Some people are confused about what a paralegal is, and how that career choice differs from an actual attorney. While paralegals and attorneys have many things in common, there are some basic differences. Following is a description of what a paralegal is, what type of work they generally do, the educational requirements, average salary and job prospects.
A paralegal is basically a legal assistant to an attorney. While they can still work long hours with the same type of deadlines as attorneys, paralegals have less stress and less responsibility because they are not licensed to actually practice law on their own.
What Type of Work Do Paralegals Do?
A paralegal does a lot of the same things that an actual attorney does. They can investigate the details of cases, conduct legal research, interview witnesses, and prepare legal documents. A paralegal will generally do much of the legwork for court cases. While paralegals do not stand in the limelight in a courtroom and argue cases, the work that a paralegal does can play a key role in whether the case is won or lost. Generally, paralegals will work under the direct supervision of an attorney. Their job is to complete the routine tasks that an attorney would normally do so that the attorney is free to do the things that a paralegal can not do.
What Type of Work Can Paralegals NOT Do?
Paralegals have not taken the bar exam and they are not licensed to practice law. This means that they can not give legal advice or set fees. While they can prepare legal documents, they can not sign them. Paralegals are not allowed to appear in court to represent anyone.
What Are the Educational Requirements?
Paralegals typically can find employment with as little as a 2 year associate degree. This makes this career a great opportunity to work in the legal field in a short period of time with a minimal investment in secondary education. Compared to the time and financial investment that an attorney must make, a paralegal career is a less risky choice.
How Does the Salary and Job Prospects Compare to Attorneys?
A paralegal's average wages hover around $52,500 for 2017. The job prospects look very promising now and into the future as paralegal jobs are expected to increase 17% by the year 2022. This is because many larger law firms are hiring paralegals to do more of their legal research and writing in an effort to cut expenses. While law schools are graduating more students each year than there are law positions available, the field of paralegals is actually increasing both now and into the future.
If you are interested in working in the legal profession but are unwilling to invest 7+ years and hundreds of thousands of dollar into an education with no guarantee of a job, then perhaps you should consider a paralegal position with an established company. Paralegals can earn a great salary in as little as 2 years. In addition, this is an opportunity to work in the legal field without the stress that attorneys face. Paralegals can have a fascinating and fulfill career with a shorter upfront investment.