What I wish I knew BEFORE I became a paralegal (2023)

What I wish I knew BEFORE I became a paralegal (1)

Choosing your career can feel like one of the most important decisions you'll ever make. It's understandable to wonder. show howlaw and order,How to get away with murderorBetter call SaulYour interest in the legal field may have piqued your interest, but is that interest enough to advance your career?

of all potentialcourt workOut there, a career as a paralegal is one of the fastest routes you can take to your first day on the job. But the time needed to acquire the right knowledge and training is still an investment. You want to make sure it's worth your time.

Take a moment to hear some of the gross details of paralegal work - from the mouths of paralegals and the lawyers who hire them. Use these expert insights to make an informed decision.

But first, let's cover the basics...

What does a paralegal do?

You've probably already done your own research, but it's always a benefit to have all your information in one place. What does a paralegal do? Basically, they help their lawyers organize and run things smoothly, doing important legal work.

These obligationsDepartment of Labor Statistics(BLS), may include assisting attorneys during court proceedings, organizing case files, preparing case notes, conducting legal research, preparing briefs, and sometimes conducting interviews with clients and witnesses.1

"Most paralegal jobs require paralegals to work on contracts, real estate, civil litigation and other legal requirements," says Kirk Olson, attorney and associate professor at Rasmussen University. “A case can involve several areas of law. For example, a divorce often requires a paralegal to obtain and review real estate, pension, insurance, business, and estate planning documents, not just custody studies.

(Video) What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Paralegal

Paralegals are generally detail-oriented, organized and efficient. As tasks can vary greatly depending on the size of the law firm or the lawyers in charge, they must also be adaptable.

This is how you become a paralegal

One of the most common concerns for anyone looking to get started in this field is the amount of training required - and how long it takes to become a paralegal. The path to becoming a paralegal can vary greatly from person to person.

But theBLS Statesthat the most common educational path leading to work as a paralegal is aassociate degree, which can be completed in just 18 months.1,2However, if you already hold a bachelor's or associate's degree in another field, aParalegal Certification Programcan provide you with the specialist knowledge base you need for the job without the need for additional years of school. In fact, this certification program can be completed in just 8 months.2

What to Expect from the Paralegal Certification Program

This program is intended to complement training in another area. If you already hold an associate's or bachelor's degree in any field, aLawyer's CertificateThe program can teach you the legal fundamentals a paralegal needs to know while building on the fundamentals from the general education courses you've already completed.

Emthis type of paralegal program, take courses such as Introduction to Legal Research, Legal Writing, and Legal Office Management. Ethical communication, interdisciplinary awareness and new technologies are important goals of this program.

What to Expect from a Paralegal Associate Degree

ABachelor's Degree in Paralegal Associatesgive you an essential foundation for working as a paralegal (as well as other careers) with core courses in English writing, math, and the humanities. However, the majority of your studies will focus on skills and areas of knowledge specific to the legal world and the paralegal roles it entails.

Courses such as torts, contracts and family law delve deeper into complex legal topics, while other courses such as computer applications and business systems concepts, legal writing and legal research help you develop the critical skills paralegals need .

A paralegal degree will give you the skills you need to succeed in this field, but there are a variety of things you won't learn until you're on the job. For additional insight, we asked paralegals to share the things they wish they knew before starting their careers.

(Video) New Paralegal Tips: What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Paralegal

How is the legal career?

"You'll work hard and long, but it will be worth it," says Julia Gordon, a paralegal and associate professor of law studies at Rasmussen University. Gordon explains that paralegals carry a lot on their shoulders and every detail counts.

"There is no room for error when keeping up with deadlines and working with court planning," says Kevin Queenan ofqueenan law firm, PC “I hear the same problem every time I mentor paralegals: I didn't know you were seriousODetail oriented!" Queenan emphasizes that small mistakes in the legal world can have big consequences. A bad hair day is no excuse if your mistake cost the company a case or, worse, allegations of misconduct.

However, Queenan points out that people with the right personality can thrive in this position. Paralegals can take jobs with varying daily tasks and experiences if they are looking for them. "In a general civil law firm...the paralegal might be answering discovery requests one day and driving the next day to find a new client."

“For those who like more structure or repetition, there are legal practices that deal with standardized processes and issues. I spoke to a paralegal yesterday and her most recent job was filing 1,000 credit card cases a month," explains Queenan.

"Don't go into work with rose-colored glasses," says Gordon. You can imagine working in an office full of dedicated people who want to help their clients right wrongs. But unfortunately this is not always the case.

"Not all lawyers are good and not all lawyers are ethical," says Gordon. “Be aware of your ethical rules and policies and never compromise your integrity. Nothing is worth losing your self-esteem. You have your customers' lives in your hands. Treat the position with the utmost respect.”

What is the average salary of a paralegal?

While not every aspect of a paralegal's job is considered glamorous, this is no different than most jobs. After all, there's a reason you get paid to do the work. But is the salary enough to support you and your tasks? You decide.

The median annual salary for a paralegal in 2021 was $56,230.BLS mar.2That's $10,470 more than the national average of $45,760 for all occupations.2That's pretty encouraging for a job that doesn't require a bachelor's degree or dangerous working conditions.

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What skills are most important as a paralegal?

In this legal career there are certain personalities and in particularcapabilitiesare more promising than others. If you are considering working as a paralegal, make sure you pay the bill when applying.

"An effective [paralegal] needs to be computer savvy," says Queenan. She adds that good paralegals don't overreact under pressure, are well-organized and pay attention to small details.

"Being friendly and helpful is a good start," says Olson. But Olson insists that being helpful won't guarantee the job. “Lawyers hire paralegals because a good paralegal can find errors in documents and assist with billing and other detailed functions that keep a law firm running. A good paralegal is a 'deadline policeman' who keeps the company running.”

According to Olson, paralegals are expected to spot mistakes made by others and remind everyone of important dates. "Finding and notifying a deadline that others have missed can prevent a client from losing their case and save a $10,000 deductible on an attorney malpractice lawsuit," adds Olson.

All these detailed checks include spelling and grammar. Olson says paralegals correct citation errors, grammatical errors and other inaccuracies. Fine-tuning your writing and editing skills is critical to success as a paralegal - as is technical proficiency.

"Anyone considering becoming a paralegal should complete the highest level of training available in Word, WordPerfect and Westlaw," says Queenan. "A tech specialist [paralegal] will impress their lawyers more often and demand a higher salary and raises."

How to stand out as a paralegal

If you mentally tick off some of these skill boxes, that's a great sign. While detail-oriented professionals with strong typing and computer skills are important in this job, there are ways to excel even more.

Queenan recommends additional training in customer interactions, etiquette and communication skills, as it is extremely important to present a professional image to customers. Pay close attention to verbal slips - no one wants to hear your legal advice sounded careless. You want to make sure you represent yourself, your clients, and ultimately your practice in the best light possible. This includes the ability to communicate professionally.

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Additionally, Queenan suggests learning more about research materials on the internet. “We are suing a major manufacturer and my paralegal found several articles that helped with our lack of warnings. The information was free!”

Olson suggests asking for examples of completed case files if you work as a paralegal to see examples of what professional and completed work looks like for that firm. "And have confidence. If something doesn't feel right, insist that it be explained or fixed."

Are you cut out to be a paralegal?

Paralegals play an essential role in a company's success. Every document submitted, every interview conducted, and every ounce of accumulated research matters.

If you are looking for an opportunity to work in the exciting legal world that you are used to seeing on TV, the paralegal profession may be the perfect career choice for you. Not only can it help you pay your bills, it will challenge you intellectually and provide you with valuable work experience to help you achieve your long-term career goals.

These expert insights should answer many of your paralegal questions. If you think this is the career for you, take a look at paralegal programs that can help you get there. Rasmussen UniversityParalegal Certificate und Associate's Degree Seitecan tell you more about getting your legal career off the ground!

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed June 2022] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Information represents national averages for the occupations listed and includes workers of all levels of education and experience. These data do not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your region may vary.
2Time to completion depends on transfer credits accepted and courses completed each quarter.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in June 2014. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2022. Expert insights remain from the original version.

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What do I need to know before starting as a paralegal? ›

What you should know about a paralegal career
  • Paralegals do get involved in cases. ...
  • Formal education will help. ...
  • The earning potential and job outlook for paralegals is solid. ...
  • You can choose the area of law you prefer. ...
  • You'll need to be organized. ...
  • You'll need to be a good communicator.
Mar 30, 2020

What is the hardest part of being a paralegal? ›

A lack of respect is one of the most common complaints among practicing paralegals, although it's richly undeserved. Paralegals routinely deal with demanding partners, jealous associates, competitive co-workers, disrespectful opposing counsel, cranky clients, and difficult vendors.

What are four things that a paralegal Cannot do? ›

Paralegals must avoid the unauthorized practice of law. Generally, paralegals may not represent clients in court, take depositions, or sign pleadings. Some federal and state administrative agencies, however, do permit nonlawyer practice.

What is the difficulty of being a paralegal? ›

Stressful and Challenging Work Environment. You may answer to several attorneys at once, each with different needs. Clients, too, can be demanding and difficult. The ability to switch gears quickly and to multitask under pressure is critical to your success as a paralegal.

What are 3 qualities of a paralegal? ›

What is a Paralegal?
  • Highly organized (this is on 99% of the lists you'll find)
  • Good communication skills (another popular “trait or characteristic” associated with paralegals)
  • Excellent research and writing skills.
  • Ability to multitask.
  • Good computer skills.
  • Pays close attention to detail.
  • Works well independently.

Why do paralegals quit? ›

One of the top reasons for paralegals leaving the field is the result of a toxic work environment. The field of law is a high-pressure environment that can quickly wear down a paralegal. Cases are frequently won or lost on a technicality, and a paralegal can unwittingly introduce an error that causes a loss.

What is the highest paid type of paralegal? ›

Here are the 30 highest paying paralegal jobs:
  1. Paralegal Manager. $104,775. ...
  2. Legal Project Manager. $87,375. ...
  3. Intellectual Property Paralegal. $86,800. ...
  4. Nurse Paralegal. $82,687. ...
  5. Employment and Labor Law Paralegal. $80,685. ...
  6. Government Paralegal. $78,478. ...
  7. Senior Paralegal. $69,995. ...
  8. Corporate Paralegal. $66,134.

What age are most paralegals? ›

Paralegal Age
Paralegal YearsPercentages
40+ years65%
30-40 years23%
20-30 years12%
Sep 9, 2022

What type of law do paralegals make the most money? ›

Types of Paralegals Ranked by Highest Pay
  • International Law Paralegal. ...
  • Personal Injury Lawyer Paralegal. ...
  • Family Law Paralegal. ...
  • Freelance Paralegal. ...
  • Litigation Paralegal. ...
  • Public Defender Paralegal. ...
  • Estate Planning and Probate Paralegal. ...
  • Real Estate Paralegal.

What are the 5 typical duties of a paralegals? ›

The Paralegal (PL) assists with case planning, development, and management, legal research, interviews clients, gathers facts and retrieves information, drafts and analyzes legal documents and collects, complies and utilizes technical information, to make recommendations to an attorney. 1.

What happens if a paralegal makes a mistake? ›

If you discover an error it should be brought to the attention of the supervising attorney as soon as possible. Even if it appears that the error isn't time sensitive, the sooner it is brought to the supervising attorney's attention, the sooner she may determine how to correct it.

What can being a paralegal lead to? ›

Paralegals can work as a discovery liaison, legal administrator of business, claims adjuster/investigator, tax preparer, list management, bankruptcy petition preparer, compliance, real estate and title insurance paralegal, government paralegal and nursing paralegal.

Is it harder to be a lawyer or paralegal? ›

The training to become a lawyer requires much bigger commitments of both time and money than what it takes to become a paralegal. Most lawyers spend seven years in school (assuming it takes four years to earn an undergraduate degree and another three years to complete law school).

What does a day in the life of a paralegal look like? ›

Typical tasks performed by paralegals include: Case management, including coordinating all aspects of a case and ensuring the appropriate steps are taken in a timely manner. Drafting correspondence. Calculating calendaring deadlines for filing documents.

Is it easier to get into law school as a paralegal? ›

According to Above the Law, the main advantage that paralegals have when applying to law school is their experience in the legal industry and their knowledge of what it is like to be an attorney. However, your paralegal job is not guaranteed to make your application to law school any more competitive.

What personality type is a paralegal? ›

Paralegals are investigative and conventional

Paralegals tend to be predominantly investigative individuals, which means that they are quite inquisitive and curious people that often like to spend time alone with their thoughts.

How fast should a paralegal type? ›

Good typing speeds are relative to job descriptions. For example, data entry positions usually require 60-80 words per minute. Medical transcriptionists, paralegals and executive secretaries should be able to type 70-100 wpm.

What are the most important skills for a paralegal? ›

Which paralegal skills matter most, and why?
  1. Attention to detail. ...
  2. Multitasking. ...
  3. Observation skills. ...
  4. A good memory. ...
  5. Writing ability. ...
  6. Critical thinking. ...
  7. Empathy and teamwork.
Oct 11, 2021

Why is it so hard to find a job as a paralegal? ›

As a new paralegal getting that first job is tough because employers are looking for experience. Any internships a paralegal student can do would be beneficial in the long run and worth the legal experience gained in the field. This experience can be listed on a resume.

What is paralegal burnout? ›

What is paralegal burnout? Burnout describes chronic exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy. It's more than typical work stress. In fact, the World Health Association says, “Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context.” Burnout is a complex feeling and situation for each individual.

What's the difference between a paralegal and a legal assistant? ›

A legal assistant, or litigation assistant, may perform administrative duties as well as legal tasks. A paralegal focuses more on legal duties and research to assist lawyers. Both positions require an understanding of legal terminology and procedures.

What state pays paralegals the most? ›

In their 2022 data, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that six out of ten of the highest paying metropolitan areas for paralegals are all located within the state of California.

Where is the highest demand for paralegals? ›

Geographic area can also have a major impact on salary. According to the BLS, the states with the highest average annual salaries for paralegals in 2020 were Washington DC at $83,330, California at $66,250, Washington at $63,050, Colorado at $62,950, and New York at $62,530.

What do most paralegals major in? ›

Before becoming a paralegal, you must complete an educational program. This can include a paralegal certificate program, a two or four-year paralegal studies degree or a criminal justice degree. During your degree program, you will take courses in areas related to the law, such as legal research and legal writing.

Will paralegals be needed in the future? ›

Job Outlook

Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 14 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. About 45,800 openings for paralegals and legal assistants are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Is paralegal female dominated? ›

On the other hand, some paralegal jobs are dominated by females. 87% of paralegal secretary, for instance, are female.

What city pays paralegals the most? ›

Best Paying Cities for Paralegals
  • New York City — the average annual salary for paralegals in NYC is $60,430.
  • Chicago — the average annual salary for paralegals in Chicago is $60,690.

Why being a paralegal is better than a lawyer? ›

Here are a few reasons why you might want to consider becoming a paralegal instead of a lawyer: Paralegals typically have less student loan debt than lawyers. The number of years in education required to become a paralegal is typically less than what is required to become a lawyer. Paralegals make a comfortable salary.

Do people respect paralegals? ›

There is no doubt that lawyers rely heavily on paralegals. Indeed, given the number and variety of tasks paralegals can perform in the legal setting, paralegals have earned a level of trust and respect in the legal profession commensurate with the role they play as part of the client's legal team.

What surprised you the most about the role of a paralegal? ›

“The thing that surprised me the most about my job is the one-on-one interaction you have working with the attorneys,” Salgado says. “The amount of time invested in a case and seeing a good outcome from it are very rewarding.

Is a paralegal a glorified secretary? ›

A paralegal is not a glorified secretary. You must have a degree or a certificate to be a paralegal; without it, you are just a legal assistant. Paralegals are highly skilled, trained legal professionals. Formal training for a paralegal is just as important as formal training for a lawyer.”

Which of the following must a paralegal be careful not to do? ›

Canon 1 – A paralegal must not: (a) engage in, encourage, or contribute to any act which could constitute the unauthorized practice of law; (b) establish attorney-client relationships, set fees, give legal opinions or advice, or represent a client before a court or agency unless so authorized by that court or agency; ...

Which of the following are paralegals not allowed to do? ›

A paralegal must not engage in, encourage or contribute to any act which could constitute the unauthorized practice of law. This includes establishing attorney-client relationships, setting fees, giving legal advice or representing a client in court unless so authorized by that court or agency.

What are the pros and cons of being a paralegal? ›

Pros and Cons of Being a Paralegal – Summary Table
Pros of Being a ParalegalCons Of Being a Paralegal
No Bar Exam RequiredNot As Much Authority
Increased NeedEasier Ways To Make Money
Opportunities in Many LocationsExtensive Education Required
Stimulates Your Intellectual SideSometimes Intense Pressure
6 more rows
Feb 1, 2022

What I love about being a paralegal? ›

The Chance to Help Others

Simply put, paralegals help people. They help their employers be more efficient in their jobs, they can increase a firm's revenue and productivity, and they also help the clients.

Do law schools like paralegals? ›

Working as a paralegal can provide many benefits specific to law school applicants, including: Building relevant skills. A personal statement topic. A strong recommendation letter.

What is the difference between a paralegal and a senior paralegal? ›

The Senior Paralegal role may overlap with the Paralegal role and many of the areas of responsibility are similar. The Senior Paralegal, however, is expected to work at a higher level of expertise and will frequently be involved in the client work at a more strategic level than a Paralegal.

What is parallel legal? ›

The term parallel proceedings refers to the simultaneous or successive investigation or litigation of separate criminal, civil, or administrative proceedings commenced by different agencies, different branches of government, or private litigants arising out of a common set of facts.

What is the job outlook of a paralegal? ›

Why do you want to be a paralegal essay? ›

I want to be a paralegal because this profession allows you to make a difference in the lives of others while impacting the world in a meaningful way. A paralegal will often interact with people, businesses, organizations and the community and can shape how others view and are affected by the law.

Should I work before law school? ›

Though many law students take time off between college and law school, the majority of law students don't. Working between college and law school will not only help prepare you for the rigors of law school, but it will provide you with a perspective that many of your fellow students won't have.

Does being a paralegal help with the LSAT? ›

Paralegal training is not something law school admissions committees look for, and frankly, it won't give you an edge at all, either with the admissions committee or as a law student. Law school admissions committees are looking for well-rounded students.

How do you list a paralegal certificate on a resume? ›

If you have a certificate, you should not only include it in your resume's education and certifications section, but you should also mention in your objective statement that you're a certified paralegal.

What does a typical day for a paralegal look like? ›

On any given day, the “routine” may consist of interviewing witnesses, reviewing thousands of documents or assisting an attorney in the courtroom. This means that the paralegal must be prepared for unpredictable events and be capable of considerable time management and prioritization skills.

What is a nickname for a paralegal? ›

Paralegals are often referred to as a “wizard” or “magician.” Honestly, many paralegals live up to those nicknames, because they work tirelessly to make a difference in the legal field.

What is a paralegal salary NC? ›

Paralegal Salary in North Carolina
Annual SalaryMonthly Pay
Top Earners$52,581$4,381
75th Percentile$44,075$3,672
25th Percentile$30,930$2,577

How do you become a paralegal in Ohio? ›

Licensure: There are no licensure requirements in Ohio for paralegals. Degree: A bachelor's degree and completion of paralegal program comprising at least 20 semester hours are required. Experience: 2,000 hours of supervised paralegal experience are required for certification in Ohio.


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