Paralegal

Education and Training

  • Many paralegals have associate’s degrees from technical schools or community colleges.
  • Some earned bachelor’s degrees in fields other than paralegal studies and have completed paralegal certification programs.
  • On-the-job experience adds significantly to paralegal qualifications.

Earnings

Median annual wages are $46,120.

Job Prospects

  • Paralegal jobs will grow more than jobs in other occupations.
  • Paralegals with college degrees and job experience will have an edge in the job market.

Job Duties

  • Doing research to help lawyers prepare for court cases, corporate meetings, contract negotiations, and more
  • Writing documents such as motions, contracts, arguments, and reports
  • Working with people, including getting affidavits, communicating with clients, and coordinating work with other attorneys
  • Organizing and storing files

Working Conditions

  • Paralegals work in office and library settings that are generally comfortable.
  • The job may get stressful when paralegals take on heavy responsibilities and must meet difficult deadlines.

Matthew O’Connell, Legal Assistant

Courtesy of David Golding, White & Case LLP

Matt O’Connell has always been interested in the law. At fourteen, when asked what he wanted to be, he responded, “corporate tax attorney.” Later, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Boston College, where he took courses in pre-law, worked part-time at the career center in the college’s law school, and interned with a law firm.

“Still,” he says, “I did not want to jump immediately into law school after college, because of the enormous investment of time and money at stake.” Working as a paralegal (also called a legal assistant) gives him exposure to the inner workings of a law firm before he commits to law school.

At Work

Matt works for a group of corporate attorneys at White & Case LLP in New York City. He and other legal assistants do research on businesses, sifting through masses of information and summarizing key facts for the attorneys.

That doesn’t mean he spends every day in the office. “You never know what to expect when you’re a legal assistant,” he points out. Only six weeks after he began the job, his manager stopped by his desk and surprised him with an assignment.

“We need you to get on a train to Philadelphia today,” she said. There, Matt found himself helping a team of experienced attorneys for a week at an important, precedent-setting trial. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience—challenging, overwhelming, exciting, and very educational.

Matt’s Advice to Teens

If you have an interest in a legal career, consider waiting a couple of years after college to enroll in law school. Do some research to find out what specialization appeals to you—law firms are varied, with interests in immigration law, employment law, litigation, and other fields. Think about working as a legal assistant. It’s a great way to learn about the world of law before you make a decision.

Has his job helped Matt decide to become an attorney? Definitely.




Paralegal

Education and Training

  • Many paralegals have associate’s degrees from technical schools or community colleges.
  • Some earned bachelor’s degrees in fields other than paralegal studies and have completed paralegal certification programs.
  • On-the-job experience adds significantly to paralegal qualifications.

Earnings

Median annual wages are $46,120.

Job Prospects

  • Paralegal jobs will grow more than jobs in other occupations.
  • Paralegals with college degrees and job experience will have an edge in the job market.

Job Duties

  • Doing research to help lawyers prepare for court cases, corporate meetings, contract negotiations, and more
  • Writing documents such as motions, contracts, arguments, and reports
  • Working with people, including getting affidavits, communicating with clients, and coordinating work with other attorneys
  • Organizing and storing files

Working Conditions

  • Paralegals work in office and library settings that are generally comfortable.
  • The job may get stressful when paralegals take on heavy responsibilities and must meet difficult deadlines.

Matthew O’Connell, Legal Assistant

Courtesy of David Golding, White & Case LLP

Matt O’Connell has always been interested in the law. At fourteen, when asked what he wanted to be, he responded, “corporate tax attorney.” Later, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Boston College, where he took courses in pre-law, worked part-time at the career center in the college’s law school, and interned with a law firm.

“Still,” he says, “I did not want to jump immediately into law school after college, because of the enormous investment of time and money at stake.” Working as a paralegal (also called a legal assistant) gives him exposure to the inner workings of a law firm before he commits to law school.

At Work

Matt works for a group of corporate attorneys at White & Case LLP in New York City. He and other legal assistants do research on businesses, sifting through masses of information and summarizing key facts for the attorneys.

That doesn’t mean he spends every day in the office. “You never know what to expect when you’re a legal assistant,” he points out. Only six weeks after he began the job, his manager stopped by his desk and surprised him with an assignment.

“We need you to get on a train to Philadelphia today,” she said. There, Matt found himself helping a team of experienced attorneys for a week at an important, precedent-setting trial. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience—challenging, overwhelming, exciting, and very educational.

Matt’s Advice to Teens

If you have an interest in a legal career, consider waiting a couple of years after college to enroll in law school. Do some research to find out what specialization appeals to you—law firms are varied, with interests in immigration law, employment law, litigation, and other fields. Think about working as a legal assistant. It’s a great way to learn about the world of law before you make a decision.

Has his job helped Matt decide to become an attorney? Definitely.

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