What are the Different Types of Paralegal Careers?

Terrie Brockmann
Terrie Brockmann
Employers are more likely to hire paralegals who are certified.
Employers are more likely to hire paralegals who are certified.

Paralegals, generally, are trained professionals who assist attorneys but cannot legally practice law, such as giving legal advice. Typically, regional and local laws limit the authority of paralegals as well as determine what schooling or certifications may be necessary. There are various types of paralegal careers, from general professional work to specialized or specifically focused practices. Often paralegals hold dual degrees, such as nurse paralegals, who hold nursing degrees and have paralegal schooling. The type of practice and the size of the firm often dictate what jobs a paralegal needs to perform.

Paralegals assist attorneys.
Paralegals assist attorneys.

Many paralegals specialize in the type of legal field that interests them. Paralegal careers are available in family, criminal, or other law sections. People-oriented paralegals may select to work in legal aid clinics to help poor, dislocated, or elderly people. Bilingual paralegals frequently find jobs in law firms and agencies that specialize in immigration. Law enforcement workers sometimes choose to work in the criminal field of law.

Paralegals usually have a minumum of an associate degree.
Paralegals usually have a minumum of an associate degree.

Normally, paralegals perform jobs that busy lawyers do not have time to do. These tasks include interviewing people, reviewing information, and assisting in trial preparation. Trial preparation may include searching through legal journals and previous cases for precedent, which is a legal decision that a lawyer may use as an example or justification for legal action. Other tasks that are not trial related may consist of preparing forms and performing office work, such as typing, document preparation, and file management.

Even though almost all paralegals do some type of office work, paralegals working in smaller law firms often double as office managers or handle human resource matters such as benefit packages, safety policies, and staff contracts. Paralegals holding a dual degree in human resources, business management, or a similar field may find it easier to find employment. Generally, a working knowledge of computer software may make it easier for a paralegal to manage client information databases and carry out legal research on the Internet.

In general, paralegal careers follow current employment trends. When the housing industry is strong, jobs are available in the real estate law sector. Law firms specializing in bankruptcy often hire when the economy is weak. Most of the work is available at private law firms and corporate legal departments. Government agencies frequently use paralegals, but typically there are fewer employment opportunities in the government sector.

Paralegal careers generally require an associate degree, bachelor's degree, or master's degree, although some employers will offer on-the-job training. Paralegal careers involve researching and understanding complex laws and ever-changing government regulations; therefore, a paralegal needs to enjoy the challenge of staying on top of new laws and regulations. Often firms expect paralegals to work overtime, especially during lengthy trials or procedures.

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    • Employers are more likely to hire paralegals who are certified.
      By: Gina Sanders
      Employers are more likely to hire paralegals who are certified.
    • Paralegals assist attorneys.
      By: George Wada
      Paralegals assist attorneys.
    • Paralegals usually have a minumum of an associate degree.
      By: Monkey Business
      Paralegals usually have a minumum of an associate degree.