What I wish I knew BEFORE I became a paralegal (2023)

What I wish I knew BEFORE I became a paralegal (1)

Choosing a career can feel like one of the most important decisions you will ever make. It's understandable to be surprised. show howlaw and order,How to avoid murderÖBetter call SaulIt may have piqued your interest in the legal field, but is that interest enough to launch a career?

of all possibilitiescourt jobsOut there, a career as a paralegal is one of the quickest paths you can take on your first day on the job. But the time it takes to acquire the right knowledge and training is still an investment. You want to make sure it's worth your time.

Take a moment to learn some of the ins and outs of paralegal work from paralegals and the attorneys who hire them. Use this expert perspective to make an informed decision.

But first, let's cover the basics...

What does a paralegal do?

You've probably done your own research, but it's always good to have all the information in one place. What does a paralegal do? Basically, they help their lawyers keep things organized and run smoothly by doing important legal work.

These functions, according to theDepartment of Labor Statistics(BLS), may include assisting attorneys during court proceedings, organizing case files, preparing case notes, conducting legal research, preparing legal reports, and sometimes conducting interviews with clients and witnesses.1

"Most paralegal jobs require paralegals to work on contracts, real estate, civil claims, and other legal requirements," said Kirk Olson, an attorney and associate professor at Rasmussen University. “A case may involve several areas of law. For example, a divorce often requires a paralegal to obtain and review real estate, pension, insurance, business, and estate planning documents, not just custody studies.

(Video) What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Paralegal

Paralegals are generally detail-oriented, organized, and efficient. Since the roles can vary greatly depending on the size of the law firm or the attorneys in charge, they must also be adaptable.

This is how you become a paralegal

One of the most common concerns for anyone looking to get started in this field is the amount of training required, as well as the time it takes to become a paralegal. The path to becoming a paralegal can vary greatly from person to person.

But theBLS Statesthat the most common educational path to work as a paralegal aassociate degree, which can be completed in up to 18 months.1,2However, if you already have a bachelor's or associate's degree in another field, aParalegal Certification ProgramIt can provide the expert knowledge base you need to get the job done without requiring additional years of study. In fact, this certification program can be completed in as little as 8 months.2

What to Expect from the Paralegal Certificate Program

This program is designed to complement training in another area. If you already have an associate's or bachelor's degree in any field, aParalegal CertificateThe program can provide you with the legal foundations a paralegal needs to know while building on the general education courses you have already taken.

Emthis type of paralegal program, take courses such as Introduction to Legal Research, Legal Writing and Law Office Management. Ethical communication, interdisciplinary awareness and new technologies are important goals of this program.

What to Expect from a Paralegal Associate Degree Program

AParalegal Associate-ProgrammIt will give you an essential foundation for working as a paralegal (as well as other careers) with foundation courses in English writing, math and humanities. However, the majority of your studies will focus on specific knowledge and skill areas of the legal world and the role of paralegals within it.

Courses such as Torts, Contracts, and Family Law focus on complex legal problems, while other courses such as Computer Applications and Business Systems Concepts, Legal Writing, and Legal Research help you develop the essential skills needed as a paralegal.

A paralegal degree will give you the skills you need to be successful in this field, but there are many things you won't learn until you're on the job. For additional information, we asked paralegals to share things they wish they knew before starting their careers.

(Video) New Paralegal Tips: What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Paralegal

What does a legal career look like?

"You will work hard and long hours, but it will be worth it," says Julia Gordon, paralegal and associate professor of law studies at Rasmussen University. Gordon explains that paralegals are busy and every detail counts.

"When meeting deadlines and working with court planning, there is no room for error," says Kevin Queenan ofQueenan law firm, PC “I keep hearing the same problem with paralegal mentoring: I didn't know what you meantThedetail-oriented!” Queenan emphasizes that small mistakes in the legal world can have big consequences. Having a bad day is no excuse if your mistake costs the firm a case or, worse, a malpractice charge.

However, Queenan does point out that people with the right personality can be successful in this role. Paralegals can take jobs with different daily duties and experiences if they are looking for them. "In general civil practice ... the paralegal may be responding to inquiries [assignments] one day and traveling to a new client the next."

“For those who like more structure or repetition, there are legal practices that involve complaints and standardized questions. I spoke to a paralegal yesterday and her most recent role was making 1,000 credit card claims a month," Queenan explains.

"Don't go to work with rose-colored glasses," says Gordon. You can imagine working in an office full of motivated people who want to help their customers fix bugs. But unfortunately this is not always the case.

“Not all lawyers are good and not all lawyers are ethical,” says Gordon. “Be aware of your ethical rules and policies and never compromise your integrity. Nothing is worth losing self-esteem. You have the lives of your customers in your hands. Treat the position with the utmost respect."

What is the Average Salary of a Paralegal?

While not every aspect of a paralegal's job is considered glamorous, it's actually no different than most jobs. After all, there's a reason you get paid to do the work. But is this salary enough to support you and your tasks? You have to decide that.

The median annual salary for a paralegal in 2021 was $56,230.BLS sea.2That's $10,470 more than the national average of $45,760 for all occupations.2That's pretty encouraging for a job that doesn't require a bachelor's degree or hazardous working conditions.

(Video) Do You Want To Be A Paralegal? Questions to ask yourself & tips to jumpstart your Paralegal career.

What skills are most important as a paralegal?

In this legal profession stand certain personalities and individualscapabilitiesYou are better prepared for success than others. If you are considering working as a paralegal, make sure you meet the application requirements.

"An effective [paralegal] needs to be computer literate," says Queenan. He adds that good paralegals don't overreact under pressure, are well organized and pay attention to the smallest of details.

"Being friendly and helpful is a good start," says Olson. But Olson stresses that getting help won't get you to the job. “Lawyers hire paralegals because a good paralegal finds errors in documents and helps with billing and other detailed functions that keep a law firm running. A good paralegal is a 'deadline cop' keeping the firm running.”

Olson says paralegals are expected to spot mistakes made by others and remind everyone of important dates. "Finding and notifying a deadline that others have missed can prevent a client from losing their case and can save a $10,000 deductible on an attorney's malpractice claim," adds Olson.

All of these detailed checks include spelling and grammar. Olson says paralegals correct citation errors, grammatical errors, and other inaccuracies. Improving your writing and editing skills, along with technical knowledge, is critical to success as a paralegal.

"Anyone considering becoming a paralegal should receive the highest level of training available in Word, WordPerfect, and Westlaw," says Queenan. "A technically competent [paralegal] will surprise his attorneys more often and demand higher salaries and raises."

How to make yourself stand out as a paralegal

If you mentally tick off some of those skill boxes, that's a great sign. While detail-oriented professionals with strong typing and computer skills are important in this job, there are opportunities to excel even more.

Queenan recommends further training in customer interactions, etiquette and communication skills as it is incredibly important to present a professional image to customers. Pay close attention to verbal slips - nobody wants their legal advice to sound sloppy. You want to make sure you are representing yourself, your clients and ultimately your practice to the best of your ability. This includes the ability to communicate professionally.

(Video) What I Wish I Knew as a Beginner Paralegal (Increase My Salary) Video 4 of 7

In addition, Queenan suggests learning more about Internet research materials. “We are suing a large manufacturer and my paralegal found several articles that helped us not to file claims. The information was free!”

Olson suggests asking for sample closed case files when accepting a paralegal position to see examples of what professional, finished work looks like for that firm. "And be confident. If something doesn't feel right, insist that I explain or correct it."

Are you ready to become a paralegal?

Paralegals play a key role in a company's success. Every document submitted, every interview conducted and every gram of investigative material collected.

If you are looking for an opportunity to work in the exciting legal world you are used to seeing on TV, the paralegal profession may be the perfect career choice for you. Not only can it help you pay the bills, it will challenge you intellectually and provide you with valuable work experience to help you achieve your long-term career goals.

These expert insights should answer many of your nagging paralegal questions. If you think this is the career for you, take a look at paralegal programs that can help you get there. Rasmussen UniversityParalegal Certificate and Associate Degree PageCan you explain more about starting your legal career?

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed June 2022] www.bls.gov/ooh/. The information represents average national data for the occupations listed and includes workers of all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your region may vary.
2Time to completion depends on accepted transfer credits and courses completed each quarter.

EDITORS' NOTE: This article was originally published in June 2014. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2022. Expert information remains in the original version.

(Video) Tips I Would Give To My Younger Paralegal Self // What Nobody Tells You In Paralegal School


What do I need to know before starting as a paralegal? ›

What you should know about a paralegal career
  • Paralegals do get involved in cases. ...
  • Formal education will help. ...
  • The earning potential and job outlook for paralegals is solid. ...
  • You can choose the area of law you prefer. ...
  • You'll need to be organized. ...
  • You'll need to be a good communicator.
Mar 30, 2020

What are four things that a paralegal Cannot do? ›

Paralegals must avoid the unauthorized practice of law. Generally, paralegals may not represent clients in court, take depositions, or sign pleadings. Some federal and state administrative agencies, however, do permit nonlawyer practice.

What is the hardest part of being a paralegal? ›

A lack of respect is one of the most common complaints among practicing paralegals, although it's richly undeserved. Paralegals routinely deal with demanding partners, jealous associates, competitive co-workers, disrespectful opposing counsel, cranky clients, and difficult vendors.

What I love about being a paralegal? ›

The Chance to Help Others

Simply put, paralegals help people. They help their employers be more efficient in their jobs, they can increase a firm's revenue and productivity, and they also help the clients.

What are 3 qualities of a paralegal? ›

What is a Paralegal?
  • Highly organized (this is on 99% of the lists you'll find)
  • Good communication skills (another popular “trait or characteristic” associated with paralegals)
  • Excellent research and writing skills.
  • Ability to multitask.
  • Good computer skills.
  • Pays close attention to detail.
  • Works well independently.

Why do paralegals quit? ›

One of the top reasons for paralegals leaving the field is the result of a toxic work environment. The field of law is a high-pressure environment that can quickly wear down a paralegal. Cases are frequently won or lost on a technicality, and a paralegal can unwittingly introduce an error that causes a loss.

What are the 5 typical duties of a paralegals? ›

The Paralegal (PL) assists with case planning, development, and management, legal research, interviews clients, gathers facts and retrieves information, drafts and analyzes legal documents and collects, complies and utilizes technical information, to make recommendations to an attorney. 1.

How stressful is being a paralegal? ›

Being a paralegal is stressful, and paralegal burnout is real. Paralegals work notoriously long hours, and their tasks include everything from office management to doing case research and preparing and editing legal contracts and documents. Paralegal's tasks have a direct impact on the outcomes of matters and cases.

What happens if a paralegal makes a mistake? ›

If you discover an error it should be brought to the attention of the supervising attorney as soon as possible. Even if it appears that the error isn't time sensitive, the sooner it is brought to the supervising attorney's attention, the sooner she may determine how to correct it.

What is the highest paid type of paralegal? ›

Here are the 30 highest paying paralegal jobs:
  1. Paralegal Manager. $104,775. ...
  2. Legal Project Manager. $87,375. ...
  3. Intellectual Property Paralegal. $86,800. ...
  4. Nurse Paralegal. $82,687. ...
  5. Employment and Labor Law Paralegal. $80,685. ...
  6. Government Paralegal. $78,478. ...
  7. Senior Paralegal. $69,995. ...
  8. Corporate Paralegal. $66,134.

What age are most paralegals? ›

Paralegal Age
Paralegal YearsPercentages
40+ years65%
30-40 years23%
20-30 years12%
Sep 9, 2022

Where is the highest paid paralegal? ›

Best Paying States for Paralegals
  • Average Salary for Paralegals in New York is $58,070.
  • Average Salary for Paralegals in Texas is $54,430.

What motivates you to be a paralegal? ›

"I became a paralegal because I have a true passion for the law and criminal justice. I am drawn to the research and data aspect of the industry. Additionally, I love working with a team and playing an integral role in the process."

Do people respect paralegals? ›

There is no doubt that lawyers rely heavily on paralegals. Indeed, given the number and variety of tasks paralegals can perform in the legal setting, paralegals have earned a level of trust and respect in the legal profession commensurate with the role they play as part of the client's legal team.

How would you describe yourself as a paralegal? ›

Tell me about yourself and why you want to be a Paralegal? SUGGESTED ANSWER: “Being naturally someone who has great attention to detail, an inquisitive mind and totally dedicated approach to my work, I believe the role of a Paralegal is one I would excel in.

What personality type is a paralegal? ›

Paralegals are investigative and conventional

Paralegals tend to be predominantly investigative individuals, which means that they are quite inquisitive and curious people that often like to spend time alone with their thoughts.

What are the most important skills for a paralegal? ›

Which paralegal skills matter most, and why?
  1. Attention to detail. ...
  2. Multitasking. ...
  3. Observation skills. ...
  4. A good memory. ...
  5. Writing ability. ...
  6. Critical thinking. ...
  7. Empathy and teamwork.
Oct 11, 2021

How fast should a paralegal type? ›

Good typing speeds are relative to job descriptions. For example, data entry positions usually require 60-80 words per minute. Medical transcriptionists, paralegals and executive secretaries should be able to type 70-100 wpm.

Why is it so hard to find a job as a paralegal? ›

As a new paralegal getting that first job is tough because employers are looking for experience. Any internships a paralegal student can do would be beneficial in the long run and worth the legal experience gained in the field. This experience can be listed on a resume.

What are the challenges of being a paralegal? ›

They help lawyers by researching case facts, gathering supporting evidence, organizing files, drafting legal documents and contacting witnesses. While their role is important, paralegals encounter obstacles, including time pressure, limited upward mobility, lack of appreciation and limited technological resources.

How do I move up from paralegal? ›

Here are eight steps for how to advance your career from paralegal:
  1. Optimize your work performance. ...
  2. Participate in training opportunities. ...
  3. Earn certifications. ...
  4. Join professional organizations. ...
  5. Find a mentor. ...
  6. Set SMART goals. ...
  7. Build your resume. ...
  8. Apply for jobs.
Jan 26, 2023

What are the benefits of working as a paralegal? ›

15 benefits of being a paralegal
  • Salary.
  • Job outlook.
  • Increasing responsibilities. Paralegals are taking on more responsibilities than in decades past. ...
  • Varied daily tasks. ...
  • Fewer educational requirements. ...
  • Intellectual stimulation. ...
  • Positive reputation. ...
  • Opportunity to make a difference.
Jun 24, 2022

What surprised you the most about the role of a paralegal? ›

“The thing that surprised me the most about my job is the one-on-one interaction you have working with the attorneys,” Salgado says. “The amount of time invested in a case and seeing a good outcome from it are very rewarding.

What is the job satisfaction of a paralegal? ›

Paralegals are one of the least happy careers in the United States. At CareerExplorer, we conduct an ongoing survey with millions of people and ask them how satisfied they are with their careers. As it turns out, paralegals rate their career happiness 2.7 out of 5 stars which puts them in the bottom 11% of careers.

Is it harder to be a lawyer or paralegal? ›

The training to become a lawyer requires much bigger commitments of both time and money than what it takes to become a paralegal. Most lawyers spend seven years in school (assuming it takes four years to earn an undergraduate degree and another three years to complete law school).

What is the daily life of a paralegal? ›

Paralegals work hand in hand with lawyers, helping to prepare cases for trial. In their preparatory work, they uncover all the facts of the case, conduct research to highlight relevant case laws and court decisions, obtain affidavits, and assist with depositions and other materials relevant to cases.

What are the pros and cons of being a paralegal? ›

Pros and Cons of Being a Paralegal – Summary Table
Pros of Being a ParalegalCons Of Being a Paralegal
No Bar Exam RequiredNot As Much Authority
Increased NeedEasier Ways To Make Money
Opportunities in Many LocationsExtensive Education Required
Stimulates Your Intellectual SideSometimes Intense Pressure
6 more rows
Feb 1, 2022

Is a paralegal a glorified secretary? ›

A paralegal is not a glorified secretary. You must have a degree or a certificate to be a paralegal; without it, you are just a legal assistant. Paralegals are highly skilled, trained legal professionals. Formal training for a paralegal is just as important as formal training for a lawyer.”

Which of the following must a paralegal be careful not to do? ›

Canon 1 – A paralegal must not: (a) engage in, encourage, or contribute to any act which could constitute the unauthorized practice of law; (b) establish attorney-client relationships, set fees, give legal opinions or advice, or represent a client before a court or agency unless so authorized by that court or agency; ...

Which of the following are paralegals not allowed to do? ›

A paralegal must not engage in, encourage or contribute to any act which could constitute the unauthorized practice of law. This includes establishing attorney-client relationships, setting fees, giving legal advice or representing a client in court unless so authorized by that court or agency.

What do most paralegals major in? ›

Before becoming a paralegal, you must complete an educational program. This can include a paralegal certificate program, a two or four-year paralegal studies degree or a criminal justice degree. During your degree program, you will take courses in areas related to the law, such as legal research and legal writing.

What is the future of paralegals? ›

Job Outlook

Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 14 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. About 45,800 openings for paralegals and legal assistants are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

What is the average salary of a paralegal near me? ›

The average Paralegal I salary in Los Angeles, CA is $74,200 as of May 01, 2023, but the range typically falls between $65,822 and $83,944. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on many important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years you have spent in your profession.

Is paralegal female dominated? ›

On the other hand, some paralegal jobs are dominated by females. 87% of paralegal secretary, for instance, are female.

What percent of paralegals are female? ›

Women are 87% of paralegals, but only 23% of law-firm partners.

Where is the best place to live as a paralegal? ›

The metropolitan areas that pay the highest salary in the paralegal profession are San Jose, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, and Los Angeles.
  • San Jose, California. $90,640.
  • Seattle, Washington. $76,960.
  • San Francisco, California. $75,640.
  • Washington, District of Columbia. $74,670.
  • Los Angeles, California. $69,180.

Which state employs the most paralegals? ›


Where do approximately 70% of paralegals work? ›

Paralegal Careers

Employment for paralegal professionals is expected to be driven by law firms choosing to employ more paralegals, who can often do the work of lawyers for less cost. Approximately 70% of all paralegals work in private law firms.

How can I impress a paralegal interview? ›

Six Tips to Ace Your Paralegal Interview
  1. Show Positivity. First and foremost, hiring managers look at who will be a good fit for their team, and positive team players are often sought after.
  2. Dress in a way that commands respect. ...
  3. Use strong body positioning. ...
  4. Make eye contact. ...
  5. Speak slowly. ...
  6. Turn off your cell phone.
Jul 26, 2021

What will I be asked in a paralegal interview? ›

Common questions for paralegal interviews concern why the interviewee wants to be a paralegal, why they applied to that firm, and their paralegal experience. Other common questions relate to future plans, legal areas of interest, and ability to deal with clients.

Why being a paralegal is better than a lawyer? ›

Here are a few reasons why you might want to consider becoming a paralegal instead of a lawyer: Paralegals typically have less student loan debt than lawyers. The number of years in education required to become a paralegal is typically less than what is required to become a lawyer. Paralegals make a comfortable salary.

Do paralegals have to read a lot? ›

Paralegals spend a significant amount of time learning about the law and conducting research by reading through old case files. The point is to try to find precedents for lawyers to use in their own court cases. Paralegal jobs require reading late into the night and under pressure if deadlines are fast approaching.

Can paralegals be disciplined? ›

The Certified Paralegal credential may be suspended or revoked if it is found the Certified Paralegal has: Falsified information on application form. Been convicted of the unauthorized practice of law since receiving the Certified Paralegal credential.

What do you say in Tell me about yourself? ›

Your answer to the "tell me about yourself" question should describe your current situation, your past job experience, the reason you're a good fit for the role, and how you align with the company values. Tell the interviewer about your current position and a recent big accomplishment or positive feedback you received.

Is a paralegal job difficult? ›

Stressful and Challenging Work Environment

You may answer to several attorneys at once, each with different needs. Clients, too, can be demanding and difficult. The ability to switch gears quickly and to multitask under pressure is critical to your success as a paralegal.

Is it hard getting a job as a paralegal? ›

My best advice for getting hired as a paralegal is training, experience and networking. As a new paralegal getting that first job is tough because employers are looking for experience. Any internships a paralegal student can do would be beneficial in the long run and worth the legal experience gained in the field.

What can being a paralegal lead to? ›

Paralegals can work as a discovery liaison, legal administrator of business, claims adjuster/investigator, tax preparer, list management, bankruptcy petition preparer, compliance, real estate and title insurance paralegal, government paralegal and nursing paralegal.

Why do you want to be a paralegal essay? ›

I want to be a paralegal because this profession allows you to make a difference in the lives of others while impacting the world in a meaningful way. A paralegal will often interact with people, businesses, organizations and the community and can shape how others view and are affected by the law.

What is paralegal burnout? ›

What is paralegal burnout? Burnout describes chronic exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy. It's more than typical work stress. In fact, the World Health Association says, “Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context.” Burnout is a complex feeling and situation for each individual.

What is a nickname for a paralegal? ›

Paralegals are often referred to as a “wizard” or “magician.” Honestly, many paralegals live up to those nicknames, because they work tirelessly to make a difference in the legal field.

What are some cons of being a paralegal? ›

Cons of Being a Paralegal

Paralegals often work long hours and may experience high levels of stress. They may have to work overtime to meet deadlines, and they may have to deal with difficult clients or complex legal issues.


1. How did I become A Paralegal? + Pros\Cons (HD) 1080p
(Queenie Urbane)
2. How To Land Your First Job As A Paralegal even with ZERO Experience: Tips from a Lawyer
(The Real Estate Lawyer)
3. The TRUTH about being a Paralegal
(The Legal Diaries)
4. What I Wish I Knew as a Beginner Paralegal (Local Court Rules, Rules Civ. Pro., etc) - Video 2 of 7
(Paralegal Career Mastermind)
5. What I Wish I Knew as a Beginner Paralegal - Microsoft Word Skills (Video #1 of 7)
(Paralegal Career Mastermind)
6. Is It Worth It To Become A Paralegal
(Jack Lloyd)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Errol Quitzon

Last Updated: 01/08/2023

Views: 5556

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (59 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Errol Quitzon

Birthday: 1993-04-02

Address: 70604 Haley Lane, Port Weldonside, TN 99233-0942

Phone: +9665282866296

Job: Product Retail Agent

Hobby: Computer programming, Horseback riding, Hooping, Dance, Ice skating, Backpacking, Rafting

Introduction: My name is Errol Quitzon, I am a fair, cute, fancy, clean, attractive, sparkling, kind person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.