How to Be a Paralegal
By Eric Hammer
So you want to be a paralegal. The job is not quite the same
as a lawyer and it doesn't require nearly the same amount training
as a lawyer, however you do still get to do work in the legal
field. Paralegals are basically assistants to lawyers.
You may write briefs for the attorney, do research on various
subjects that the attorney needs research done on and occasionally
prepare some legal documents. You will not however be meeting
with clients, nor will you be going to court and you will not
be offering any legal advice (not unless you want to get yourself
in extreme legal trouble if something you say makes the situation
Those who want to be a paralegal need to be extremely well
organized and able to multitask since your job will entail doing
several things at once. You'll also need to have a keen, analytical
mind to be able to write up the documents that your attorneys
How Much Can You Make?
According to the bureau of labor statistics, the salary ranges
quite widely for paralegals, from $29,260 to as much as $73,450
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
If you want to be a paralegal, you'll need to be able to maintain
a professional attitude and work well under stress. You'll also
have to learn to track your time. Lawyers typically work on the
basis of billable minutes and will require that you document
the amount of time you spend on any given client, writing it
down so that your salary can be billed to the client (plus a
premium that the attorney keeps of course).
Some paralegals also specialize in particular areas, such
as deep research and instead of working full time for an attorney
will work on a freelance basis, preparing briefs for the attorneys
they work for as needed and then moving on to another client.
If you like the idea of working in the law but don't want
to be a paralegal, other related jobs include being a legal secretary,
where you perform secretarial duties in a law firm, including
such things as transcription work and being a court reporter.
Qualifications / Requirements
You'll need at least a high school diploma in order to be
a paralegal. Many law firms will also require that you earn a
certificate and or a bachelor's degree. Most paralegal jobs don
't require a master degree, however it certainly cannot hurt
your job prospects to have one.
You may also want to consider getting certified as a legal
assistant, which will give you a leg up on the competition for
the best jobs.
Start by contacting various law firms and ask if they are
looking for a paralegal on a temporary basis, perhaps to take
over for someone one maternity leave or vacation. Often, the
firms will be happy to take on someone with less experience to
fill in on a short term basis. This way, you can gain some experience
in the field.
Another way to go would be to go for a paralegal course and
certificate so that you can show up at the door of an attorney's
office with training in hand.