When looking at how to become a paralegal in Michigan, you’ll find that the best path involves attending a paralegal certificate or associate’s degree program at a college or university. If you’re already working in the legal field, or are interested in switching careers, a post-baccalaureate certificate is a good option to become a paralegal. Students who are new to the idea of becoming a paralegal want to consider getting their associate’s degree in paralegal studies as it prepares them to work at an advanced level of employment than if they had earned their certificate.
Students who successfully complete a paralegal program at a Michigan college or university can join the Michigan Bar Association. The Bar Association of Michigan promotes the careers of paralegals as well as lawyers. A paralegal who joins the Michigan Bar Association gains access to special events, ongoing educational opportunities, networking events and job opportunities. It’s not mandatory for a paralegal to join the Bar Association of Michigan, but joining the Michigan Bar Association can be advantageous when becoming a paralegal and embarking on a career in the legal field.
What Kind of Career Options Are Available for a Paralegal in Michigan?
A paralegal works under the supervision of an attorney and is unable to practice law on their own. However, a paralegal can work in the field of law or for non-law firm employers who want employees with legal knowledge, but aren’t as expensive as lawyers. The lower pay from a non-law firm employer is not reflective of the value of the paralegal so much as it’s commensurate with the amount of legal knowledge and inability to practice law that comes with the role.
For some, becoming a paralegal is a life-long career while others prefer to explore their educational options to widen their employment opportunities. Someone who earns their certificate and wants to progress in their career is best served by going back to earn their associate’s degree. The associate’s degree provides more in-depth education in the profession and enables the student to transfer to a four-year degree program at an institution that offers legal studies programs and awards a bachelor’s degree upon successful completion. A paralegal with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies can work more closely with attorneys and handle advanced duties that are typically handled by lawyers. It also opens up the possibility of going to law school and earning a Juris Doctorate to work as a lawyer.
Non-Legal Careers for Paralegals
A paralegal isn’t bound to the legal industry for their employment. Some of the jobs available to someone with a paralegal degree from a Michigan school include:
- Corporate paralegal
- Legal information review analyst
- Document management technician
- Litigation support specialist
Most non-law firm employers are looking for paralegals to review legal documents for accuracy and legal language that can be favorable or unfavorable to the employer. A paralegal’s training involves researching, writing, reviewing and submitting documentation for a lawyer to review. A non-law firm employer can hire more paralegals and fewer attorneys for the final stages of legal paperwork. This means there are more employment options for paralegals than simply working for a law firm.
What are Salary and Job Opportunities Like for a Paralegal in Michigan?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a paralegal in Michigan was $51,790, or 24.90 per hour, in 2019. This represents a 2.2% increase over the hourly wage in 2018. There are a little over 7,000 people employed as paralegals in the state of Michigan, and employment of paralegals increased 6.9% over 2018. Employment for paralegals is expected to grow 10% between 2019 to 2029 which is much faster than the average expected growth for all jobs in the United States during this period. The main driver of demand are non-law firm employers who are looking to save on legal costs.
Paralegal jobs are more plentiful in areas with large populations versus the exurbs or rural areas of the state. A paralegal who wants to get as much experience as possible or have access to a variety of job opportunities is best served by finding work in areas where legal services are in demand. All areas, whether rural or urban, require legal services, but there are fewer opportunities in areas of low population. For someone who wants to work in a less-populated area, employment opportunities are available at the local, state and federal levels. Government agencies at all levels hire paralegals to perform duties and tasks they would take care of in a law firm, but for the governing body instead.