Paralegals are individuals who assist and support lawyers in the running of their law firms.
Most law practices require that their paralegals have at least an associate degree in a related field.
Though a license is not required of paralegals, it is important that they have a working knowledge of the law, and understand how the ins and outs of a law office works.
The duties of a paralegal entail a multitude of tasks, including conducting research, fact-checking, interviewing witnesses, and taking notes.
They also must prepare reports, summarize cases, draft legal documents (like contracts, wills, and depositions), prepare documents for court, and organize and archive documents from completed cases.
A paralegal may also need to manage the lawyer’s court calendar, do data entry, schedule appointments, and communicate with clients.
It’s a great job for someone interested in the law, but who doesn’t want to invest the time and money it takes to become a lawyer.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for paralegal professionals is expected to rise by 14% by the year 2031.
If you’re interested in becoming a paralegal, read on for the pros and cons of the job.
1. Good Salary
The average salary for a paralegal in the United States is $56,600 per year.
However, in larger cities, the pay is substantially higher.
For instance, in New York, the average salary is $66,000 a year, and in Los Angeles, it’s $68,000.
The salary depends on many factors such as experience, workload, education, and the size of the firm.
So if you’re looking for a well-paying career check out the paralegal profession.
2. Excellent Benefits
Though specific benefits will vary from law firm to law firm, most do offer their full-time paralegals high-quality benefits such as 401K matching, health insurance, vacation time, paid time off, and dental coverage.
Many forms also offer stock options, annual bonuses, paid parental leave, and the use of a company car.
3. Intellectually Challenging
When working as a paralegal, your brain will constantly be getting a workout.
You’ll get to use your research and problem-solving skills.
A lot of the job involves reading and written composition, so you’ll be developing those skills while learning new facts, strategies, and concepts.
You’ll be learning to see both sides of an argument and contemplate differing opinions.
The paralegal profession will definitely keep you on your intellectual toes.
For the most part, being a paralegal is quite interesting.
You often get to work on compelling cases that have twists, and turns, and can be full of surprises.
Sometimes they are high profile or involve some pretty salacious aspects.
You’ll be privy to many things the general public is not.
Being a paralegal allows you to read up on historical and precedent-making cases, and that’s never boring.
Meeting with other lawyers, witnesses m, and people associated with cases can also be pretty engaging.
5. No Bar Exam
One thing that can keep people from becoming a lawyer is the dreaded bar exam.
This very involved, intense exam is the test law students take upon successful completion of law school.
It’s extremely difficult to pass and has taken even the brightest and best lawyers more than one time to pass.
Paralegals do not need to take this exam, so it’s a good career choice for those legal beagles who want to work in law, but don’t want the stress of the test.
6. Practical Experience
Working as a paralegal gives people invaluable practical experience in a variety of areas.
Not only does it provide hands-on experience should you want to become a lawyer later on, but it can also help you decide if that’s a path you want to pursue.
Additionally, you will be developing research skills, become adept at writing legal documents, work as an integral part of a team, and gain experience conducting yourself in a professional manner.
These are all skills that employers in and out of legal circles put great value on.
7. Helping Others
Working as a paralegal gives you the opportunity to assist people in a variety of situations.
Regardless of the circumstances if they’ve reached the point where they need a lawyer, they need help.
It could be someone going through a nasty divorce, someone who was injured in an accident, or a crime victim.
Whatever the case may be, you will be working with them on getting them the justice and compensation they deserve.
It’s a good feeling knowing that your work has made a difference in the lives of others.
1. Long Hours
Though the official hours of a paralegal are normal business hours, there’s often nothing official about actual paralegal work hours.
Depending on the case (or cases) a paralegal is working on they may need to go in early or stay late into the night.
A case may require travel and the need to be away from home for extended periods of time.
Working through lunch is common, and there is little time for breaks.
The job may also require having to take work home at night, working on the weekends, and being on call.
If you value a good work/life balance being a full-time paralegal may not be right for you.
2. Ethical Challenges
A host of ethical and moral dilemmas will pop up during a career as a paralegal.
One of them is that paralegals are privy to a lot of confidential information.
Between sealed documents and witness statements, you know much about important cases and people’s personal lives.
You need to be able to keep everything to yourself.
You can’t discuss cases with your family, friends, or on social media.
If you do, you could be putting your job in jeopardy.
Another difficult task is to remain neutral and non-judgmental.
There will be cases where you may not agree with a client for whatever reason.
You need to put those disagreements aside and be professional and respectful.
Your job is to meet the clients’ needs and support the law firm.
Always remember that you are not the judge or the jury.
3. Heavy Workloads
The larger the law firm, the larger the workload for the paralegal.
You may be working on several cases at once, which means working on several documents, interviewing multiple witnesses, and conducting nonstop research, as well as a variety of other tasks.
Be prepared to be on your feet and on the go for your entire day.
4. Tedious/Boring Cases
Sometimes paralegals get a case that is just plain boring.
It may be something like a contractual dispute that is very dry and involves nothing but facts and figures.
This can be one of the worst parts of a job that is usually interesting and exciting.
5. Not Much Autonomy
Paralegals are valuable members of a legal team, yet they have to answer to the lawyers.
They don’t have much, if any say in what they get to work on, or how it gets done.
The lawyers will usually have a list of tasks that need to be done.
Often, paralegals will need to drop what they are doing when the lawyer needs something done right away.
Even though the job of a paralegal is nowhere near as stressful as that of the lawyer they work with, it can still be emotionally and mentally draining.
There are time pressures, no room for mistakes when writing briefs, research methods st be accurate, and dealing with frazzled clients can also take its toll.
In order to be a productive paralegal, you must be able to remain calm under pressure and l know how to compartmentalize.
7. Menial Tasks
There’s no doubt that being a paralegal can be exciting and interesting.
However, there are a lot of behind-the-scenes, clerical tasks that this profession entails as well.
Part of the job is to make copies, prep conference rooms, schedule appointments, take care of the lawyer’s court calendar, and complete filing.
You may even need to organize the occasional lunch for the team.
The good part is, that yours will be paid for as well.
14 Pros and Cons of Being a Paralegal – Summary Table
|1. Good Salary
|1. Long Hours
|2. Excellent Benefits
|2. Ethical Challenges
|3. Intellectually Challenging
|3. Heavy Workloads
|4. Tedious/Boring Cases
|5. No Bar Exam
|5. Not Much Autonomy
|6. Practical Experience
|7. Helping Others
|7. Menial Tasks
Should You Become A Paralegal?
Being a paralegal is a great job for people who have a passion for the law and want to see justice served.
It’s a way to be involved in the legal process, without having to spend the time and money it takes to become a lawyer.
While the pay and benefits are quite good, they often require long hours, astute mental clarity, and the ability to take direction well.
You’ll also need to have great communication skills and be good with people.
You also cannot be offended by being asked to do lower-level tasks like making copies or filing.
So, if all of this sounds like something you’d like, and can handle, then being a paralegal may be a career for you.