Overview Although lawyers are mostly responsible for legal court work, very often they allot their responsibilities to paralegals. One of the most important tasks of paralegals are to help the lawyers to prepare for hearings, trials, corporate meetings and closings. Paralegals perform the background investigation into the facts of the case and make sure that all the important information has been considered.
In addition to this preparatory work, they perform a number of other important functions. For instance, they help in drafting contracts, separation agreements, instruments of trust and mortgages. Areas Of Work Many organizations require the expertise of paralegals. Law firms, legal departments of large corporate houses and government offices employ the services of paralegals. Within these organizations, they work in different aspects of applied law, such as corporate law, personal injury, real estate, family law, employee benefits and even criminal law. Since law has increased in complexity, paralegals now also specialize in their services.
Paralegals in corporations and the public sector usually work a standard 40-hour week. Training There are a number of ways to become a paralegal. The most common is a paralegal program at a community college that matures into an associate's degree. The other common method is through a program of certification in paralegal studies. Bachelor's and master's degrees in paralegal studies are also available at a number of schools.
Some employers also train paralegals. They hire college graduates with no legal experience and train them hands-on. Nearly 1000 colleges and universities, proprietary schools and law schools offer formal paralegal training. Graduation from a program with ABA (American Bar Association) approval can enhance employment opportunities. Familiarity with technical knowledge and the working of computers are also essential in paralegal work. The Internet and computer software are regularly used to research legal literature and save databases.
Therefore, a course in computer operations can be extremely useful and is virtually essential. Job Outlook Employment for paralegals is expected to grow much faster in the future. Employers are trying to cut costs by hiring paralegals to take care of a number of tasks that were earlier performed by lawyers. Experienced and formally trained paralegals have the best employment opportunities.
Insurance companies, banks, real estate agencies and title insurance firms are now hiring paralegals. The demand for paralegals will increase with the expanding population's demand for legal services. Earning Prospects Earnings of paralegals and legal assistants vary.
Salaries are based on experience, education, training, the type and size of the employing company and the geographic location. In general, paralegals working for large legal firms or in large cities and metropolitan areas usually earn more than those who work within smaller firms or in remote regions. In addition to the salary, many companies offer a system of bonus to paralegals. The average starting salary can be anything around $30,000. Even the lowest paid is close to $26,000, while the top make as much as $60,000 or more. After five years of experience, the average salary increases.
The average paralegal salary for the top bracket can increase to as much as $80,000 in five years. If you have an analytical mind, and like law, then a career as a paralegal can prove to be immensely satisfying.
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.