Paralegal Studies

The Occupations

Legal Assistant

Paralegal

About the Occupations

The terms “legal assistant” and “paralegal” are used inter- changeably to denote a person who assists licensed attorneys in the delivery of legal services. In this occupation, paralegal/legal assistants perform many of the same tasks as lawyers under their direct supervision. Paralegals generally work for one law firm or sole practitioner, but they may also provide their services to licensed attorneys on a contract basis as a freelance paralegal. In either case, legal assistants may assume a variety of responsibilities, such as drafting legal documents, conducting legal research to ascertain the applicable law in a given case, and investigating the facts of cases.

A career as a paralegal also provides diverse employment settings. In addition to having the option to work for small, medium, or large law firms, legal assistants may work for corporations assisting attorneys with such tasks as drafting employee contracts, maintaining corporate minute books, or preparing annual financial reports. Other paralegal assistants may work for the state or federal government in one of their numerous administrative agencies performing a variety of duties. When assigned a legal problem on which to work, legal assistants must be able to communicate their findings to their supervising attorney(s), both orally and in writing. In order to do this effectively, paralegal assistants must not only understand legal terminology and have good research and investigative skills, but also must have excellent communication skills. Proficiency in the operation of computers in legal research and litigation is also essential. As legal assistants gain experience they are usually delegated increasingly challenging tasks, and can be a great asset to their employers. The paralegal occupation provides virtually unlimited opportunities to self-motivated people who recognize the importance of details, are able to work under pressure, and will abide by the strict rules of ethics and confidentiality of the legal profession.

Work Environment

Employers:

Law firms

Corporations

Government agencies

Typical Schedule:

Corporations or government employers – 40-hour work week

Law firms – 40 hours/week with possible frequent overtime

Part-time or temporary employment may be available

Tools and Equipment:

Sources of law (case law, statutes, constitutions, agency rules and regulations, ordinances)

Sources that discuss the law

Pleadings, motions and other legal documents Computers, word processing and research software

Form books

Worker Portrait

Skills and Aptitudes:

General knowledge of the law

Good research and investigative skills

Familiarity with computers

Able to handle stressful situations and to solve problems

Communicates clearly

Organized and self-motivated

Team member, flexible, courteous, trustworthy, & dependable

High ethical standards

Interests:

Likes to read and communicate

Enjoys challenges

Likes the law

Enjoys helping people

Career Outlook

Outlook Occupation
Excellent Paralegal personnel
Position Salary per Year (Average)
Paralegal $38,020-$56,080

(Note: Individual earnings may vary based upon the job set- ting and position. These are ranges – not guarantees of earnings.)

Degree Plans

Paralegal Studies – A.A.S.

Paralegal Studies with Criminal Justice Emphasis – A.A.S.

Paralegal Studies Certificate