Paralegal Job Description, Skills, and Salary
Get to know about the duties, responsibilities, qualifications, and skills requirements of a paralegal. Feel free to use our paralegal job description template to produce your own. We also provide you with information about the salary you can earn as a paralegal.
Who is a Paralegal?
Paralegals are individuals who have been trained to help lawyers in a variety of legal roles. Paralegals cover a wide variety of substantive legal work, they perform research, create legal papers, work with clients, and manage cases. Many paralegals work on tough and fascinating projects that would normally be handled by lawyers, but paralegals are not permitted to give legal services directly to the public unless the law allows it.
Being a successful paralegal requires excellent oral and written communication abilities. Paralegals must be able to think quickly on their feet and express themselves clearly and grammatically. In this exciting sector, computer skills are also essential, especially understanding Microsoft Office products, case management systems, e-filing, and e-discovery, as well as solid keyboarding and organizational abilities.
With the help and experience of paralegals, lawyers may typically perform legal services more efficiently and affordably as they aid lawyers in gathering and managing vast amounts of data, allowing them to deliver higher-quality work under pressure.
Paralegal Job Description
Below are the paralegal job description examples you can use to develop your resume or write a paralegal job description for your employee. Employers can also use it to sieve out job seekers when choosing candidates for interviews.
The duties and responsibilities of a paralegal include the following:
- Assist with research for attorneys, often known as lawyers.
- Check and search public documents.
- Examine medical records.
- Make legal documents and presentations.
- Summarize depositions and other papers.
- Assist attorneys with trial preparation and execution.
- Assist with probate estates, including filing estate tax reports.
- Prepare affidavits, legal letters, and other papers for attorneys.
- Use a paper or electronic filing system to organize and maintain documents.
- Assist with trial preparation by arranging exhibits and other chores as needed.
- Prepare legal papers such as briefs, wills, contracts, real estate closing statements, pleadings, appeals, and others.
- Prepare cases and find causes of action to investigate facts and laws in cases and seek public documents and other resources.
- Compile and analyze statutes, court decisions, legal articles, codes, papers, and other information.
- Call witnesses to testify at court hearings.
- Monitor legal volumes to keep the law library current.
To qualify for the position of a paralegal one must meet the following requirements and are as follows:
- An associate degree in paralegal studies or a certificate of completion from an ABA-approved paralegal certification programme of study and training.
- Microsoft Office skills, specifically Outlook, Word, and Excel proficiency.
- Ability to multitask well, manage time-sensitive papers, and have great organizational abilities.
Essential skills for this role are as follows:
- Proper drafting of activities to attend to. Multitasking is a talent that paralegals must master. Prioritizing is therefore essential. Paralegals generally have a lot of duties that require their attention at the same time, as well as multiple clients that require a customized course.
- Foresightedness: Anticipating all potential roadblocks and challenges is a talent that paralegals use throughout their employment. For a successful career, paralegals must also have instinct and common sense.
- Oratory: Most of a paralegal’s responsibilities involve talking and communicating with others, whether it’s interviewing clients, contacting people for research, writing witness statements, or scheduling court appointments. You’re a liaison, the lawyer’s right hand, and being able to articulate yourself properly is crucial.
- Writing proficiency: Most paralegals are in charge of drafting both simple and complex pleadings, documents, and briefs. Because writing is such an important part of the paralegal profession, people who master it often find themselves in more lucrative positions.
- Researching skills: Paralegals who study legal research procedures become competent at conducting online searches and analyzing case data. Paralegals must be able to locate records, and their investigative skills must be combined with their technological abilities.
- IT Experience: The technological ability required of a modern paralegal is maybe the most sought-after expertise. As technology advances, the paralegal’s ability to handle spreadsheets, databases, e-filing, presentation software, and other tools will need to evolve as well. If you’re in charge of technology at your law practice, making the proper decisions can help you stand out from the competition.
- Excellent Organization Skills: If your paralegal employment involves a lot of paperwork, it’s critical that you can classify, catalogue, categorize, and organize what a lawyer need. However, the good organization takes time. Successful paralegals devote a significant amount of effort to planning and creating thorough assignment lists in order to make their workflow more smooth. Paralegals must be able to shift priorities at any time to stay organized. Being organized might often entail managing multiple personalities at once and stepping outside of your comfort zone to complete all components of a work.
- Ability to collaborate: Not all paralegals work by themselves. Working as an associate, coworker, legal secretary, or partner under a lawyer may entail collaborating with a broader legal team. It’s critical to remember that these categories may contain people with both more and less experience than a paralegal. Working calmly with specialists, clients, and opposing lawyers is also an essential ability.
- High-level Professionalism: Above all, professionalism is the most vital trait of an excellent paralegal. Paralegals from all around the country, as well as local and national paralegal organizations, are working to have the profession properly recognized. It’s great to know that your paralegal skills are in demand and valuable. Professionalism is the cornerstone of a successful paralegal career. A paralegal can flourish at his or her job by understanding the value of professional and ethical sets of abilities.
- High sense of moral values: Paralegals represent their clients’ legal rights and interests in court. They are trusted to represent clients to the best of their abilities while remaining within the legal parameters.
- Genuine Desire to Help People: Most people choose law as a profession because they want to serve others. They are motivated to fight for justice, defend the disadvantaged, and create a more equitable and secure environment for all.
- Persistence and thorough Attention to Details: The difference between good paralegals and exceptional paralegals is persistence. Conducting legal research, preparing and double-checking legal documents, preparing for trial, and refining legal arguments all take time.
Precision, dedication, and hard labour are required for this work. The top paralegals and legal assistants are willing to go above and beyond to guarantee that their clients receive the best possible outcome.
Those who use shortcuts all the time don’t get very far. It’s all about perseverance and meticulousness.
How to Become a Paralegal
Below is a step-by-step guide to your career as a paralegal
Step 1. Satisfy Paralegal Education Requirements: There are no federal regulations specifying the standards to which paralegals should be held because they are not regulated at the national level.
Employers set the hiring standards for paralegals in the absence of state and federal legislation. To become a paralegal, you must have some formal schooling at the very least. Consider obtaining one of the following credentials:
A paralegal studies associate’s degree: An associate degree is typically completed in two years. The minimal admittance criteria vary by school, although most will require high school graduation.
A bachelor’s degree in law or a similar subject is required: A bachelor’s degree takes four years to finish on average. Employers are increasingly emphasizing at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).
A legal studies master’s degree: If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you should think about pursuing a master’s degree. Negotiation, intellectual property law, employment law, legal writing, and trial advocacy may all be covered in a master’s degree in legal studies (MLS). These programs may prepare graduates to work as paralegals or other legal professionals in a number of capacities.
Step 2. Decide a Specialty: When it comes to becoming a paralegal, there are a variety of specializations to explore. If you want to get a master’s degree, you can choose from a variety of legal studies concentrations provided by institutions all across the country, allowing you to focus on a particular area of law.
Step 3. Finalize your Paralegal Certification: To earn paralegal certification, the NFPA advises that you complete a qualifying examination in addition to your schooling. A variety of professional organizations offer certifications for paralegals. The following are some of your paralegal certification options:
The Certified Paralegal certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).
The Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) certification is also from NALA.
The Professional Paralegal certification from NALS, a national association for legal professionals.
Remember that being a paralegal does not require certification. Pursuing one is, however, encouraged. According to the American Bar Association, certification can improve your job prospects. Because certification displays your ability and commitment to your chosen field to some employers.
NALA recommends professional standards for paralegals in addition to certification. Some businesses utilize the NALA criteria as a criterion for evaluating a paralegal’s preparation. These credentials are not required by law; they are only designed to demonstrate to the attorney and the general public that you have completed formal legal education and have had extensive exposure to the difficulties you may face as a paralegal.
Each certification has its own requirements for continuing education and renewal, so it’s crucial to understand them and choose a certification that best fits your objectives.
Step 4. Obtain State-Level Paralegal Requirements (Optional): State-level certifications, the majority of which are optional and awarded by local paralegal groups, are another option for those interested in becoming a paralegal.
California, Florida, Texas, and Utah, for example, have state-specific certification requirements. As a result, it’s vital to double-check paralegal requirements in the state where you plan to work.
California: There are a few steps to becoming a paralegal in California. Candidates must hold a paralegal credential from an ABA-approved school and complete certain semester hours in paralegal studies from a California-accredited school, according to the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations.
Florida: In Florida, there are no minimum education or experience requirements for paralegals, but certain law firms may prefer new workers who have passed the Certified Paralegal (CP) exam.
Texas: The State Bar of Texas maintains a paralegal division, and certification through the Texas Board of Legal Specialization is voluntary.
Utah: Candidates for the position of licensed paralegal practitioner must complete 1,500 hours of substantive law-related experience within the three years prior to application, pass a professional ethics exam, and pass a Licensed Paralegal Practitioner Examination for each of their desired practice areas, in addition to meeting the educational and professional certification requirements outlined by the Utah courts.
Of course, you should double-check the most recent facts for your chosen state. Check out our paralegal credentials page for a complete list of paralegal certificates by state.
Step 5. Consider Different Areas of Law and seek employment: Paralegals are in demand in a number of areas of specialty practice.
Litigation: Paralegals with experience in litigation, particularly those with backgrounds in insurance, defence, personal injury, medical malpractice, employment law, and commercial litigation, are constantly in high demand.
Business/Corporate Law: As corporate demands grow, paralegals with experience in securities, mergers, and acquisitions, and joint ventures are in high demand.
Healthcare: The Affordable Care Act has resulted in a growing healthcare industry, as well as higher demand for paralegals to work for government organizations and medical providers.
Real Estate: The demand for paralegals to assist attorneys in the sale and transfer of commercial properties has increased due to the booming commercial real estate market.
Intellectual Property: Patents and trademarks are required for technology-based businesses. Intellectual property paralegals can expect to earn a lot of money.
Compliance: In both corporate settings and law offices, there is a consistent demand for paralegals with compliance-related skills.
Contract Administration: Paralegals that can work alongside attorneys to originate and handle contracts with customers, partners, vendors, and employees are in high demand in corporate legal departments.
According to NALA, private law firms continue to be the leading employers of paralegals. Businesses, corporations, and government agencies are among the other major employers.
Where to work as a Paralegal
- Law Firms: The majority of paralegals work in law firms. They assist attorneys in gathering evidence by investigating facts and laws relating to cases, writing reports, compiling legal papers, and interviewing witnesses. Although the job is fast-paced and deadlines are strict, private law firms frequently provide paralegals with some of the most intriguing legal work available.
- Courts: The courts are a wonderful place to start for paralegals pursuing law school. You might be able to get work as a judge’s assistant, aiding with legal research and possibly even authoring judgments. You may also work for a public defender’s office, where you would assist in the preparation of cases for people suspected of breaking the law. To work effectively with judges, lawyers, clerks, clients, and law enforcement on a regular basis, you’ll require good communication skills.
- Government: All levels of government, from the federal to the state and municipal, require paralegals. However, not all government paralegal jobs are created equal. You’ll need a good working understanding of how the law operates in your field of specialization because there are so many government entities with specialized goals. You’ll likely specialize in just a few issues, such as insurance laws or healthcare or housing laws, but you’ll need to know them thoroughly.
- Corporations: As a corporate paralegal, you’ll most likely work in every department of your organization. Corporate paralegals must be knowledgeable about the rules and regulations governing incorporation, boards of directors, contracts, product licensing, taxes, and human resources. It’s a difficult job, but it offers more variety in work—and typically more opportunities for advancement—than private law practice. This could be the paralegal career for you if you’re comfortable handling multiple projects.
- Real Estate: The process of buying and selling a home is complicated, and the restrictions vary widely by location. That’s why real estate firms use paralegals to assist them in making sure the process runs smoothly and contracts are solid. A real estate paralegal must be familiar with the local property laws and restrictions in order to conduct research on property titles, prepare contracts for home purchases, and draught mortgage agreements.
- NGOs: Paralegals having strong ideas on the environment, education, social issues, or other causes should work for NGOs (non-governmental organizations). NGO paralegals help organizations achieve specific aims, such as assisting the underprivileged with housing or providing legal assistance to immigrants. These are typically non-profit organizations that rely on donations and government grants for revenue. Working for one can be extremely satisfying, but the salary is frequently lower than that of for-profit businesses.
Paralegal Salary Scale
As of April 26, 2022, the average compensation for a paralegal in the United States is between $52,910 and $104,190. Salary ranges vary greatly based on the type of paralegal career you seek. However, in the United Kingdom, a paralegal’s estimated total compensation is £23,942 per year, with an average wage of £22,899 per year.