Environmental Paralegal: Job Description and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an environmental paralegal. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and salary expectations to find out if this is the career for you.

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If you have strong organizational skills and are interested in the legal field, you could consider becoming a paralegal. Environmental paralegals, in particular, apply knowledge of environmental issues to help lawyers prepare court cases. Associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees, and certificate programs all exist to help aspiring paralegals prepare for a career.

Essential Information

Environmental paralegals work with lawyers who specialize in environmental law cases. Typically, paralegals hold a minimum of an associate's degree in paralegal studies, although bachelor's degrees or certificates are also common. Environmental paralegals may also complete a bachelor's degree in a field related to environmental studies along with a paralegal certificate program. Their job duties include preparing documents and arranging for interviews with clients. They need excellent verbal and written communication skills.

Required Education Associate's degree or bachelor's degree with a certificate in paralegal studies
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% for all types of paralegals and legal assistants
Median Salary (2015)* $48,810 for all types of paralegals and legal assistants

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Job Description of an Environmental Paralegal

Environmental paralegals assist attorneys in acquiring, preparing, defending and closing cases. Their primary job duties include researching the facts of a case (including relevant laws and judicial decisions), organizing and preparing paperwork - such as motions and pleadings - obtaining affidavits and providing attorneys with all necessary documents. Additionally, environmental paralegals might help set up and prepare for meetings or interviews with clients or other individuals involved in a case. Paralegals should have excellent writing, editing and communication skills because of the extensive document drafting and transferal of vital information. Environmental paralegals may work in private law firms or governmental agencies.

Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that overall employment for paralegals and legal assistants will grow 8% between 2014 and 2024. Keen competition is expected, and the BLS suggested that formally trained paralegals would have the best success finding employment. As of May 2015, the BLS indicated that the median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants was $48,810. The legal services industry employed the most paralegals at that time, paying paralegals an average wage of $50,280 per year.

Education Requirements for an Environmental Paralegal

Becoming an environmental paralegal requires a minimum of an associate's degree in paralegal studies. However, it is becoming more common for paralegals to have a bachelor's degree in a discipline related to the environment along with a certificate in paralegal studies. Four-year programs in legal studies do exist, while other bachelor's degree programs may offer a legal assistant concentration. It's recommended that a paralegal studies degree be obtained through a program that is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Environmental law courses might be included in the required curriculum or can be taken as an elective. Some degree programs include an internship option within the core foundation. This option can provide students the opportunity to intern within an environmental law firm to gain valuable experience as a paralegal.

Paralegals may be involved in researching facts about a case, preparing reports or paperwork, or setting up meetings with lawyers and clients. Environmental paralegals could have a background in environmental science, but it's more common to pursue an associate's degree or similar undergraduate education in paralegal studies. Job growth for this field should be about as fast as average in the coming decade.

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