Should I Be a Paralegal

Should I Be a Paralegal

Should I Be a Paralegal?

According to the US Department of Labor, there is expected to be an 8% increase in the need for paralegals in the next few years.  Given that many occupational fields are shrinking, people are asking “ Should I be a paralegal? ”.  The paralegal profession can be a good option for those with the needed strengths and abilities.  This article will review the skills needed by paralegals and the reasons to become a paralegal.

Skills Needed by Paralegals

Reading Skills

Paralegals spend much time making molehills out of mountains by reading and summarizing depositions, medical records, and client documents.  To do this efficiently the paralegal should be an excellent reader who is able to learn the lingo of the industry of the client and/or the opposition.  A paralegal may spend one day analyzing medical records of a patient who had back surgery and then next day summarizing testimony given by an engineer about a building that fell down.  One of the good reasons to become a paralegal is because you love to read and learn about new things.

Writing Skills 

Law firms are paperwork factories and paralegal with strong writing skills can garner more interesting assignments.  Paralegals can draft pleadings, report to clients and even briefs, depending on their knowledge and writing skills.  Much of the writing done by law firms is for a professional audience, so being able to write clearly, succinctly, and with a sophisticated vocabulary while using correct grammar is essential for paralegals who want to progress beyond basic work. Those who want a positive answer to “ Should I be a paralegal? ” need strong writing skills.

Computer Skills

People who wonder “ Should I be a paralegal? ” need strong computer skills if the answer is to be affirmative. While many commercials for law firms or paralegal colleges show people in the library, not in front of a computer, the reasons to become a paralegal do not include not having to use a computer. In today’s law office, most paralegals type their own work so a basic knowledge of Microsoft Word and/or WordPerfect (which some courts and law offices still prefer) is absolutely necessary.  Paralegals also use Excel and Powerpoint to create charts, graphs, or presentations for trial.  Basic photo editing skills will almost always come into play periodically, and those who want to be the office star when it comes to demonstrative evidence will become experts with GIMP or Photoshop.  Most firms use some sort of practice management and/or billing software and paralegals who work a lot of large document cases will often use document management software of one type or another.  While training is often provided, paralegals cannot be the office dinosaur who cannot do anything that was not specifically taught.  The answer to “ Should I be a paralegal? ” is only yes if you are willing to learn and use many different computer programs.

People Skills

Those who want a job that involves no contact with other people will not answer “Yes”, when considering “Should I become a paralegal?”.  Some firms have paralegals do the initial client interview, gathering the information the attorney will need to decide whether to take the case.  Paralegals often are the clients’ first-line contact with the firm and may spend a lot of time “hand-holding” on the phone.  Paralegals call other offices to arrange conferences, depositions, inspections or court dates.  When cases go to trial, paralegals often contact witnesses, arrange schedules, and then keep the client calm during the trial.  The reasons to become a paralegal do not include avoiding people.

Organizational Skills

Paralegals are the keepers of the documents, whether those documents are physical or images created on a copy machine.  Paralegals are part of the team that analyzes subpoenas or other requests for documents to determine what needs to be produced and analyzes the client’s files to see what is responsive.  Once the decision has been made regarding what to produce, the paralegal is often in charge of seeing that the documents are scanned, numbered, indexed, and filed in a manner that makes them easy for the trial team to review and retrieve.  Depending on the case, the paralegal may create document profiles with summaries of the data on documents.  Enjoying filing, organizing and classifying is one of the good reasons to become a paralegal.

Reasons to Become a Paralegal

Comfortable Working Environment

One of the reasons to become a paralegal is to have a comfortable working environment.  Paralegals work in offices that are kept at a comfortable temperature.  While paralegals do not generally have large offices, private offices, or at least cubicles are common.

Respectable Pay

Few people will get rich as paralegals, but those wondering “Should I be a paralegal?” will be pleased to know that according to the U.S. Department of Labor,  while the median wage in the U.S. across all occupations in 2015 was $36,200, the media paralegal pay was $48,810.

Stable Employment

As noted earlier, the U.S. Government is expecting the number of paralegal jobs to grow.  A paralegal who does a good job can generally count on stable employment.

Interesting Work

For some people, one of the main reasons to become a paralegal is for interesting work. One paralegal said

I don’t know anywhere near as much about medicine as a doctor or a nurse, but because of my job, I know far more about medicines, surgeries, medical procedures and what to expect in the hospital than just about anyone who doesn’t work in the medical field.  Because of a case on which I worked, I probably know more about building foundations than anyone who has not studied engineering or worked in construction.  Cases have taught me about the dangers of asbestos, the symptoms of mold exposure, how the banking system works, how to value a stock portfolio, how oil is drilled and how ships are cleaned.  What other profession would give me such a breadth of knowledge?

For people with a strong sense of intellectual curiosity, the answer to “ Should I be a paralegal? ” may be “ Yes ”.

Transferable Skills

Reasons to become a paralegal include gaining skills and contacts that are transferable to other jobs. Many types of employers need people with strong writing skills, or paralegals could become freelance writers.  After learning the needs of paralegals and law firms, some paralegal become sales people for vendors.  This can be a lucrative way to parlay exceptional skills in trial presentation preparation or document management software use into a consulting career.  The general knowledge of the law and lawsuit procedures are helpful for insurance adjusters or those who work for risk management in industry.

Should I Become a Paralegal ? – Final Decision

If the reasons to be a paralegal discussed in this article make it sound like being a paralegal is a good fit for you, read this article about what paralegals do.  If interested in pursing it further, consider the types of paralegal programs available to you and investigate a few of them.