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Paralegal Aide Job Description, Career as a Paralegal Aide, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Varies—see profile

Salary Median—$39,130 per year

Employment Outlook Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Paralegal aides help lawyers prepare for hearings, trials, and corporate meetings. They research public documents, records, and law books; investigate the validity of wills and income tax returns; get information from clients; and organize and analyze data. They are trained to use computerized legal research systems.

Paralegal aides work under the supervision of a lawyer, a senior paralegal, or a senior legal assistant. Their work differs from that of legal secretaries, who focus primarily on the clerical functions in law offices, such as typing and filing. Private law firms are the largest employers of paralegal aides. Others are employed by judges and government agencies.

Education and Training Requirements

Paralegal aides must have some knowledge of law, legal procedures, and legal terminology. More than eight hundred paralegal training programs operate nationwide; many are approved by the American Bar Association. Most programs can be completed in two years and require high school diplomas for admission. Other programs are offered by four-year colleges, universities, and business and law schools. Those offered by law schools usually require bachelor's degrees and high scores on entrance examinations. Training time may vary from a few months for a special course to four years or more.

Getting the Job

Job seekers can apply directly to law firms or register with their school placement offices, which often receive requests for paralegal aides from law firms. Paralegal associations maintain job banks and can provide listings of private and public employers. Applicants for paralegal positions with the government should take the necessary civil service test.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Advancement depends on the individual law firm; moving from a small law firm to a larger one may provide the best opportunities. In a large law firm, a paralegal aide may progress from researching minor legal matters to handling tasks of greater responsibility. Experienced aides may also be promoted to supervisory positions. Some paralegal aides enter law school.

The employment outlook for paralegal aides is very good through the year 2014. The demand for legal services continues to grow, and well-trained paralegal aides are needed to perform many tasks that ease the workloads of lawyers. The best opportunities will be for graduates of formal paralegal programs.

Working Conditions

Paralegal aides must be mature and responsible people. Their work requires intelligence, analytical ability, and discretion. They usually work in comfortable, well-lit offices or law libraries. Sometimes they may attend court proceedings.

Most paralegal aides work full time, usually forty hours a week. Overtime may be necessary. Some paralegals work part time while they are training to be lawyers.

Where to Go for More Information

American Bar Association
321 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 988-5000

National Federation of Paralegal Associations
PO Box 2016
Edmonds, WA 98020
(425) 967-0045

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings for paralegal aides depend on education, experience, employer, and location. In 2004 the median salary for paralegals was $39,130 per year. Benefits usually included paid vacations and holidays, life and health insurance, and retirement plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service