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Paralegals and legal assistants work closely with lawyers to provide clerical, research, and organizational support. They offer essential assistance that will help legal cases proceed more efficiently. Paralegals may draft leases, contracts, and other legal documents so they're ready for lawyers when needed.
If you have an interest in the legal industry but you're not ready to commit to the lengthy education required to become a lawyer, you may find a satisfying career available to you as a paralegal or legal assistant. This position will let you work closely with lawyers, yet requires far less education, making it an accessible short-term prospect. If you have outstanding attention to detail and strong research skills, you could make an excellent paralegal or legal assistant.
The terms paralegal and legal assistant are typically used interchangeably, though there are some specialties in this area, such as a corporate paralegals, who focuses on serving lawyers who work with business clients.
Lawyers have a heavy workload with a broad range of responsibilities that they have to take care of. Paralegals and legal assistants are the critical right hand for these professionals. When additional information is needed, a legal assistant may prepare in-depth research reports, schedule interviews, and take affidavits. They will assemble filings so they're ready to go to court, maintain files and records before, during, and after cases go court, and communicate with clients as needed.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for paralegals and legal assistants is favorable. Over the period between 2016 and 2026, the BLS estimates that employment in this area will grow by about 15 percent. This is more than twice the national average of 7 percent that's expected for all occupations. The job outlook for legal support workers overall is favorable as well, with expected employment growth of 11 percent over the same period.
The increase in employment opportunities for paralegals and legal assistants is likely the result of law firms' ongoing efforts to lower legal costs for their clients. Many lawyers can make their services more accessible and reach a greater number of clients by employing the services of paralegals and legal assistants to take care of the more routine everyday tasks for them. This frees lawyers and other legal professionals to focus on the more complex jobs that are ahead of them.
Paralegals and legal assistants typically work in law offices alongside lawyers. According to the BLS, a whopping 73 percent work in legal services. Just 5 percent work for the federal government. Another 5 percent work in local government, 3 percent are employed in finance and insurance, and 3 percent are in state government.
The states with the highest employment levels for paralegals and legal assistants are California, Florida, New York, Texas, and Pennsylvania. The highest concentration of jobs per thousand in this occupation is found in the District of Columbia, West Virginia, Florida, Connecticut, and Delaware.
Paralegals and legal assistants are typically required to have a minimum of an associate's degree in a related field. The Paralegal Studies Associate Degree from Bryant & Stratton College is a well-rounded choice. This 60-credit-hour program includes courses such as criminal law & procedures, torts & remedies, contract law, civil litigation. This will give you the well-rounded education you need to pursue a successful career in this area.
You can further enhance your employability by pursuing professional certification for paralegals. This is available on both local and national levels.
Prospective paralegals and legal assistants will have the best chance of success in this occupation with strong communication, research, computer, and organizational skills. Improving any skills in these areas will help you fill out your resume well to make it more attractive to prospective employers.
With an AAS Paralegal Studies degree, you'll be equipped for a number of legal careers. These can go by many names and may fall in a variety of legal areas. As you're conducting your job search, you should keep an eye out for job titles such as:
Your AAS Paralegal Studies degree will prepare you for any of these positions.
Please note that all statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics are intended to provide general averages only. These are not a guarantee of employment or employment opportunities. However, you can use this information to gain insights into the overall state of the legal industry. This will help you formulate the best possible plan for your future career as a paralegal, legal assistant, or other similar professional.
For more insights into the paralegal studies field, visit the paralegal section of our blog. This will give you a wealth of information on how you can get involved in the legal field.