Paralegal Careers and Jobs

Paralegal careers are can be very rewarding for those who are interested in the legal field but don't want to become lawyers. Paralegals are trained to provide support services for attorneys and also work on cases independently as an assistant to an attorney. Paralegal careers demand a high degree of professionalism and ethics, advanced administrative skills and in-depth knowledge about different laws and regulations pertaining to a case. Reviewing job descriptions of different types of paralegal jobs in your area and education requirements for a paralegal career can help you decide whether this is the right career path for you.

Types of Paralegal Jobs

Most paralegal jobs are centered on assisting an attorney to prepare a legal case and handling many of the administrative and clerical tasks associated with the case. Paralegals are not authorized to provide legal counsel or services to the public, but they do work closely with a qualified attorney throughout court proceedings and to deal with various types of cases.

Paralegals may specialize in a particular type of legal studies and work with attorneys who specialize in a particular area, such as bankruptcy, criminal law or labor laws. Some of the different types of paralegal jobs include:

  • Litigation Paralegal
  • Probate Paralegal
  • Estate Planning Paralegal
  • Corporate Paralegal
  • Labor Law Paralegal
  • Immigration Paralegal
  • Nurse Paralegal
  • Bankruptcy Paralegals

In most cases, paralegal jobs are designed to assist lawyers in preparing for trials, meetings with clients, hearings, court proceedings and closing arguments, and they handle much of the research and information-gathering involved with the case. Paralegals are not permitted to give any type of legal advice, and cannot argue a case in court.

Training for a Paralegal Career

Even though paralegal certification is not required to secure paralegal jobs or to pursue a paralegal career, most attorneys and law firms do prefer their paralegals to have completed an accredited certification program. In order to be eligible for a paralegal certificate, the individual must have a certain number of years of work experience in the field, and also have either an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies or a related field. Paralegal career training programs prepare students to work side-by-side with an attorney, learn basic office procedures, and also provide advanced training in various laws, legal ethics and legal writing concepts.

Training programs for a paralegal career can last between seven to 17 months or more, depending on the type of certification program the individual pursues, and typically cover the following advanced legal courses and specialty courses:

  • Criminal Law
  • Business Law
  • Federal Income Taxation
  • Environmental Law
  • Immigration Law
  • Domestic Relations
  • Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights
  • Environmental Law
  • Legal Document Preparation
  • Advanced Legal Analysis and Writing

Most paralegals find that they can pursue paralegal careers in a variety of environments, including law firms, corporate legal departments and state government agencies. Some may choose to work on a freelance basis and serve as independent contractors. Specializing in a particular field, such as family law, bankruptcy, personal injury and real estate can help the individual earn a higher-than-average salary at various paralegal jobs they apply for, and also pursue more specialized positions in the field.