Paralegalsare some of the most universal employees in the criminal justice system. They are the ones that take on all of the little duties in a law firm or courthouse that no one else has time to do. That is why paralegals are in high demand right now. If you have two years to spare on your education, you could become a paralegal and begin work right after school. Does that sound like a plan for you? Here is a paralegal job description that you can keep in mind as you begin to make a plan for your future.
Paralegal Job Duties
Paralegals take on different roles in different law offices, so it is hard to say exactly what you may do in this career. You may be in charge of a group of paralegals, or you may be the only legal assistant in the law firm. It just depends on the circumstances surrounding your position. Listed below are some common job duties that you may come across as a paralegal.
- Researching case details for an attorney
- Running background checks
- Contacting individuals on behalf of a law firm
- Organizing paperwork for a law office
- Typing letters to send to clients
- Managing the clerical duties in a law firm
- Scheduling appointments between clients and attorneys
- Taking over any small duties that a lawyer needs in his or her office
If you would like to know more about the specific tasks you will be in charge of as a paralegal, you may want to contact some law firms in your area. They should be able to give you an idea of what they look for in an employee and what they expect out of their paralegals.
Paralegal Salary Levels
The amount of money you can make as a paralegal will depend on several factors, like the type of employer you work for or the amount of experience you have in the field. Your paralegal salary may be significantly higher than someone else’s if you find the right job and stick with it for a long time. The charts below highlight some of the most common earning levels in the country, just to give you an idea of how much you may make in this career.
Median Annual Wage of Paralegals
- The lowest 10% earned less than $29,460 per year
- The annual median wages $46,860 per year
- The top 10% earned more than $ $74,870
Salary by Employer
- Legal Services Annual Mean Wage: $47,790 per year
- Federal Executive Branch Annual Mean Wage: $64,750 per year
- Local Government Annual Mean Wage: $50,980 per year
- State Government Annual Mean Wage: $44,850 per year
- Management of Companies and Enterprises Annual Mean Wage: $59,390 per year
- Lessors of Nonfinancial Intangible Assets Annual Mean Wage: $55,300 per year
- Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing Annual Mean Wage: $81,480 per year
- Software Publishers Annual Mean Wage: $77,520 per year
- Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses Annual Mean Wage: $73,330 per year
- Oil and Gas Extraction Annual Mean Wage: $71,110 per year
Salary by Highest Paying States
- District of Columbia Annual Mean Wage: $68,120 per year
- California Annual Mean Wage: $59,030 per year
- New Jersey Annual Mean Wage: $56,370 per year
- New York Annual Mean Wage: $54,840 per year
- Illinois Annual Mean Wage: $53,640 per year
Your salary may change slightly based on your location, education, and company size, but that is something you will have to explore once you become a paralegal.
How to Become a Paralegal
If you want to become a paralegal, you will need to get a formal education. There are several degree levels that you could look into, including:
- An Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies
- Bachelor’s Degree in related field, Certificate in Paralegal Studies
- Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice
- Master’s Degree in Paralegal Studies
Most people only go through a certificate or associate’s degree program when they decide to become a paralegal because those programs do not take long to get through. If you want to explore other careers in the future, you may consider a bachelor’s degree or beyond. No matter what you do though, you will take courses about legal terminology, secretarial work, and criminal justice as a whole to prepare for work as a paralegal. Maintain the lessons you learn in your education program, and you will have no trouble working in your actual job in the future. You’re only a few years away from a rewarding career.
Be aware, there are over 1,000 colleges and universities which provide paralegal studies degrees, however according to the American Bar Association, around 270 programs are actually approved.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Paralegals and Legal Assistants, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm (visited February 07, 2013).
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employement and Wages, May 2011, Paralegals and Legal Assistants, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm (visited February 07, 2013).
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