The employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 22% through 2016, much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations!
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations defines a Paralegal as “...a person, qualified through education, training or work experience to perform substantive legal work that requires knowledge of legal concepts and is customarily, but not exclusively, performed by a lawyer...Substantive shall mean work requiring recognition, evaluation, organization, analysis, and communication of relevant facts and legal concepts.”
There are approximately 600 paralegal programs in the United States and are offered in many formats and lengths. Various public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges/universities and business colleges. Paralegal certificate programs are for those individuals who already hold an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree. Some institutions offer a paralegal degree online, making it convenient to study on your own time if you already have another job. Be sure to consider the American Bar Association (ABA) accredited schools, many employers are requiring that your paralegal certificate/degree be issued from one of these institutions.
Salaries depend on education, training, experience, the type and size of employer, and the geographic location of the job. Generally, paralegals working for large firms or in large metropolitan areas earn more than those who work for smaller firms or in less populated regions. In addition to earning a salary, Paralegals may also receive benefits: vacation, paid sick leave, a savings plan, life insurance, personal days, dental insurance, and or reimbursement for continuing legal education.
Although lawyers assume the ultimate responsibility for legal work, they delegate many of their tasks to paralegals. Paralegals—also known as legal assistants—are continuing to take on new responsibilities in offices and perform many of the same tasks as lawyers. However, paralegals are prohibited from discharging duties considered to be within the scope of practice of law: setting legal fees, giving legal advice, and appearing in court on behalf of a client.