Employment Opportunities for Paralegals
Paralegals improve the efficiency, economy and availability of legal services to the public and legal organizations. As a result, increased emphasis is being placed on the hiring of paralegals in a variety of legal and law-related settings. Although private law firms continue to be the single largest employer of paralegals, good job opportunities also exist in several other markets in both the private and public sectors.
In addition to private law firms, other organizations in the private sector employ paralegals. Some examples include corporate legal departments, insurance companies, estate and trust departments of large banks, hospitals and health care organizations, real estate and title insurance companies, non-profit organizations, and professional trade associations. Job opportunities in the public sector are available in community legal services programs, consumer organizations, offices of public defenders, prosecutors and attorneys general, city attorneys, a wide array of state and federal government agencies, and the judicial system.
If you enroll in a paralegal education program, you should seek the assistance of the school's program director and career services officer for help in securing appropriate employment. These individuals are in contact with members of the surrounding legal and business communities and should be able to furnish information about current job openings within the community. They should also be able to assist you in preparing resumes and application forms and arranging for interviews. Most programs also offer seminars on job search, interviewing and resume preparation.
Another source of information on current job openings is your local or state paralegal association. Many paralegal associations maintain job data banks or referral services and can provide you with a listing of firms and agencies in which paralegal positions are available. Finally, employment agencies that charge a fee to the employer and websites that list jobs are sometimes good sources of employment information and job leads.
For more information on the growth of the paralegal profession and the job opportunities for legal assistants, go to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Compensation of Paralegals
Earnings vary considerably depending upon such factors as size of the community, geographical location, firm, nature of the legal practice, and the paralegal's educational background and work experience. Paralegals are normally paid on a salary (exempted) or hourly (non-exempt) basis). Some paralegals work on a part-time or freelance basis, handling overflow from firms and legal departments and are normally paid on an hourly or project basis.
For more information on the income statistics of the paralegal profession and the job opportunities for paralegals, go to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The American Bar Association does not collect current information on the starting salaries of paralegals in different geographical areas of the United States. However, many paralegal associations survey their members to gather this and other statistical data of importance to paralegals. This survey data is generally published in pamphlet or electronic form and is available for purchase by association members and non-members alike. In addition, the International Practice Management Association (IPMA), an organization of professionals who manage and supervise practice support professionals, and ALM Legal Intelligence collaborate on the ALM/IPMA Annual Compensation Survey for Paralegals, Practice Support Professionals and Managers.
Since paralegals are trained as both generalists and specialists, the duties delegated vary greatly and depend, to a large extent, upon the size of the law firm or organization and the nature of the employer's practice. Paralegals "perform specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible" as stated by the ABA.
Responsibilities most often assigned to paralegals include maintaining client files, drafting correspondence, performing factual research, monitoring deadlines, drafting, investigating and analyzing legal documents, gathering and managing small to large amounts of data and documents, and acting as liaison with clients and others. Some paralegals have extensive client contact, and some do not. The most common area of practice for paralegals is litigation although paralegal services are needed in virtually all areas of practice, including corporate, probate, real estate, family law, bankruptcy, and intellectual property.
Order information for current publications by the ABA Standing Committee on Paralegals can be obtained by browsing the Publications page.