A paralegal helps lawyers by drafting documents and filing paperwork. To minimally qualify as a paralegal, an associate degree or certificate are often needed, accompanied and sometimes substituted by on-job training.
Paralegal assistants, also known as just paralegals, work alongside lawyers, helping them prepare for trial cases and other legal business. They can't actually present cases in court or offer legal advice, but they can do much of the required legal research and case preparation. Earning a certificate or an associate's degree in paralegal studies is the most common educational path, although bachelor's and master's degree programs are also available. Some employers will also train paralegal assistants on the job.
|Required Education||On-the-job training, certificate or associate's degree for entry-level; bachelor's or master's degree for those seeking advanced education|
|Additional Requirements||Voluntary certification is available|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||8% for all paralegals and legal assistants|
|Average Annual Salary (2015)*||$52,390 for all paralegals and legal assistants|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Salary Information and Employment Outlook for Paralegal Assistants
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paralegals and legal assistants earned a mean hourly wage of $25.19 as of May 2015; this hourly wage amounted to an average annual income of $52,390 (www.bls.gov). The top ten percent of paralegals made over $79,010 yearly, or over $37.99 per hour. Those that were in the lowest ten percent made $14.74 or less an hour and $30,670 or less annually, according to the BLS. In 2014, the BLS predicted that employment for paralegals and legal assistants would expand by 8% through 2024, which is about average.
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Lawyers use paralegals, legal assistants and paralegal assistants to help lighten the work load around a legal office. Thus, a paralegal assistant performs many of the same duties lawyers; however, they can in no way practice the law, present cases or give legal advice to clients.
One of the main duties of a paralegal assistant is to assist lawyers with court preparations. This includes researching case facts, legal articles, laws and judicial decisions that are all relevant to the cases assigned to a lawyer. They may also conduct witness interviews and file court motions. Multiple cases may be going on at one time, so paralegal assistants need to manage their time and workloads correctly.
Paralegal assistants do the majority of their work in law libraries or in offices. Typical employers for a paralegal assistant include the government, corporations and law firms. Their exact work hours may vary, but they often have steady and normal work schedules, working a standard 40-hour week. Others may have very varied hours, working nights and weekends to meet deadlines.
Paralegal assistants have several educational routes to choose from. One of the more common options is to complete an associate's degree program in paralegal studies at a community college or vocational school. Students that already possess a bachelor's degree in another area may enroll in a paralegal certificate program. Many employers also offer training programs for paralegals, allowing them to acquire their education while working.
As a paralegal, one will be assisting lawyers in completing their work, basically to make the whole process more efficient. Aspiring paralegals can pursue certificates or a full college degree, though training on the job may occasionally suffice. As of 2015, paralegals and other legal assistants made an average salary of $52,390 a year.