Paralegals and legal assistants hold approximately 325,700 jobs. The majority work for lawyers in law offices or in law firms. Other paralegals work for the government, namely for the Federal Trade Commission, Justice Department, Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service, Department of the Interior, and many other agencies and offices. Paralegals also work in the business community. Anywhere legal matters are part of the day-to-day work, paralegals are usually handling them. Paralegals fit in well in business because many smaller corporations must deal with legal regulations but don't necessarily need an attorney or a team of lawyers.
Paralegals in business can be found all over the country. Larger cities employ more paralegals that focus on the legal side of the profession, and government paralegals will find the most opportunities in state capitals and Washington, D.C.
Although some law firms promote legal secretaries to paralegal status, most employers prefer to hire individuals who have completed paralegal programs. To have the best opportunity at getting a quality job in the paralegal field, you should attend a paralegal school. In addition to providing a solid background in paralegal studies, most schools help graduates find jobs, or internships that lead to jobs. Those with the best credentials will get the best jobs.
Although no formal advancement paths for paralegals exist, there are some possibilities for advancement, particularly in larger firms or companies.
For example, a person may be promoted from a paralegal to a senior level paralegal who supervises others. In addition, a paralegal may specialize in one area of law, such as environmental, real estate, or medical malpractice. Many paralegals also advance by moving from small to large firms.
Expert paralegals that specialize in one area of law may go into business for themselves. Rather than work for one firm, these freelance paralegals often contract their services to many lawyers. Some paralegals with bachelor's degrees enroll in law school to train to become lawyers.
Paralegals can also move horizontally by taking their specialized knowledge of the law into another field, such as insurance, occupational health, or law enforcement.
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Try to get a summer job in a law firm. Firms, like other offices, need low-skill tasks completed such as filing and answering phones. This would be a great way to familiarize yourself with the work environment.
Visit the National Federation of Paralegal Associations' Web site, https://www.paralegals.org, to learn more about education and certification options. Paralegals with a strong educational background and certification will have the best chances of landing a job.
Familiarize yourself with the different areas of law to determine which type of paralegal work will most interest you.