Paralegals and legal assistants are key components of a law firm's infrastructure. These employees help lawyers prepare for court by collecting affidavits, performing research, and drafting legal documents. Depending on the size of the firm, they might either see a case through from beginning to end, or they may specialize in a particular phase of trial preparation. Paralegals and legal assistants usually have at least an associate's or bachelor's degree while many pursue additional education in order to be more competitive. Though the job is sometimes not as high-profile as assistant positions in other fields, paralegals are authorized to do a great deal of legal work and their contributions are invaluable to a law firm's success.
There are many different paths that people can take to become paralegals. Some enroll in a community college program, while others earn a bachelor's degree as well as a certification in paralegal studies. On occasion, a firm will hire an applicant with a bachelor's degree who has no experience or knowledge in the field and train him or her on the job. Employers should pursue applicants who have either completed extensive coursework in paralegal studies or have internship and work experience in a legal setting. Additionally, employers can have applicants take an aptitude test, such as the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT), which assesses critical thinking, problem-solving, and attention to detail. Applicants with higher aptitude test scores tend to be more likely to learn quickly on the job and succeed as paralegals. In addition to the CCAT, employers will also often administer a personality test such as the Employee Personality Profile (EPP), which measures twelve different personality traits and contains benchmarks that highlight personality traits that are highly correlated with success in certain roles, such as administrative assistants.
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Rank in HireSelect:
60 out of 1,100
Median wage in U.S.:
Expected growth rate 2016-2026:
Number employed (2016): 285,600
Education level of Paralegals and Legal Assistants: