Paralegals support lawyers by organizing the massive amounts of paperwork law offices generate, running the office smoothly, helping to draft documents and interviewing witnesses. Paralegals may work for lawyers, corporations, or government agencies. In general, a college degree is sufficient education to become a paralegal, although courses do exist to train and certify paralegals. The National Federation of Paralegal Associations estimates that 84 percent of paralegals have some form of form paralegal education.
Several specific types of paralegal jobs are available. Litigation paralegals help prepare documents for trials. Corporate paralegals prepare paperwork for business dealings. Probate paralegals interview clients and prepare tax and financial documents. Real estate paralegals prepare closings and research land laws. Government paralegals work for the White House, the Justice Department, or the Federal Trade Commission and may organize evidence, answer questions for the public, or conduct hearings. Employment paralegals do work similar to a litigation paralegal, but work specifically with unions or discrimination cases.
The average starting salary of a paralegal is about $21,500 while working normal hours. Most law firms, however, require that paralegals work more hours than the typical nine to five, Monday through Friday work week. The extra overtime could bump a beginning paralegal’s salary up to almost $60,000 a year. An experienced paralegal can expect to make around $40,000 a year, about the national average, with life and health insurance benefits.
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations estimates that 84 percent of paralegals have had some formal paralegal education. A paralegal’s specialization determines what fields he could work in, for example medical law or labor movement organizations. According to a 2001 survey, about 25 percent of paralegals have an associate’s degree, about 50 percent of all paralegals have a bachelor’s degree, and eight percent have either a master’s degree or a J.D. degree. Certificate or degree programs are available for paralegals who wish to have more training. At a minimum, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations recommends that aspiring paralegals have a two-year degree with an emphasis on paralegal studies. A bachelor’s degree, however, is recommended.
A paralegal’s resume should list education, experience, awards and highlight writing abilities, professional and personal skills. Sample paralegals resumes are readily available on the Internet. Be sure to attach a cover letter, as you would when applying for any other job, stating your interest and describing the skills that make you a perfect candidate for the job. Sample cover letters are also posted on the Internet.
A simple way to find a law firm is to go to the local library and skim through Martindale Hubbell, an index of every lawyer in the country organized by city and law firm. Online sites also allow registered users to browse hiring law firms.
Paralegals Info provides detailed information about paralegal jobs, schools, training, courses, certificates, and services. Paralegals Info is the sister site of Notary Public Web.
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