What do Paralegals and Legal Assistants Do?
The legal system is made up of multiple layers of professionals who work together to create the documentation needed to bring legal cases before a court. As a paralegal or legal assistant, you will be tasked with helping an attorney investigate a situation and discover facts, prepare legal documents or research legal precedent. In some cases, you will conduct research that supports a legal proceeding, helps formulate a defense or begins legal action.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants Skills and Abilities
When you work as part of a research team regularly, it’s important to have a varied skill set that helps you communicate effectively with others while doing thorough investigations. You will need to have knowledge in customer and personal service, computers and electronics, clerical, law and government, and the English language. Skills in speaking, writing, critical thinking and active listening will benefit your career. Proficient verbal and written skills will prove valuable in this field, along with good near vision for many hours spent poring over detailed writing.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants Duties
Many of the tasks performed by paralegals and legal assistants are those that many people outside the legal profession might only associate with a lawyer. In this profession, you will prepare affidavits or legal correspondence, file pleadings with a court clerk, meet with clients and others to discuss case details and contact witnesses for hearings. During your day-to-day activities, you will work with computers, obtain information, organize files and plan, and communicate with people both inside and outside your own office. In some instances, you will:Research relevant legal materialsCoordinate legal activities or schedulesClarify information with court staffersEvaluate information in personal or public records for a court caseArbitrate disputes between individuals
Paralegals and Legal Assistants Tools and Technology
In the fast-paced legal world, you will depend on a number of devices and programs that will speed you through your daily duties. The basic tools you can expect to use are desktop computers and laptops, fax machines, optical character recognition systems and scanners. A number of scientific and analytical software applications are used in the field, in addition to document management and word processing software. According to your specific area of law, you might need to use other hardware or software on a regular basis.
Education and Training for Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Most individuals who work as paralegals and legal assistants have obtained a bachelor’s degree, although the highest degree attained for a large portion of workers is an associate’s degree. Specific degree programs are available for you both on college campuses and as strictly online degrees. Experience will enable you to have more choices as to where you work and will allow for a higher pay scale.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants Salary
People in the lowest pay range for this field can look forward to the possibility of increasing pay, in tandem with more experience and schooling. Those in the bottom 10 percent earn $30,300 each year, while the median salary that you can expect nationwide is $48,300. Individuals who are in the highest 10 percent of earners can expect to take home $77,800 or more.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants Jobs by Geography
Some states and territories are due for a significant increase in employment for people working in this field. In fact, 28 states and territories foresee greater growth than the national average. The top five places where you can expect to see more available jobs compared with their previous numbers are Tennessee, Guam, Washington, Florida and Utah. The states with the most people employed in this field are California, New York, Florida, Texas and Illinois.