Careers that have been around for any length of time change and evolve with new discoveries, advancements, technology, and perspectives. The paralegal industry has changed drastically since the 1970’s when being a paralegal was recognized as a professional career option. Attorneys began to understand the value of paralegals, making becoming a paralegal more attractive both financially and in terms of job satisfaction. Becoming a paralegal became an attractive career choice that has continued to grow at a steady pace for almost five decades.
While every career has its ups and downs, becoming a paralegal has certain advantages that make it a very attractive option.
We will always need lawyers and lawyers will always need dependable, knowledgeable paralegals. The outlook for the paralegal industry is extremely strong. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics
projects 46,200 new paralegal jobs will be added to the job market by the year 2022. This represents a growth of 17% between 2012 and 2022.
The median annual income for a paralegal in May 2012 was $46,990 with the top 10% of paralegals earning more than $74,410. Compensation is based on several factors including but not limited to:
- The physical location of the job
- Large law firms vs. small law firms
- Government jobs vs. private jobs
- The experience of the paralegal
- The area of law
According to several sources, salaries for paralegals will continue to rise. Starting paralegal salaries
are expected to rise 3% in 2015 and a 2014 survey by ALM/IPMA
revealed increases in pay for litigation support paralegals. Despite the recession and other economic difficulties, paralegal salaries remained constant or continued to rise. If past trends are any indication, paralegal pay will continue to rise and keep pace with other similar careers.
Unlike some other types of careers, paralegals can get a degree in as little as one to two years. Some paralegal schools offer paralegal certificates; however, paralegal degrees are typically required for jobs paying higher salaries. Most attorneys prefer candidates from an ABA-approved paralegal school.
Being a paralegal gives you the opportunity to help others, many of them when they are suffering through one of the most difficult experiences of their lives. It’s very rewarding to help someone through a difficult process and see the benefit they receive from your services.
Opportunity for Growth
Paralegals have the opportunity to advance within the law firm as well as their career. Many paralegals advance to supervisor positions or other management positions.
Jobs in Other Industries
Paralegals aren’t limited to working in law firms. Many other employers use paralegals such as in-house legal departments in corporations, hospitals, banks, armed forces, government agencies, insurance companies, and finance companies. Some paralegals decide to teach at paralegal schools or to work for paralegal organizations.
Ability to be Self-employed
Paralegals can choose to freelance rather than work for one employer. As independent contractors, paralegals still work under the direct supervision of the attorney; however, they work from home or work in an office on a contract basis. It’s perfect for a paralegal who wants to be a business owner and set their own schedule.
You Can Specialize
As a paralegal, you can choose to specialize in a specific area of law and obtain certification as a specialist. This often translates into a higher salary and more demand for your services. Many freelance paralegals find specializing is a great way to market themselves to law firms who need someone with experience to help in a specific case.
Stepping Stone to Law School
For some paralegals, the love of the law that they develop as a paralegal leads them to attend law school. Their paralegal background and knowledge gives them a definite advantage over someone who with no experience in the industry.
No Two Days are Alike
You won’t get bored! Every case and every client is different. Depending on the area of law you choose, you’ll find yourself becoming an expert in a variety of subjects. Paralegals often conduct the bulk of the technical research in a case as well as work closely with witnesses and experts. Before a case is completed, the paralegal often knows more about a subject than they ever thought they would – there is always more to learn!
What are Your Thoughts?
Because the paralegal profession is so diverse, it’s difficult to list all the benefits. Some advantages of being a paralegal are directly related to a specific job, area of law, or the team/firm/company dynamic. What are your thoughts? What do you love most about being a paralegal?
Tonya Pierce is a paralegal with over 24 years experience in several areas of the legal field (17 years as a bankruptcy paralegal and trustee paralegal).