As long as there are lawyers, there will probably always be some form of paralegal employment. The Paralegal Profession has grown out of a need for lawyers to have non-legal assistants to carry out tasks they can’t find the time to do in a day’s work. The work of a paralegal will be specific to the law firms’ needs and may range from legal research and drafting legal documents to investigating the case and interviewing witnesses. The best chance for a paralegal to get and keep a job is to be a team player.
In some law offices a paralegal may assist in case preparation of opening statements, closing arguments, and court motions. In almost all legal firms, the paralegal will be responsible for administrative tasks, such as answering phones, taking messages, preparing correspondence, and office filing. While in training, a paralegal may specialize in a specific type of law, such as real estate, family law, bankruptcy, or environmental law. It is recommended by authorities in the legal industry that in order to be assured of finding a job after schooling is finished, be flexible and at the same time be an expert in many facets of the law.
Paralegal Job Outlook
Paralegal careers were as recently as 2011, considered one of the fastest growing occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While that can still be said for much of the paralegal job outlook, some of the job descriptions have changed, and paralegals new to the market should be aware of those changes. Technology has had an effect on millions of jobs that are repetitious and can more effectively be done by machines. According to the Estrin Report in February 2013, this indicates about two-thirds of the current job force.
Certain aspects of paralegal responsibilities are not likely to change. At the basic level, paralegals are trained in law, while spending many less years in school. For this reason, they work behind the scenes in a supportive role to the law firm. Paralegals are not allowed to represent the firm’s client in court, or provide legal advice or guidance. Paralegals may not set legal fees, or sign court documents as the client’s representative. The jobs paralegals may do could probably be done by one of the firm’s staff of lawyers, but it is probably more profitable for the firm if legal advisors spend more time with clients and less time assisting office personnel.
Going into the supportive role of the legal industry, paralegals and legal assistants need to know what law offices are looking for, which includes knowledgeable and extremely sophisticated individuals. Those who are motivated and innovative as well as up-to-date on the latest laws have an excellent chance of succeeding in paralegal employment. Use of social media and expanding any technological skill sets can only help you and your law firm to move in a positive direction. Accept ever-changing challenges and stay open to opportunities as you contemplate future employment as a paralegal.