If you are interested in legal jobs, but don’t want to spend six or seven years in college studying law, consider working as a paralegal. As of May 2010, there were 256,000 paralegals employed in the U.S., with an expected increase of 46,900 projected through 2020, so this career is thriving.
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As of May 2010, about 70 percent of all paralegals worked in legal services; 9 percent worked for state governments; 6 percent worked for the federal government and 4 percent worked in the finance and insurance industries. No matter your employer, you can expect to complete job tasks such as investigating case facts, researching legal regulations, reading law articles, organizing and presenting information, writing reports, drafting correspondence and helping lawyers prepare their cases for trial.
The two most common types of paralegal jobs are as a corporate paralegal or a litigation paralegal.
Paralegals working in a corporate environment are growing in popularity, as many companies are trying to save money by adding their own legal departments. You can expect to spend your days as a corporate paralegal pouring over employee contracts, studying shareholder agreements, analyzing stock-option plans, and preparing financial reports. Many corporate paralegals have to be on top of new government regulations, ensuring their employers remain in compliance. Expect your hours to be 9 to 5 with some overtime as a deadline approaches.
As a litigation paralegal, you would spend your days conducting research for lawyers, retrieving and organizing evidence for use at trials or arbitrators and interviewing clients and taking depositions. Expect your hours to be long and intensive, especially as a case approaches its trial date.
According to the National Federation of Paralegal Associates last survey in 2010, paralegals made an average annual salary of $50,496 or $24.28 per hour. This compares to a median salary of $49,000, or 22.44 per hour reported by the BLS as of May 2010, which means half of paralegals make more than this and half make less.
Most paralegals work in offices but some must travel to meet with clients. Paralegals usually work full-time, year-round jobs, although some are temporary or seasonal workers.
Although some firms hire paralegals with just a bachelor’s degree, most require specific training or experience as a paralegal. There are over 1,000 colleges in the U.S. that offer training, usually requiring an associate degree. Some schools offer a bachelor’s or master’s program in paralegal studies, which qualifies you for promotional opportunities.
The BLS projects job growth for paralegals to increase by 18 percent through 2020. This is better than the 14 percent project given to all surveyed occupations, meaning you will have a good selection of jobs to choose from once you graduate.