Where will I work in my paralegal career?
Seventy percent of paralegal jobs are found in legal services for law firms, corporate legal departments and government agencies. The rest are in state and local governments, the federal government or finance and insurance. Most of a paralegal’s work is done in offices and law libraries. Sometimes paralegals must travel to gather information or perform other tasks. It is possible for paralegals in certain fields to telecommute, a practice that is becoming more common with the prevalence of personal computers and smartphones.
Jobs in paralegal services consist mainly of preparing affidavits and other documents as well as organizing them in a filing system. Just as important is the trial preparation they do by performing tasks such as organizing exhibits. Paralegals often need to communicate with the public, government, court clerks, lawyers and legal secretaries. Depending on the type of office in which they work, they may also interact with tax preparers or title examiners.
How long does it take to find a paralegal job?
Those seeking a paralegal job can expect the number of positions to grow from 256,000, as of 2010, to 302,900 by 2020. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this is an 18% increase. Employers will hire more paralegals and legal assistants as they try to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Paralegals are less expensive than lawyers and perform a wider variety of duties. Given that they often handle documents and take statements, which must be done in person, they are less vulnerable to offshoring.
Law firms are the largest employers of paralegals, but many corporations have increased their in-house legal departments to cut costs. The demand for legal workers in a variety of settings, such as finance and insurance firms, consulting firms and health care providers, is consequently growing. Graduates of legal assisting programs online should have little trouble starting a paralegal career even if their program was not approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).
How have paralegal careers changed over the years?
The paralegal profession began in the mid-1960s due to burdens placed on the legal system by societal and economic changes. Attorneys were forced to ask legal secretaries to perform more paraprofessional tasks and fewer clerical tasks. The federal government was also using many individuals in this capacity because of increased federal programs. These “paralegals” worked under an attorney’s supervision and performed duties that the attorney would have had to otherwise perform.
The ABA recognized it as a profession in 1968 by establishing what is now known as the Standing Committee on Legal Assistants. The ABA also established voluntary standards for formal education.
Despite an abundance of college-level paralegal programs, in most states, it is still possible for anyone to call him or herself a paralegal and begin a career in paralegal services without any formal education or training, as there is no minimum education requirement, no collegiate-level accrediting body and no compulsory paralegal certification. As a result, the profession continues to confront issues with professional development and the unauthorized practice of law.
What are the top employers for paralegal jobs?
The top employers for those starting paralegal careers will be private law firms, but more and more major corporations are hiring paralegals as well. Some large corporations currently hiring paralegals include CIT Group, a Fortune 500 bank holding company founded in 1908, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, and the Sony Corporation, 1 of the largest entertainment and technology companies in the world. For those wishing to start their careers in paralegal services at a law firm, many of the top firms use staffing agencies such as Filcro Legal Staffing.
It should be relatively easy for new graduates to find jobs with a paralegal degree. However, because the ABA does not approve strictly online programs, some law firms or corporations may not hire you if you obtained your degree from a non-approved program. Still, this will not necessarily prevent smaller firms and other agencies from offering jobs for paralegal students who have studied online.