What does a typical paralegal career track look like?

Paralegals are valuable assets to the law field. They help lawyers and other legal professionals with a wide range of tasks, such as legal research and preparing documents for court proceedings. The minimum requirement to become a paralegal is usually an associate degree in paralegal studies, but many employers seek individuals with a bachelor’s degree and a certificate in paralegal studies. Many paralegals start out as entry-level professionals and then advance as they gain experience. A common track for paralegals includes entry-level paralegal, mid-range paralegal, senior paralegal, and paralegal specialist.

Entry-Level Paralegal
Entry-level paralegals are usually just recently out of college with none to three years of legal experience. They commonly assist higher level paralegals with a variety of tasks. They often complete paperwork, gather information, and prepare documents. They spend a lot of time learning on the job to apply requirements of the employer to work tasks. These paralegals must have excellent communication abilities, eagerness to learn, and work well as part of a team.

Mid-Range Paralegal
Mid-range paralegals have generally been working in the field for about three to five years and many specialize in a particular area of law. They spend more time working with attorneys to help prepare for legal proceedings, such as trials, corporate meetings, and hearings. Mid-range paralegals must have the ability to demonstrate a sound understanding of the rules and procedures of the law area. They are trusted with more advanced tasks and usually work more independently than entry-level professionals.

Senior Paralegal
Senior paralegals have usually been in the career for at least five years in a certain law practice area. They spend majority of their time working with lawyers and supervising other paralegals. They assist attorneys with more advanced tasks and participate in in-depth activities, such as assisting with acquiring the information needed to prepare for legal meetings and analyzing information. They research complex legal issues and compose documents that involve an expert legal knowledge of certain subject areas. They must demonstrate advanced knowledge and a solid understanding of the practices, rules, regulations, and procedures of the law practice area. Senior paralegals are commonly responsible for training and mentoring new paralegals and act as a liaison between new employees and hiring managers. Some senior paralegals organize office practices for managing other support employees.

Paralegal Specialist
Paralegal specialists typically need a minimum of eight years experience working in a particular law specialty. These professionals are often regarded as experts in the field and they must demonstrate a superior understanding of nearly all aspects of the law practice area. They are responsible for proactively supporting lawyers in the management of a variety of tasks. Like senior paralegals, some paralegal specialists train new paralegals and offer guidance to these new employees. Paralegal specialists often make significant contributions to the success of the legal department through an array of tasks, such as support of the practice, administrative assistance, training, and management. Some paralegal specialists organize legal actions with a specified office and prepare the legal documents as needed. Paralegal specialists provide a vast amount of assistance to attorneys, and some assist other professionals like judges.