As the cost of legal representation and advisement continues to increase, more law firms and other businesses are relying on paralegals and legal assistants to provide basic legal services to their clients. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment opportunities for paralegals and legal assistants to grow due to the need for affordable legal services. Legal services professionals provide research and assist lawyers with preparing documents and cases. Social service agencies and legal clinics often employ paralegals and legal assistants to provide general low cost legal support for low income clients. Meeting with clients, taking notes, preparing documents, and providing basic legal advice are some of the duties you may perform as a paralegal or legal assistant. You can also screen and return phone calls and perform tasks to support attorneys. Completing interviews and assisting the public with legal inquiries and problems is a major part of your work in a social services agency or legal clinic. You need impeccable interpersonal skills, strong communication skills, and sufficient computer skills to document case files, keep records, and conduct legal research. Organizational skills and the ability to conduct accurate research are essential to working as a paralegal or legal assistant.
College Degrees Lead to Legal Professions
Although some employers may be willing to train paralegals and legal assistants without any formal degrees, these jobs typically require a minimum of an associate's degree from a paralegal studies or law program. Those who hold a bachelor's degree can usually complete a paralegal certification program online or on campus at a community college. Some colleges offer bachelor's and graduate degrees in paralegal studies. Depending on your areas of interest, you can also take courses in real estate, criminal justice, and social services.
Legal Services Options Provide Variety of Jobs
If you're working in a law firm, you may spend a great deal of time conducting legal research and writing reports in an office or law library. If you work for a local social service agency or legal clinic, you can spend most of your time assisting clients. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that more businesses and corporations are employing or using the services of paralegals and legal assistants to minimize costs. It's important for legal services professionals to understand terminology and procedures and to fully grasp the ethical requirements of legal work.
If you're interested in the law and enjoy working with people, working as a legal services professional can be a rewarding career. As of 2007, legal assistants and paralegals earned a median salary of $47,600. Legal services professionals may also receive bonuses and tuition reimbursement from their employers. Paralegals and legal assistants working in law offices or corporate settings generally work usual business hours, but may be required to work longer hours when preparing cases. Legal services personnel who serve the public may need to work nights and weekends to facilitate client interviews and meetings.