Pursuing a law career is both exciting and daunting. It’s a field many consider from a young age, be it from inspiration or pure interest. Law school attracts huge pools of students every year, many with high hopes of becoming powerful attorneys. In fact, according to the Law School Admission Council, U.S. enrollment was up 13% in 2021.
But lawyers aren’t the only integral roles in the legal community. Paralegals are not only imperative to the industry, but recently in high demand. Due to law firms encouraging their entry level paralegals to attend law school, the profession has changed significantly.
“Junior paralegals look at it as a stepping stone to other avenues. However, being a paralegal can be a solid and enriching career path in and of itself,” says Dara Webman, Executive Director of Legal Support at Green Key. Webman reiterates that working as a paralegal can still create a fulfilling and profitable law career. “Because of the high demand and lack of career paralegals, these individuals can warrant top salaries.”
What the job of a paralegal entails
Paralegal work is just as important as that of a lawyer. While they cannot practice law, they are still heavily involved in the legal process, working hand in hand with attorneys. This can include preparing cases for trial, performing research, handling transactional responsibilities, and managing other aspects of the legal process. Depending on which area of law a paralegal is in, their work will differ, but day-to-day responsibilities are very similar.
How to become a paralegal
Becoming a paralegal may require earning a four-year degree, a two-year degree, or a paralegal certificate. Although, the education requirement is not always necessary. The profession itself is more based on experience. This makes the profession more attainable for those who cannot afford further schooling.
Once someone earns their degree, determining their specialty is the next step. This can vary from litigation, real estate law, corporate, trust and estates, intellectual property, or contracts administration and management, to list a few.
Other avenues for paralegals
Webman stresses that paralegals can find better quality of life and substantive work in big corporations. “Most of the jobs I recruit for come from the legal department of private equity firms, real estate companies, asset management companies, and financial services companies,” she says. “Once they get in there, there is infinite opportunity for growth. The corporations use their paralegals in a very substantive way. There are alternative careers for paralegals beyond the traditional law firm.”