Last week, our Legal Instructor Ana McNatt joined us for our Legal Career Without the Law Degree Webinar to discuss what it is like to be a Paralegal and its current employment trends. Ana has worked in the legal field for 35+ years as a legal secretary, a paralegal, and a judicial assistant for the San Diego Superior Court. She sits on the Association for Legal-Professionals (NALS) National Education Products Committee and the National Online Study Group Task Force to help those getting their Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) Certification. She also acts as a mentor for Meditec intern students. Learn more about Meditec's Online Paralegal Training
What is a Paralegal?
Paralegals are professionals trained to assist lawyers in varied legal capacities. Their duties encompass much more than secretarial tasks, and fall into the scope of substantive legal work. They perform factual and legal research, work with clients, draft business and legal documents and help manage cases. Paralegals typically work under the supervision of attorneys, and cannot provide legal services directly to the public; however, there are some instances where providing legal services is permitted by law. The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, (NFPA) defines a paralegal/legal assistant as a “person qualified through education, training or work experience to perform substantive legal work that requires knowledge of legal concepts and is customarily, but not exclusively, performed by a lawyer.” The formal establishment of the paralegal profession can be traced to the 1960s when individuals were trained to assist attorneys in making legal services available to the poor during the “War on Poverty.” Shortly after public agencies began hiring paralegals, private law firms and corporations recognized the benefits of employing paralegals to supply efficient support, reduce the expense of legal services, and increase the availability of services to the public.
- Skills you will need
- Strong Research Skills
- Basic Computer Skills
- High Interpersonal and Communication Skills
- Excellent Writing, Spelling, & Grammar
- High Attention to Detail
- What Will You Do?
- Substantive Legal Work
- Perform Factual & Legal Research
- Interact Directly with Clients
- Draft Business & Legal Documents
- Help Manage Cases
- Some Secretarial Work
- Where Will You Work?
- Law Offices and Firms
- Governmental Agencies
What is the future of the paralegal field?
- Need for Efficient Support for Lawyers
Clearly there exists an economic benefit to utilizing paralegals for both attorneys and to consumers. Attorneys realize their own productivity and cost efficiency is greatly maximized by utilizing paralegal services. An attorney may bill their client at $350 an hour, but bill their paralegal's work at $150 per hour in order to keep the cost down for their client. This in turn makes their client happy and keeps that client coming back in the future.
- Projected Growth Rate: 17%
Additionally, many law firms have begun to rethink staffing and are rebuilding their support staff by hiring paralegals, and then giving many of the administrative tasks previously assigned to legal secretaries to the paralegals. With the increased use of online filings and the increased creation of document depositories, it is now much easier for paralegals to not only draft, but finalize and file pleadings and discovery which would have previously been finalized and filed by secretaries. Additionally, complex docketing systems now allow for a single docketing clerk to manage the dockets/calendars for an entire firm or legal team rather than it having them is managed by each attorney’s individual secretary. This combining of duties is leading to an increased use of paralegals in law firms.
- Average Salary: $46,000
Paralegal salaries, of course, vary. Salaries depend on the education and experience the paralegal brings to the job, the type of employer, and the geographic location of the job. Generally, paralegals working for large law firms in metropolitan areas earn more than paralegals working for smaller firms or in less populated areas. Additionally, freelance paralegals can earn more than paralegals working in law firms. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the annual medial wage for paralegals in May 2012 was $46,990. Those employed by the federal government could expect to earn more with salaries as high as the low $60,000 range. - Benefits
- Great Foundation for Advancement or Specialization
- Possible to Work-from-Home
- Recession Proof
What Meditec Offers
- Content details
- Legal Terminology
- Legal Research, Writing, & Interviewing
- Modules Devoted to Specific Specializations
- Program Details
- 1 Year Program that May Be Completed Sooner
- 1 Mid-Term & 1 Final Exam
- Preparation for NALS Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) Certification Exam
- Student Support Services
- Real-Life Qualified Instructor – Ana McNatt
- In-House Technical Support
- Online Study Group Access
- Career Services