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How to Become a Paralegal

October 17, 2023 | ed2go

Up close view of a paralegal writing on a legal document

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for paralegals and legal assistants are projected to increase by 14% through 2031, much faster than the average for all professions (5%). On average, around 45,800 new jobs for paralegals and legal assistants are projected annually over the next ten years. 

Explore the role of a paralegal, the potential earnings in this profession, the essential skills required and the step-by-step process to kickstart your paralegal career. 

What Does a Paralegal Do? 

A paralegal plays a crucial role in the legal system, providing vital support to lawyers and assisting with various legal tasks. Typical responsibilities in a paralegal job description include conducting legal research, drafting legal documents, organizing case files, preparing for trials and liaising with clients. 

While paralegals cannot provide legal advice or represent clients in court they are indispensable assets to legal teams, ensuring the efficient functioning of law firms, corporate legal departments, government agencies and other organizations within the legal sector. 

How Much Do Paralegals Earn? 

Compensation for paralegals can vary based on factors such as experience, location, and the size of the employing organization. On average, paralegals enjoy a competitive salary that reflects their crucial role in legal proceedings. 

The median annual salary for paralegals in the U.S. is around $56,230, with the top 10% of professionals earning over $88,600 per year, according to the BLS. As you gain experience and specialize in specific legal areas, your earning potential is likely to grow significantly. 

Skills You Need to Start a Paralegal Career 

Embarking on a successful paralegal career requires a specific set of skills that will help you thrive in the legal environment. Here are some key paralegal skills you need to develop: 

  • Legal knowledge: An aspiring paralegal must have a fundamental understanding of legal principles, terminology and procedures. 
  • Communication skills: Effective written and verbal communication is required for interacting with clients, attorneys and other stakeholders. You must also be able to document and present your research and related information to your supervising attorney. 
  • Organizational abilities: You will need strong organizational skills to manage documents, deadlines and multiple cases. 
  • Research proficiency: Paralegals must be skilled at conducting legal research using various resources for gathering information. 
  • Technical skills: Familiarity with legal software and technology is essential for efficient document management and research. 
  • Professionalism: Maintaining a high level of professionalism and ethics is essential in the legal profession. 
  • Attention to detail: The legal field is unforgiving regarding errors, making attention to detail a crucial skill. 

Steps to Becoming a Paralegal 

Now that you understand what it takes to be a paralegal let’s delve into the step-by-step process of launching your paralegal career: 

Step 1: Education and Certification 

The first step is to study to be a paralegal. Obtain a high school diploma or equivalent. While some paralegals enter the field with on-the-job training, formal education can enhance your employability. 

Enroll in a reputable paralegal studies program or pursue a degree in paralegal studies. Consider obtaining a paralegal certification, as it demonstrates your commitment to the profession and enhances your credentials. 

Step 2: Gain Practical Experience 

Secure internships or entry-level positions at law firms, corporate legal departments or government agencies. Practical experience is invaluable and provides insights into the day-to-day workings of the legal world. 

Step 3: Specialize and Network 

Identify areas of law that interest you the most and consider specializing in those fields. Additionally, networking within the legal community can open doors to potential job opportunities. 

Step 4: Update Your Skills 

Stay updated with the latest legal trends, software and technology. Attend workshops, seminars and webinars to enhance your skill set continually. 

Step 5: Job Search and Career Development 

Craft a compelling resume that highlights your education, certifications and experience. Leverage online job portals, legal career websites and professional networks to find suitable paralegal positions. 

Once you secure a job, focus on professional growth by taking on challenging assignments and seeking mentorship. 

Start Your Paralegal Career Today 

A paralegal career offers a unique opportunity to contribute significantly to the legal profession without the extensive years of education required to become a lawyer. With the right skills, education and determination, you can build a successful and fulfilling career as a paralegal. 

If you are ready to take the next step, enroll in our 100% online Certified Paralegal certification course and kickstart your journey towards an exciting legal career. In just 12 months, you will gain essential skills in legal research, interviews, analyses, and more. Our comprehensive course also includes soft skills training for workplace effectiveness to help you jump-start your career as a paralegal. Embrace the possibilities today!