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Best Alternative Careers for Paralegals: What Other Jobs Can Paralegals Do?

published November 23, 2016

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Summary: This article details the various careers outside of the legal profession that are within the reach of a paralegal.

 

 
Best Alternative Careers for Paralegals: What Other Jobs Can Paralegals Do?

As you begin your career as a paralegal, you will probably not be inter­ested in seeing how your training can prepare you for jobs and careers out­side the legal field. Sometime later, however, you might find such information useful. It is very helpful therefore, to consider these options as your career progresses, even from the beginning. For you will realize that your education and training as a paralegal may well serve as a stepping stone to other areas that may be of interest to you.

Many of you may have trained in other fields before becoming a paralegal. As a matter of fact, one of the problems many people face as they begin this new career is how to explain what might be a radical career change to a potential employer. If you can learn how to build on your skills devel­oped in another field and relate these skills to your paralegal training, then you will benefit from the broad range of your talents and experiences, rather than be at a disadvantage.

Eventually, you may find that you can use this combination of skills and training if you wish to move on to another field. Consider the following examples:


  1. Depending upon your specific interests and talents, you can make many moves within the paralegal profession, as well as outside of it.
  2. Management skills could enable you to become a paralegal coordinator, one who trains and supervises other paralegals within an organization. The best route to this position is to demonstrate your capabilities, and you can do this only within the organization itself.
  3. Office management is another area in which you can use your management supervisory skills, if you have them. This could be within a legal firm, or once you have gained experience, you may find that many offices need good management, outside as well as inside the legal profession.
  4. Administration within a legal firm is also based on strong skills in working with personnel of many departments. An administrative director of a law firm is usually responsible for every nonlegal aspect of the firm’s operation, including accounting, personnel, and purchasing. Remember that such a position is not a paralegal position, although your paralegal background will be helpful. It is a step onto a different career track, however.
 

This person usually reports to a senior officer. It is a highly responsible and demanding position. The combination of paralegal skills and other administrative skills could lead to a rewarding and challenging position.

Within large and small, nonprofit and corporate environments, paralegals have many opportunities open to them. Even if you decide that you do not wish to pursue any of these options at this stage of your career, knowing about them will help you to focus on where you might want to be five or ten years in the future. By thinking of your long-term goals, you can develop skills along the way that will enable you to achieve your goals.

Here are some opportunities you might want to consider:

 

Banking specialist:

 

In addition to work as a paralegal in a bank, other opportunities exist, particularly with the new and changing regulations for foreign as well as domestic banking. If you are interested in work­ing in this environment, your best path would be to begin working as a paralegal to discover options that exist and develop a network to help you find out about openings as they occur.

Other careers involving money and banking include importing and ex­porting and stock brokerage. These fields may require additional cre­dentials or particular qualifications.
 

Computer center specialist or manager:

 

Computer literacy training, in addition to specialized or generalist paralegal training, could make you a suitable candidate for a position as a computer center manager. While duties may vary, they would include working with information systems, electronic data banks, and word processing. In today’s job market, you will need computer skills to work as a paralegal. This could be a very satisfying career alternative for anyone interested in working in the computer field.

 

Corporate specialist:

 

Review the paralegal specialties listed in the first chapter of this book to give you some idea of particular specialties. De­veloping experience or expertise in those areas will prepare you for many types of work within a corporation. Some of these areas include working in the patent or trademark division or employee benefits office.
 

Educator:

 

Teacher, program administrator, consultant, education coor­dinator for continuing legal education are examples of areas open to paralegals in the field of education. Check with local universities, col­leges, and community colleges for requirements. Many schools are in­terested in hiring part-time faculty to teach an occasional course. This could be an opportunity for you to see if you would like to work in the academic world.
 

Government specialist:

 

Many paralegals are interested in government regulatory issues; politics or working in a political environment can al­ways be explored; lobbying is a career for which paralegals could be well suited. In addition, civil service opportunities are available. Check your local government offices along, with times and dates of civil ser­vice examinations.
 

Journalist:

 

Research and writing in the legal field is a career open to those who have demonstrated their writing skills and expertise in a field or specialty. While many may wish to pursue this goal on a free­lance basis, there are companies which hire paralegals and then use their writing talents predominantly.
 

Law librarian:

 

Law firms usually hire law librarians to handle their periodical collections, as well as law books and manuals. Although many of these law positions are filled by those with library training, frequently a paralegal with a good academic background can be trained to fill this position.
 

Medical specialist:

 

With changing policies regarding health care in this country, many career options exist in this field for paralegals. Within hospital settings or insurance agencies (even nonmedical insurance firms), your paralegal training will prepare you to take on additional responsibilities if you have the other personal and professional qualifi­cations.

While each of these fields might require additional training (not necessar­ily a degree, but some specialized training that could be gained on the job), they should be considered, particularly if they seem to tie in with your in­terests, talents, and goals.

 

You may, of course, plan to go on to law school, but the point of this dis­cussion is to emphasize that becoming a paralegal can lead you to job op­portunities in many different fields that are directly related or indirectly related to the legal field.

 

Real estate specialist:

 

You may develop a paralegal specialty in this area and work with an attorney in various aspects when you realize that you enjoy the real estate field and all of its possibilities. As a result, you may think of real estate sales or management, including title and mort­gage company positions. Your paralegal training will be an additional asset.
 

Social service agent:

 

This area is extremely appropriate for anyone interested in the social welfare system, the criminal justice system, or immigration services, just to name a few. Many positions offered are not listed as paralegal positions, but a review of the job description and re­sponsibilities reveals that employees are essentially doing paralegal work, in addition to other duties. For example, a position within a so­cial service organization that assists immigrants may be listed as “Immi­grant Specialist.” That person may serve as an advocate for immigrants in court and may have great deal of interaction with clients but, for the most part, the skills required for this position are basically those re­quired to be a paralegal. Many social service agencies have such posi­tions. It is important, therefore, to read the job description and qualifications necessary, if you are interested in moving into this field.
 

Salesperson:

 

Those interested in combining interpersonal skills and paralegal training with a personal need to receive the rewards of their individual efforts, may consider sales, specifically for all materials and equipment used by attorneys.

Additional educational training might be necessary should you wish to be­come an expert in the field. That may not always be the case, however. For example, you may not be certain where your true interests and talents lie, so until you know this, going ahead with additional education or training may not be the answer. Being a paralegal will give you a good idea of what it would be like to remain in the legal field should you decide you want to become a lawyer. But even if you do not wish to do so, think of your para­legal training as a background for developing other interests you have. It’s also important to realize that being a paralegal could easily be a stepping stone to other careers that are not as rigorous or demanding as that of a paralegal—or perhaps even more so, but in a different way. There may be other areas in which you could expand your talents and professional options.

 

In considering your professional development as a paralegal or in other fields, review the list of resources in Appendix A of this book, talk to peo­ple who have used their paralegal background and try to determine which areas or professions hold a particular appeal for you. Learn to ask ques­tions and look for opportunities as you make your plans.


Suggestions for Planning Your Future as a Paralegal
 
  1. Develop special interests and expertise in the area of law that appeals to you.
  2. Continue your professional education. Become involved with your local paralegal association. Attend professional workshops and pro-grams that will help you develop your skills and inform you about options.
  3. Develop your networking affiliations. Let people know of your interests and ambitions. Don’t forget to thank them when they have helped you in any way.
  4. Look for ways to become the best at what you do and gain visibility for your work.
  5. Remember that you should at least perform the job for which you are hired. If you become bored or burned out, it could be that you have not planned to take the next step. Always keep in mind that you do have options. Discover them.
  6. Update your resume periodically. Be prepared to submit a copy to someone who could be interested in what you have done.
  7. Learn to build on your past experiences and integrate them into the job you are doing that relates to a position you would like to have.
  8. Take the time and effort to develop strong communication skills: interpersonal, written, and verbal.
  9. Find ways to use these skills so that you are recognized not only for what you do, but for what you are capable of doing.
  10. Learn to set standards of excellence for yourself in your job without being a fanatic perfectionist or judging the work of others. Know the job for which you are responsible, and do it to the best of your ability.
  11. Develop a self-analytical approach to your job and yourself. In planning your future, determine what is important to you as a professional, learn to examine your options carefully, and learn what steps you will need to take for you to achieve your goals.

Frequently Asked Questions
 

What Is A Paralegal?


Paralegals provide legal services to the state or federal government, a lawyer, or a corporation or business that handles substantive legal work under the supervision of a lawyer. Their responsibilities can vary and are dependent on the jurisdiction they are working in. Although lawyers lead them, paralegals should know the law thoroughly.

A paralegal’s duties may include:
 
  • Gathering facts about a case.
  • Arranging evidence for an attorney to review.
  • Composing contracts.
  • Handling exhibits.
  • Summarizing reports for trials.
  • Conducting legal research on laws and regulations.
  • Obtaining affidavits for court use and calling clients, lawyers, and witnesses for depositions and legal proceedings.

Paralegals who work with lawyers may complete a bachelor's degree in a related area and then earn an associate degree in paralegal studies. They can also get a paralegal studies certificate from the American Bar Association by completing a paralegal education program. This includes legal writing, corporate law, legal research, and international law as examples of topics covered in a paralegal education program.

A paralegal's career location could be anywhere, and work hours vary. Generally, they can expect to work about 40 hours per week and receive benefits such as health insurance and paid time off. Some jurisdictions may require their paralegals to obtain certification or licensure.

A certified paralegal profession is an important part of the legal profession and is responsible for various tasks that help attorneys prepare for cases. Paralegals can be an asset to any law office with the right legal education and training.

In addition to education and training, here are some of the skills necessary to be a paralegal:
 

Computer Skills


Paralegals frequently utilize computers to do legal research and obtain assistance with litigation. They will generate reports or witness statements for the lawyer on the computer.
 

Communication Skills


Lawyers depend on paralegals to pass vital information, so they should communicate effectively. Paralegals might be required to deliver client messages to lawyers, report recent discoveries or discuss the company's calendar with them. As a result, paralegals must realize the value of constant contact. They may also have responsibility for witness interviews and should handle stressful conversations.
 

Critical Thinking Skills


In any legal case, there are always many questions that need answering. Paralegals use their critical thinking skills to identify relevant facts, issues, and potential problems in a case. They then research the law to provide answers or recommendations to the lawyer.
 

Interpersonal Skills


Paralegals cannot thrive without excellent interpersonal skills. They must be able to communicate easily with clients, attorneys, and other legal staff. This involves patience, diplomacy, and developing personal rapport quickly. Paralegals should also possess empathy because they will encounter many people at various stages of their careers who are experiencing stress over legal matters.
 

Data Management Skills


Paralegals are often tasked with handling huge amounts of data and working on numerous cases simultaneously. This implies that paralegals must be skilled at sifting through papers and delivering them to the correct person or putting them in a folder. They must ensure that all data is safe and private throughout the process.
 

What Is A Legal Assistant?


A legal assistant provides legal assistance through administrative tasks in a law firm, a government agency, or a business. Their tasks are less than those of a paralegal and typically include taking client messages to deliver to the supervising attorney. Legal assistants may execute the following tasks:
 
  • Organizing documents
  • Drafting legal documents and letters
  • Taking phone calls
  • Transcribing recordings from attorneys
  • Create client invoices
  • Schedule appointments
  • Plan court appearances


Legal assistants can receive an associate or bachelor's degree in a field related to law. Many employers will train them on the job and teach them the required abilities. They may also apply for an internship to gain experience before attempting a legal assistant position.

The job market for legal assistants is very good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the employment of legal assistants will grow by 18 percent from 2016 to 2026. This is faster than the average for all occupations. Those who have a degree in a related field and some experience will have the best job prospects.

In addition to education and training, here are some of the skills necessary to be a legal assistant:
 

Prioritization


In order to function in a fast-paced business, legal assistants must be able to multitask. They may receive numerous tasks each day, so they should learn how to sort out what needs to get done first. Each day, these assistants may get a variety of client demands, and they must know which ones are more important.
 

Organizational Skills


Legal assistants assist attorneys in organizing their calendars, so they must be good at managing things. They are in command of scheduling phone conversations, client meetings, court appointments, and times for lawyers to work on cases.
 

Research Skills


A certified legal assistant is expected to know the best places to look for data. They may need to locate phone numbers or addresses, assist a lawyer in preparing for a lawsuit, or gather client information. Any of these tasks require strong research skills.
 

Interpersonal Skills


Legal assistants will have to interact with clients, so they must know how to communicate effectively. They need to be able to understand what a client needs and relay the message accordingly. This requires good listening abilities as well as an ability to engage in conversation that is pleasant for everyone involved.
 

Written Communication Skills


Legal assistants work closely with attorneys, so they should be able to summarize information and prepare documents. They may need to write letters for clients or lawyers, take notes during client conferences, or create legal forms. Legal assistants must know how to build accurate and concise professional documents.
 

What Are Some Related Occupations To A Paralegal?


Paralegals and legal assistants are legal professionals that do similar duties to lawyers and law assistants. Similar positions include:
 
  1. Administrative Assistant
  2. Court Reporter
  3. Court Clerk
  4. Litigation Associate
 

1. Administrative Assistant


National average salary: $15.36 per hour

Primary duties: An administrative assistant is usually the office's first point of contact. They answer phone calls and take messages, facilitate communication between external parties and the team they support, and manage office operations, among other tasks. These support professionals may work in various settings across a wide range of industries.

Requirements: Administrative assistants generally have a high school diploma or GED, but some pursue bachelor's degrees to boost their earnings. They can take courses in computer software to acquire skills like spreadsheets and word processing. They may also go to community colleges for office procedure training. Administrative assistants are often given training while they work.
 

2. Court Clerk


National average salary: $17.11 per hour

Primary duties: Clerks of court assist with administrative duties in the criminal justice system. They may work in a bankruptcy court, a district court, or the Supreme Court. A court clerk might swear jurors and witnesses, manage courtroom records, and create meeting agendas. They can also conduct research for judges and record the findings.

Requirements: Clerks with an associate's degree or certificate in criminal law or administrative assisting are common. Court clerks employed by the federal court must have a master's or law degree.
 

3. Court Reporter


National average salary: $38,294 per hour

Primary duties: A court reporter is a person who records the words of a witness or defendant in a legal proceeding and turns them into writing. They work for federal, state, and local governments, trade groups, non-profits, private law firms, and trade organizations. Depending on the state, some court reporters are notary as well as recording the statements.

Requirements: Many of these specialists attend technical schools to earn an associate degree in court reporting. Depending on the location of the position, there may be state licensing examinations to pass. Applicants must also satisfy typing speed requirements to demonstrate that they can keep up with courtroom activities. Some employers demand accreditation by a professional association, which is determined by the sort of court.
 

4. Litigation Associate


National average salary: $89,823 per year

Primary duties: A litigation associate might argue cases in court, but he or she has not yet earned partnership status at a firm. They frequently file paperwork and provide legal advice to clients. They may operate their practice or join another law firm.

Requirements: A litigation associate must have a law degree and pass the bar exam in their state. Many states call for formal education in a specialized field and continuing education.
 

What Is The Difference Between A Lawyer and A Paralegal?


Paralegals differ from lawyers because they are appropriately trained to practice the legal profession. Lawyers, on the other hand, are licensed to practice law.

After passing the bar exam, lawyers can practice law independently or with the assistance of a paralegal or legal assistant. Paralegals are only allowed to handle work delegated by lawyers. This is because the lawyer who assigns the task, not the paralegal, is fully responsible for the paralegal's actions and the outcomes of the task.

Historically, paralegals and legal assistants have been used interchangeably. Four years into the 21st century, the National Association of Legal Assistants decided to differentiate between the two by offering a certificate specific to each specialization. In other words, there is now a distinction between a paralegal and a legal assistant, with the duties of a legal assistant being similar to those of a traditional legal secretary.

Professional paralegals who have worked in the legal profession for some time find that their interest in becoming a lawyer has been piqued again. It is somewhat natural for a paralegal to become a lawyer, but careful planning is required. Legal professionals with whom they currently work and law school programs can provide helpful guidance to paralegals.
 

Is Paralegal The Right Career For Me?


This is a question that many people ask themselves, and for good reason. A career in law can be both challenging and rewarding, but it is not the right choice for everyone. So, how do you know if the paralegal is the right career for you?

First, consider your interests and strengths. Do you enjoy researching legal issues and staying up-to-date on the latest court decisions? Are you able to stay organized and manage multiple tasks at once? If so, a career in law may be a good fit for you.

Another important factor to consider is your personality. A career in law can be demanding, both emotionally and physically. Are you able to think quickly to address the challenges that you will face? For example, critical thinking skills are necessary in order to analyze case files and legal documents. If you tire easily or experience high anxiety in stressful situations, then a career as a paralegal may not be for you.

One other important thing to consider when choosing a career is your motivation. Why do you want to become a paralegal? Think about your end goal. Is it feasible? Is it motivating enough that you will be able to persevere through difficult times (and there will likely be difficult moments on the job)? Your motivation can keep you focused and help make your career goals possible.

If you are still unsure if a career in law is right for you, talk to a lawyer or paralegal. You can also speak to members of your community who work in the legal field. Ask them about their jobs and what they enjoy (and do not like) about the legal profession. This is a great opportunity to get an inside look into how others spend their days and see if you might fit in with their team.

Be sure to also consider what kind of career would be a good fit for your personality. Do some research and think about what type of job interests you the most. If a paralegal is not the right career path, do not worry – there are many other exciting and rewarding careers that incorporate law. The important thing is that you take the time to assess what you want and need in a career before making a decision.
 

What Qualifications Do I Need To Be A Paralegal?


To assist you with your legal education journey, you should know the baseline paralegal requirements. An ABA-approved post-associate certificate was required by 46% of employers surveying how to become a paralegal, followed by a bachelor's degree at 42%. 28% of the lawyers who responded to the survey accepted an associate degree as the minimum.

Nearly 21% of employers surveyed said that a bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement for paralegals in their companies. About 40% of employers required a post-degree certificate (post-associate or post-baccalaureate) from an ABA-approved program or regionally accredited school, while 13% required at least an associate degree. In addition, the survey found that 13% of employers did not require any education.

See following articles for more information:
 

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