Paralegals play important roles in law offices. As the familiar saying goes, “behind every great lawyer is a great paralegal.” Also known as legal assistants, they are responsible for a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 8 percent growth in employment for paralegals between 2014 and 2024, the latest years for which data is available. This will add 21,200 positions in the next 10 years. Projections are that paralegals and legal assistants will be hired to increase efficiency and reduce costs versus hiring additional attorneys.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also predicts that the paralegal occupation will continue to attract numerous applicants, so competition for jobs will be fierce. Experienced, formally educated paralegals with strong computer skills and training in specific areas of law are likely to be the most in demand for open positions.
Want to become a paralegal?
A paralegal career is a great option for someone who is interested in the law, organized and detail-oriented. A key advantage of being a paralegal is that they work alongside attorneys but don’t have to go through the long education and testing process it takes to become a licensed lawyer.
While no formal training is required to be a paralegal, those with paralegal degrees are typically in the highest demand. Paralegal degrees can be earned at most 4-year, 2-year and online universities. For those who have already earned an associates or bachelor’s degree, earning a paralegal certificate from an accredited university can give you the extra training needed to excel in your paralegal career and make you stand out to potential employers. These certificate programs last only a few months and provide an intense introduction to the paralegal field.
Already a paralegal but want to grow in your career?
You love being a paralegal or legal assistant and want to be as successful as possible in your career. One way to excel is to specialize in a specific area of law. Whether it is bankruptcy law, corporate law, criminal law, immigration law, family law, personal injury, litigation or another field, specializing in a certain area makes you more valuable to the attorneys you support and more knowledgeable about your day to day work. Taking courses about the specific area of law or learning as much as possible about the specific type of law on your own can bring your paralegal skills to a new level.
Another way to excel in your paralegal career is to hone your administrative abilities. Computer skills are a necessity in today’s law offices. An easy (and free) way to learn practical computer skills you can use every day is to take the tutorials available at the Microsoft Office Training Center.
The paralegal career is here to stay and will only continue to grow in the future. Whether you are just starting your paralegal education or have been working as a paralegal for years, you’ll find that a career in the legal field can prove to be a satisfying and rewarding profession.