Career Choice: Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Career Choice: Paralegals and Legal Assistants
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    Legal practices are not only staffed by attorneys, but also include paralegals and legal assistants, individuals that help gather facts, prepare legal documents and research legal precedent.


These professionals play a critical role in helping attorneys formulate a defense or initiate legal action by conducting research to support legal proceedings.


Paralegals are responsible for preparing affidavits and other documents including legal correspondence. They keep track of such documentation via paper or an electronic filing system. Paralegals prepare for trial by developing legal documents including contracts, briefs and appeals. They file pleadings with the court clerk, gather and analyze information, investigate facts, direct and coordinate office activity and monitor legal volumes including the law library.


The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 44 percent of paralegals and legal assistants have a bachelor’s degree. About half have an associate degree or some college, but no degree. Those without a degree typically have a certificate. Although more than 1,000 colleges and universities offer paralegal training, just 270 programs are approved by the American Bar Association. Candidates are expected to demonstrate superior computer, interpersonal and research skills. Paralegals are also expected to be organized and posses excellent speaking and writing skills.


The average salary for paralegals and legal assistants was $46,990 as of 2012. Those in the 10th percentile earned $29,400 per year on average, while those in the 25th percentile made $36,500 per year. Median salaries came in at $47,000 in 2012. Those professionals in the 75th percentile averaged $60,300 per year to $75,400 annually for paralegals in the 90th percentile.

Salaries for paralegals in California were the highest, coming in at $56,200 per year on average. Alaska at $55,800, New Jersey at $54,700, Pennsylvania at $52,400 and Hawaii at $52,200 followed. On the opposite end of the pay spectrum, paralegals in Arkansas earned $35,700, while those in West Virginia made $36,400 per year on average. Indiana at $36,600, Mississippi at $37,300 and Idaho at $37,400 followed according to the BLS.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for paralegals and legal assistants is good with the BLS forecasting an 18 percent increase from 2010 to 2020. That’s just above the 14 percent increase forecast for all jobs. Paralegal growth is expected to rebound as the nation moves away from the last recession. Large law firms will continue to provide the most jobs, but opportunities in finance, insurance, consulting firms and with health care providers are expected to rise.

Author Information

Ethan Hymer is a professional blogger that shares information on the latest advances in technology. He writes for Focus Display Solutions, a top provider of custom LCD displays, touch screen panel displays, graphic LCD displays and more.


Summary Report for: 23-2011.00 – Paralegals and Legal Assistants

US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Paralegals and Legal Assistants

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Categories: Career Planning