Paralegal Career Opportunities

Paralegals have numerous career opportunities; they are no longer located only in law firms. Law firms are still the number one employer, though, with approximately 70% of paralegals in private firms. Other options for paralegals are with corporate legal departments, federal or local governments, document preparations, consulting, or even as freelancers. The job duties for each of the different types of paralegals will vary as will the level of education and experience required for each.

Private law firms boast between 200,000 and 300,000 paralegals, making them the largest group of paralegal employers throughout the country. A paralegal’s job description will differ slightly depending on the specialty and size of the practice. Typically, paralegals are the right hand of attorneys. They will assist with clients, manage and prepare files, do research, draft legal documents, and coordinate office employees.

Paralegals are also often found in corporate legal departments. Most large businesses have in-house attorneys and other legal personnel. Paralegals are essential to these corporations, as they provide many of the legal services that attorneys would normally produce for a fraction of the cost. Paralegals may also be highly sought after in various departments of other businesses which deal with legal matters daily, such as insurance companies.

Paralegals who work for the government are often found in the county courthouse. They are seen either assisting public defenders or aiding in the court process. Paralegals may handle tasks such as organizing and dealing with witnesses, preparing court documents, or assisting in judges’ chambers.

Paralegals are often found doing legal document preparation. No matter the industry, paralegals work preparing legal documents and ensuring that no detail is missed. As legal document preparers, paralegals offer assistance to commercial clients and individuals alike, providing document service for less than an attorney does. These paralegals are able to take information given by the client and then turn it into a legal document ready for the client’s signature.

Paralegal Career Opportunities

Consulting firms or offices employ paralegals to provide quality litigation or preparation services to clients in need of such things as transcriptions, file summaries, court reporters, deposition summaries, and much more. Paralegals employed in consulting firms are often notaries and may even provide translating assistance. There is a long list of services paralegals in consulting offices may do, even including research or conflict resolution services. This is an industry where immense knowledge is necessary.

Private Law Firm

Private law firms employ the majority of paralegals throughout the United States. A private firm provides paralegals with economic stability, opportunities for bonuses, and possibly a predetermined specialty. Paralegals employed in private law firms are still explicitly prohibited from giving any legal advice, just as all paralegals are.

The average salary of private firm paralegals surpasses that of many Americans. Depending on the firm, paralegals’ tasks will vary. Many paralegals will be required to work over 40 hours per week. A benefit these paralegals have is that they can bill for hours much the same way attorneys do. Paralegals will, however, need to keep track of their own billable hours and invoice them accordingly.

A private firm paralegal’s primary role is to assist attorneys in preparing for and throughout litigation. The paralegal’s duties begin with the investigation, doing fact gathering and interviewing clients, witnesses, and anyone pertinent to the case. They will do research and ensure that every facet is explored. They will find relevant cases and laws in an attempt to add to the case as well as to determine the other party’s strategy. In smaller firms a paralegal will usually be a generalist, but in larger law firms the job might involve specializing in one specific area, such as cases involving workers compensation insurance.

Private law firm paralegals will also prepare and file court documents and act as a support role to attorneys during a trial. Some law firms also employ paralegals in a more managerial role for the firm. They will coordinate employees throughout the firm and act as an office manager, rather than handling any support or research tasks.

Paralegals employed by a large private firm are more likely to have one area of expertise, while those in a small firm may need to have a more general understanding of legal issues. Most firms only have a certain number of advertised specialties, so the small firm paralegals will not need a working knowledge of all areas of law. Generally, paralegals begin at the bottom in a private law firm performing some menial jobs, but with experience they become more valuable.

Corporate Legal Department

Paralegals working for an in-house corporate legal department have very different job duties than other paralegals. Corporate paralegals do not deal with clients or litigation matters on a daily basis. They ensure the company conforms to government standards and guidelines: they aid in the formation of businesses; they handle employee benefits and human resources issues; and only sometimes do they assist in a lawsuit against the company or deal with internal matters. Corporate paralegals may or may not work with a team of other paralegals or legal assistants.

Working in a corporate legal department typically means a 40-hour workweek. Corporate paralegals do not often see bonuses or overtime pay as they are usually salaried and they do not bill for hours. Salary range is very large as the pay scale is dependent upon the size and type of corporation.

Corporate paralegals must continually ensure a company is upholding standards and following guidelines and laws set by local, state, and federal governments. This includes reviewing company policies and comparing them with regulations. Paralegals must always keep abreast of the ever-changing legislation and policies.

Corporate paralegals may draft contracts or deal with the formation of businesses and LLCs. This includes mergers and partnerships, as well. The paralegal will ensure that transactions run smoothly, research the necessary laws and related materials, and draft the appropriate paperwork to complete the formation or merger. They may also aid in inter-company communications, transactions, and paperwork.

Paralegals in a corporate legal department may be in charge of reviewing employee benefits and employee contracts, as well as company handbooks. These are legal documents that must not infringe on the rights of the individual, but they must still uphold the company values. A corporate paralegal will often maintain minutes and aid an attorney in preparation for large meetings or presentations. They can also be in charge of developing and upholding a company’s ethics program.

Some paralegals are involved in any litigation against the company. These paralegals will act in a relatively similar capacity as those of a private firm. They will investigate, research, and provide litigation support to the attorneys. This is not a typical job duty for most in-house corporate paralegals, though.

County Courthouse

The government employs paralegals who work in a county courthouse. Of course, these paralegals are not able to practice law or give out legal advice. The courthouse paralegal may have duties such as assisting public defenders or organizing evidence brought in for trial. Although courts are not the largest employer of paralegals, they certainly outnumber the judges in any given county courthouse.

Courthouse paralegals are often designated with the task of aiding public defenders in their trial preparations. These duties are typical of litigation paralegals. They will investigate, research, and manage files for the attorney. The large number of cases public defenders are assigned makes the assistance of a courthouse paralegal extremely valuable.

Paralegals working in a county courthouse may also have the duty of checking in and organizing any evidence that is brought in for trial. Evidence is an extremely important factor in a case, and paralegals must ensure that it is taken care of appropriately. Evidence needs to be organized and labeled appropriately as well as paired with the correct case; failure to do so can be detrimental to the trial.

County courthouse paralegals coordinate witnesses and make sure they are cared for properly while they await their turn to testify. They also assist the judges, who do not have judicial assistants, with their many obligations throughout a given day. Paralegals may be given the responsibility of clerical or secretarial work for the judge.

There are even times when paralegals may have duties very similar to that as a clerk of the court. This can include maintaining court files and making sure records are in order and only checked out appropriately. They may also have to greet visitors and act as the face of the court or judge. Courthouse paralegals perform a variety of duties and these are very apt to change daily depending on need.

Legal Document Preparation

Legal document preparation can be an intimidating task that individuals are weary to undertake. Paralegals are able to draft and prepare documents of most kinds at a fraction of the price that attorneys normally charge. In the legal world, paralegals typically arrange and draft these documents for attorneys; legal document preparation companies have virtually taken the attorney out of the process. An attorney oversees many legal document preparers for a final review.

Most legal document preparation companies provide nearly every type of legal document imaginable. Examples of available documents include wills, leases and rental agreements, promissory notes, Power of Attorney paperwork, deeds, etc. The paralegals working on these documents are aware of specific court requirements and legal data that most individuals would miss. They can prepare them free of loopholes and errors.

There are experienced paralegals working to bring ideas and information into a formal document that is ready for the client to sign. Some companies have online-based services so that clients can upload the information being requested and have the file electronically transferred back to them. Many companies still have a physical office that those more comfortable with personal contact can visit.

By removing an attorney or law firm, the price decreases significantly. In most circumstances, legal documents are prepared at a flat rate, which is dependent on the type and length of the document requested. These paralegals do not charge by billable hours.

Some legal document preparation paralegals work as freelancers. They will advertise their services locally or online and work as a hired contractor as they are needed. None of the legal document paralegals provide actual legal advice or services; they provide document support at the client’s direction.

Consulting

Paralegals employed by consulting firms provide paralegal support services to clients including corporations and law firms. Paralegal consultants merge seamlessly with their clients to supply these services with no interruption to the company or their client. Services requested could include document preparation, research, giving notice or service, transcriptions, etc. Paralegal consulting companies must employ the best paralegals who are able to transition from roles and clients effortlessly while providing quality service.

A paralegal consultant is somewhat of a floater, or contract worker, offering different services to different companies; he or she is, however, employed by the consulting firm. Many consulting firms also have their own process servers, who will serve summons and subpoenas directly from the consultants. This eliminates time and additional money being expelled by the law firm. Consulting firms offer these services at a modest rate.

It is absolutely necessary for consulting firms to have state of the art technology to communicate in every possible way with clients. Thus, the paralegals need to be proficient in these forms of technology to quickly analyze and process the jobs as they come in. Once the services have been completed, the consultant will provide an invoice to the clients who can pass this along to their own client or include it in their final billing.

Consulting firms are lucrative because firms and corporations can provide these services to their clients without having the overhead costs of employing numerous paralegals or process servers. Companies will typically use the same consulting firm numerous times throughout a year, especially during busy seasons. Many paralegals working for consulting companies eventually branch out and create their own consulting firm.

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