The primary function of a paralegal is to perform research for the lawyers for whom they work. Research is typically based in legal, regulatory or business matters. Paralegals provide general support to attorneys; they assist attorneys with filing motions, memos, pleadings and briefs in court. They accompany lawyers to client visits and court hearings.
In addition to solid research skills, paralegals must have strong communication, computer, interpersonal, and organizational skills. Common tasks for paralegals include:
- Preparing affidavits and other documents for attorneys
- Maintaining document files
- Gathering and analyzing data for research
- Preparing legal documents and fact-checking
Paralegals usually work full time, but sometimes they have to work overtime to meet deadlines during times of heavy caseloads. All types of organizations that employ lawyers also employ paralegals.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the employment of paralegals to increase 8 percent by 2024, which is as fast as the average for all occupations. Many law firms want to boost efficiency and reduce costs, increasing demand for paralegals. Because they bill at a much lower rate than attorneys, paralegals are valuable assets to both firms and clients. Clients sometimes ask for a paralegal to carry out as much responsibility as possible in order to keep their costs down. This leads to demand for skilled paralegals.
The average salary for paralegals is $48,810 per year. Paralegals who specialize in the finance and insurance industry or who pursue careers in the federal government have the opportunity to earn more.