Career Insights: Q&A with a Paralegal

Thinking about entering the paralegal career field? Now may be a good time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the field is projected to grow by 8 percent at pace with the average growth rate for all occupations.
That translates into 21,200 jobs between 2014 and 2024.
How Much do Paralegals Make?
Generally, entry level positions in this field require an associate’s degree and the median annual salary is $48,810. For new paralegals, the salary is lower but there is plenty of room for advancement for anyone willing to put in the time and effort.
Is Paralegal a Good Career?
To catch a glimpse of what this great career really has to offer, we contacted Loretta Calvert, JD, the 2012-2013 President of the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE) and Paralegal Studies Director at Volunteer State Community College.
Q: Why is the paralegal field an exciting one?
A: People are drawn to the legal field because it is interesting and always changing. Just today I received two notices about updates to different areas of law I practiced in. It is a challenge to stay on top of your field. Also, paralegals get to stand right beside attorneys when cases unfold and get to help people who might not have known their rights without the guidance of a lawyer.
Q: Where are the jobs?
A: Everywhere! There are jobs at law firms, in-house at companies, administrative agencies like the EEOC, state agencies like Department of Labor or Insurance, federal  courts and federal asset forfeiture, healthcare, and so much more. The important thing is to realize that the job title does not always say paralegal.
Q: What kind of work do paralegals perform on a day-to-day basis?
A: There is a good portion of dealing with clients whether it is intake for new clients or updating current clients. There is drafting legal documents, researching statutes and procedures, and organizing evidence. Some law firms divide up duties based on a paralegal’s abilities and other law firms divide up work based on the attorney who uses the paralegal.
Q: What are the most important credentials and skills for paralegals?
A: Attend a program approved by the American Bar Association so you have more opportunities! Usually, taking a credentialing exam requires that you graduate from an ABA-approved school. Some job listings will also specify ABA-approved programs. Besides that, look for extra computer training. If you have IT skills and paralegal skills, you open up an entirely new set of job possibilities. There are companies that devote their services to running and restoring deleted files from computers, iPads, and telephones. Even law firms now want IT skills to help set up websites and manage webpages and cloud computing.
Q: What must-have advice would you give those who want to enter into this field?
A: Take a personality test like the Myers-Briggs and figure out what your natural inclinations are before you plan a career. The insights can help you figure out what jobs are a better match for you. If someone is an introvert then he/she will probably not want to work the front desk at a law firm. I would tell the introvert to look for jobs where he or she will review documents and manage databases. However, the extrovert will love working that front desk and greeting clients, getting the intake forms completed, and making people feel welcome.
Q: What myths are there about this field and what are the realities?
A: I often hear people say they want job stability and a lot of money. Job stability is unheard of in our current economy. People no longer stay at the same job for 20 years. As far as money, new paralegals are not rolling in the dough. Do what you love and the money will follow. Also, many paralegal students think they will be able to go to court with the attorney. Only seasoned paralegals accompany attorneys to court to assist with documents and technology during trial. Pay your dues and develop a good network, then you can roll around in the dough.
If you want to learn more about paralegal career options, contact the Admissions office at Bryant & Stratton College.

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