The path from paralegal to lawyer is a logical one for many who work as paralegals. In general, the legal field provides excellent career opportunities, whether a person becomes a paralegal, a lawyer, or a paralegal in pursuit of a law degree.
How Can a Paralegal Become a Lawyer?
Paralegals can become lawyers by attending law school and passing the bar exam just like anyone else who aspires to become a lawyer. As paralegals, these types of professionals spend a lot of time assisting lawyers in their work. They file documents, perform legal research, schedule appointments for clients and witnesses, write legal reports for trials, help interview witnesses, file briefs and appeals, and accompany lawyers in the courtroom. All of this work is gaining them not just experience but also knowledge of what goes on in a law firm and what a lawyer does each day.
Law students must complete externships and internships prior to earning the law degree. Depending on the law firm, the work the individual does as a paralegal may be used to fulfill the internship requirements. This experience is not only beneficial from a work experience standpoint but may be used to fulfill internship requirements
The Benefits of Becoming an Attorney
Being a paralegal does come with its benefits, a chief one being the salary associated with the job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paralegals earn almost $52,000 or nearly $25 an hour. However, attorneys earn even more than that. As of this writing, attorneys earn $70,000 a year more than paralegals do. Information on the BLS website says that lawyers earn almost $123,000 a year or nearly $60 an hour. That’s one of the big reasons that make legal assistants want to go from paralegal to lawyer, though that’s not the only one.
Becoming an attorney also gives a person a certain amount of prestige. These professionals garner the same kind of respect afforded to doctors or CEOs of big companies. For paralegals who have high ambitions, this is one of the reasons they’re so motivated to go from paralegal to attorney.
Finally, the legal profession comes with its fair share of deep thinking. Those who thrive on intellectual challenges will find them in a law career. The legal profession requires an in-depth knowledge of the Constitution and of case law. To win cases, attorneys must have the ability to make connections between past legal cases to come up with winning arguments for their clients. It’s quite the intellectual exercise for those who are up to the challenge.
Advantages Paralegals Have as Law Students
Law students who are paralegals have many advantages. If they’ve worked as paralegals for any length of time, they’ve become familiar with many of the legal aspects of a law firm. Legal information that is new and unfamiliar to the average law student is common knowledge to the paralegal, which makes it easier for the paralegal to do well in law school.
Often, the law firm will encourage the paralegal to earn the law degree and help them in any way they can. Becoming a lawyer requires completing a four-year bachelor’s degree followed by at least three years in law school. If a paralegal is extra fortunate, the firm he or she works for may even pay for part or all of the law school tuition.
Career Outlook for the Legal Profession
Individuals working in the legal profession are in demand and have the potential to earn very good wages. Paralegals are predicted, according to the BLS, to see an employment growth of 12 percent while attorneys should see a growth of 6 percent during the decade of 2018 and 2028. Lawyers are constantly in demand to either prosecute or defend those in need.
In an attempt to save time and money, lawyers are choosing to use paralegals to assist them in their work. As of May 2019, paralegals earned a median salary of $51.740. Attorneys earned wages that could surpass $200,000 per year. Factors like experience, employer, and location can affect wages for both of these professions.
Law School and Other Professions
Law school prepares people for more careers than most people can imagine. Certainly, those who graduate from law school and pass the bar exam can and do become attorneys. However, a legal education prepares a person for so much more, according toThe Balance Careers.
Paralegals who have worked in the legal profession before becoming lawyers see these “side” careers first hand. Granted, they may still want to work primarily as lawyers, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t expand their horizons a bit. Doing so helps them to firmly establish themselves as legal experts.
The addition of another law-related career also gives them more of a financial foundation to stand on. In other words, moonlighting in another legal profession makes good financial sense.
The paralegal turned attorney can provide legal consulting for firms that don’t have attorneys. They can also give law firms some ideas for legal marketing or communications. Trained attorneys can additionally become writers or editors for legal publishing houses, or they can develop a side career as a speaker.
Where Lawyers Work
While many lawyers work where you’d expect them to – that is, a law firm – that’s not the only place you’ll find them. Some become part of the legal team for big businesses. Others, as has already been shown, work in publishing or become legal technology specialists.
Law libraries and other educational institutions also provide attorneys with a place to hang their hat so to speak. You’ll find these lawyers at colleges or universities around the country and around the world.
Still, others find their way to the world of banking and finance. They become the staff attorney for big banks and other financial institutions.
Working as paralegals can be stimulating, challenging, and exciting. It can also help pave the way towards a lifetime career in the legal profession. Whether the paralegal chooses to continue to do paralegal work or become an attorney, he or she will have a career that offers many benefits and rewards.
Truly, the path from paralegal to lawyer is filled with opportunities and interesting work.
Related resource:The 19 Cheapest ABA-Approved Online Paralegal Degree Programs
What is the highest paying paralegal field? ›
- Paralegal Manager. $104,775. ...
- Legal Project Manager. $87,375. ...
- Intellectual Property Paralegal. $86,800. ...
- Nurse Paralegal. $82,687. ...
- Employment and Labor Law Paralegal. $80,685. ...
- Government Paralegal. $78,478. ...
- Senior Paralegal. $69,995. ...
- Corporate Paralegal. $66,134.
An associate's degree can be a great option for aspiring paralegals because it is more affordable than attending a four-year college and allows you to enter the field earlier. Many community colleges offer associate's degrees in paralegal studies or legal studies.What is difference between paralegal and legal assistant? ›
A legal assistant, or litigation assistant, may perform administrative duties as well as legal tasks. A paralegal focuses more on legal duties and research to assist lawyers. Both positions require an understanding of legal terminology and procedures.Where is the best place to work as a paralegal? ›
Where Can a Paralegal Work?
- Law Firms. Let's start with the obvious one: Most Paralegals work in private law firms. ...
- Courts. ...
- Government. ...
- Corporations. ...
- Real Estate. ...
- Contract law.
- Corporate law.
- Healthcare law.
- Intellectual Property (IP) law.
- Real estate law.
Best Paying States for Paralegals.
|State||Paralegal Salary -2019 Annual Mean Wage|
You do not need a Law Degree to become a paralegal. However, many employers look for legal or paralegal training. There are specialist qualifications for paralegals, developed to give you the skills and knowledge to work effectively as a paralegal.Are paralegals in high demand? ›
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that paralegal jobs will grow by 12 percent between 2020 and 2030, which is faster than most jobs. The demand for paralegals is high, especially in urban centers and metropolitan areas.What is the next step after a paralegal? ›
As a paralegal, you may be wondering about your career options. The next logical step is to become a practicing lawyer, utilizing the legal knowledge you've gained to further your law career.Is a paralegal just a secretary? ›
The roles that paralegals and legal secretaries play in the legal field have very important differences. A paralegal position is focused on supporting lawyers with substantive legal work, and a legal secretary position operates as a legal admin job, performing more clerical and administrative work.
Is a paralegal higher than an associate? ›
A paralegal with years of experience helping to manage a trial practice will have far more practical knowledge and skills than a first-year associate and can be far more beneficial to a small company or law firm.Can paralegals appear in court? ›
Paralegals work for lawyers or attorneys directly. They prepare the paperwork that is needed in court, gather legal documents and assist with other legal duties. They also deal with clients and communicate with them during trials or court cases. A paralegal can also do research for their attorney and appear in court.What state has the highest demand for paralegals? ›
|Rank||StateUS Average||10-Year Growth (2018-2028)312%|
The legal professionals we talked to believe certification is worthwhile for a variety of reasons. “Paralegal Certificates are invaluable,” says Matthew Dolman, managing partner at Sibley Dolman Gipe. “They pave a path toward a sustainable and lucrative career in the law.”How stressful is being a paralegal? ›
Being a paralegal is stressful, and paralegal burnout is real. Paralegals work notoriously long hours, and their tasks include everything from office management to doing case research and preparing and editing legal contracts and documents. Paralegal's tasks have a direct impact on the outcomes of matters and cases.What is the passing mark for paralegal exam? ›
Passing the exam.
We have set the passing score for each exam at 50%.
The metropolitan areas that pay the highest salary in the paralegal profession are San Jose, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, and Los Angeles.How can I advance my career as a paralegal? ›
- Online Networking. ...
- Join local and national paralegal organizations. ...
- Volunteer. ...
- Read blogs, articles, and case summaries. ...
- CLE materials. ...
- Move to another city. ...
- Change industries.
Certificate programs for paralegals are listed by schools under the major of “paralegal studies” or “legal studies.” These programs have core academic classes, such as English composition, mathematics, science and social sciences, but the program is heavily weighted toward legal fundamentals, such as legal research and ...What is the largest employer of paralegals? ›
Private law firms are the largest employers of paralegals. Businesses, corporations, and the government are also large employers of paralegals. Paralegals work in a variety of legal practice areas, ranging from litigation and trial practice to tax, real estate transactions, and estate planning.
Are paralegals respected? ›
For a variety of reasons, professional paralegals can be extremely valuable to law firms, and more shops should respect and invest in professional paralegals. As many attorneys know from first-hand experience, professional paralegals often learn valuable information about the practice of law.What is a Level 3 paralegal? ›
NALP Level 3 Qualifications in Paralegal Practice are entry-level qualifications for students with some paralegal experience wanting to become a paralegal and looking to enhance their career. They cover the main areas associated with traditional High Street legal practice.Is a paralegal a qualified lawyer? ›
A paralegal is a highly-valued member of a legal team that has extensive knowledge of the law and legal matters, but is not a qualified lawyer. Paralegals undertake a wide variety of administrative and legal work.What qualifications do I need for a paralegal? ›
- Specialist paralegal qualification.
- a Law Degree.
- An award in legal studies.
- Legal secretary certificate or diploma.
- National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP) paralegal practice award, certificate, diploma.
The time to become a paralegal is significantly shorter than the minimum seven-year educational process to becoming a lawyer. It is also a lot less expensive to undertake a paralegal degree compared to a law degree, meaning choosing to become a paralegal is both faster and cheaper than going into law school.Can paralegals make six figures? ›
Can paralegals make six figures? Sure. If you're certified by either NALA, NFPA, or another certifying organization, have years of experience and have become a subject matter expert in your field. Many larger law firms have tiers for paralegals and they advance through the ranks as do attorneys.What do paralegals actually do? ›
For example, paralegals can review and organize client files, conduct factual and legal research, prepare documents for legal transactions, draft pleadings and discovery notices, interview clients and witnesses, and assist at closings and trials. Paralegals must avoid the unauthorized practice of law.What's above a paralegal? ›
Typically, legal assistants do more administrative work than paralegals, such as scheduling meetings or organizing client files, however this can vary based on their employer and job responsibilities.Can paralegals call themselves lawyers? ›
A paralegal may work in a law firm, but they cannot represent you in court or make legal filings on your behalf. You may need a solicitor or barrister for those responsibilities. Therefore a paralegal cannot call themselves a lawyer.Why is it called paralegal? ›
"one trained in subsidiary legal matters," 1972, from para- (1) + legal assistant.
What is an attorney assistant called? ›
Legal assistants and paralegals are legal professionals that support the work of attorneys—they both add value to a law firm.Can paralegals give legal advice? ›
Paralegals assist lawyers in their work. They undertake some of the same work as lawyers but do not give advice to consumers of legal services.Do paralegals get promoted? ›
Career advancement and development look different for each Paralegal. For you, advancement might occur within your current law office. For others, advancement may be transitioning into a postsecondary educator position, attending law school to become an attorney, or joining a governmental agency.Is paralegal a permanent job? ›
Lifelong Career with Advancement Opportunities
As is the case with lawyers, paralegals' salary may grow with tenure. The highest 10 percent of paralegals earned an annual salary of $82,500 or more in 2019, according to the BLS.
The average Paralegal I salary in El Paso, TX is $53,501 as of December 27, 2022, but the range typically falls between $47,315 and $60,407.Where is there a high demand for paralegals? ›
The demand for paralegals is high, especially in urban centers and metropolitan areas.What are four things that a paralegal Cannot do? ›
Generally, paralegals may not represent clients in court, take depositions, or sign pleadings. Some federal and state administrative agencies, however, do permit nonlawyer practice.Are paralegals worth it? ›
Paralegal training is faster, much cheaper, and opens up many professional doors (more on that later). Becoming a paralegal is a noble, exciting goal. You can do a lot of good in this role. If you're motivated to help others and ready to challenge yourself, this can be a deeply rewarding career.How much does a certified paralegal make in Texas? ›
The average Paralegal I salary in Texas is $60,064 as of December 27, 2022, but the range typically falls between $53,119 and $67,817.