in the legal system, check out what it’s really like and learn what training you need to enter this rewarding field.
What Paralegals Do
Paralegal work is one of the most popular legal careers today. Paralegals support attorneys in the litigation process, during depositions and document “discovery,” and through trial and post-trial issues. They work well both individually and as part of a team, and can always meet tight deadlines. Paralegals also offer their technological expertise to team members, especially their lawyers, and must have high ethical standards.
Although most paralegals work in law firms and specialize in litigation, there are many other specialties to choose from. The one that’s right for you depends on your personality and the type of work you want to do. Here are some other popular paralegal specialties:
The specialty you go into depends on many things: what subjects you liked in school, the first paralegal job you found, an influential mentor, and what you want to do with your career.
It’s impossible to describe each paralegal job description here as the specialties are many, but check some of our articles and interviews to see what paralegals do in their chosen specialty. Then, if being a paralegal seems like the right career for you, we’re here to help you find the paralegal training you need. If you’re interested in one of the other legal careers mentioned above, let us help you there too.
Skills You’ll Need
Paralegals are well-compensated for the work they do, but you’ll need the following skills and qualities to succeed:
- Close attention to detail
- Computer and technology savvy
- Excellent research and writing skills
- Good interpersonal skills
- Hard working
- Highly organized
A paralegal salary varies considerably based on a number of factors, such as where you live, the company, law firm or government agency you work for, and years of experience. Many paralegals, especially after gaining seniority (and corresponding responsibilities, such as managing other paralegals), earn a good living indeed. Check the comparison from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics below for median annual salaries of the following professions.
|Career||Median Annual Salary|
|Paralegals and Legal Assistants||$56,230|
|Legal Support Workers, All Other||$59,790|
|Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators||$49,410|
|Court Reporters and Simultaneous Captioners||$60,380|
|Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates||$148,030|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics
The salary information listed is based on national median salaries, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 345,600 paralegals and legal assistants, and employment is expected to grow 12% through 2030, adding 41,400 jobs in that time frame. These legal professions attract many qualified applicants, so competition for jobs may be intense. Experienced, well-trained paralegals with strong computer and database-management skills may have the best job prospects.
Whether you’re thinking of your first job or want to make a career change (as many of us do), get the best paralegal training you can to increase your employability.
Meeting your paralegal degree requirements gives you the knowledge and skills to succeed in the workplace. They are offered at community colleges, colleges, universities, and specialty schools across the country.
Wherever you study, and whether you earn your paralegal certificate online or in a classroom setting, your teachers will be lawyers with years of experience who love what they do and want to share what they’ve learned, all so that you can be the best paralegal you can be when you enter the job market. Earning your education from an accredited institution can serve you best as you progress in your paralegal career.
What You’ll Study: Below are some of the required courses you’ll take in most paralegal programs.
- Intro to Law and the Legal System
- Business Law
- Civil Procedure
- Criminal Law
- Employment Law
- Immigration Law
- Intellectual Property
- Law Office Technology
- Legal Research and Writing
- Litigation and Trial
- Torts and Personal Injury
Program Length: There are many ways to choose your paralegal training. Some people do an associate’s degree (two years) or a bachelor’s degree (four years) in paralegal studies.
If you already have a bachelor’s in another area and want to become a paralegal, a paralegal certificate is a custom-fit option. Paralegal certificates vary in length, but generally you must earn about 40 credits. This can take as little as nine months (even if you’re working during the day) or as much time as you need to complete your studies.
If you have questions about specific programs, contact each school’s academic advisor.
And Finally: Now that you’ve got an overview of what paralegal careers and studies are all about, why not take the next step? Find schools near you—or online—and get the education you need to find a job in this growing field.