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Paralegal and legal assistant are individuals employed by attorneys or law firms to assist in the delivery of legal services. Unlike lawyers, paralegals and legal assistants are not allowed to accept legal cases, give legal advice, or represent clients in court. However, many of their regular duties are things also done by lawyers, including conducting client interviews, doing legal research, locating and interviewing witnesses, and drafting legal documents.

In general, paralegals are responsible for helping lawyers prepare for trials, hearings, closings, and corporate meetings. They often prepare written reports that attorneys use in determining how cases should be handled. For cases which go to trial, paralegals help prepare the legal arguments, obtain the affidavits, draft the motions, and assist the attorney during the conduct of the trial.

Paralegals And Legal Assistants picture    Paralegals And Legal Assistants image

Paralegal Schools

Although some paralegals are trained on the job, most of them pursue some type of formal educational program leading to a certificate and/or an associate or bachelor's degree. There are several such programs available today offered in a wide variety of formats and lengths by various public and private institutions including:

  • Community colleges
  • Four-year colleges and universities
  • Business colleges
  • Proprietary institutions

Certificate programs, which usually provide intensive paralegal training for individuals who already hold college degrees, vary significantly in length but often only take a few months to complete. Hundreds of paralegal training programs are currently approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) and graduation from an ABA-approved program can enhance employment opportunities.

Most paralegal training programs include courses in legal research and the applications of computers to legal work. Some programs include job placement services. Many of them also offer an internship where students gain several months of practical working experience in a private law firm, a government agency, a corporate legal department, or some other institution. Experience as an intern can be an invaluable asset in the job market after graduation.

Paralegal Education Requirements and Courses

Most entrants in the field have either an associate degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor's degree in a general field of study combined with a certificate in paralegal studies. Some hold master's degrees. Degree programs typically combine paralegal training with courses in other academic subjects.

Paralegal requirements consist of classes and coursework designed to prepare you for the rigors of the legal environment. Course titles include:

  • Criminology
  • Civil litigation
  • Criminal court structure
  • Matrimonial law
  • Corporate law
  • Estate distribution
  • Record-keeping and documentation
  • Legal technology
  • Accounting procedures

Paralegal education focuses on researching legal precedent, investigating facts and preparing legal documents. As a paralegal, you'll work at the right hand of an established lawyer to ready him or her for the next court performance. After completing your paralegal education, you'll become a master researcher--mining for valuable evidence that supports a legal proceeding, formulates a defense or initiates legal action.

Paralegal Certification

Most states do not regulate the paralegal profession, although some states require paralegals to complete a certain amount of accredited coursework. Certification from a professional society, although not required by most employers, may give an aspiring legal assistant a significant advantage in the labor market.

You have several different options for certification and compliance, each with a different set of paralegal requirements. These include:

  • The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers a two-day examination leading to a designation as a Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) or Certified Paralegal (CP), or an Advanced Paralegal Certification (APC) for experienced paralegals who want to specialize
  • The American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. offers the voluntary American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) credential for professionals with at least five years of paralegal experience and meet one of three specified educational requirements
  • The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) provides the Registered Paralegal (RP) designation through their PACE program, which requires at least two years of professional experience in addition to certain NFPA educational requirements

Resources for Paralegals

 

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Paralegals and Legal Assistants jobs , as of 2015

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

     
Metro Area (Alabama) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Birmingham 1250 $49,510
Hoover 1250 $49,510
Mobile 380 $37,330
Huntsville 280 $40,110
Montgomery 230 $49,860
Tuscaloosa 130 $35,890
Foley 100 $39,890
Fairhope 100 $39,890
Daphne 100 $39,890
Anniston 80 $35,870
Oxford 80 $35,870
Jacksonville 80 $35,870
Muscle Shoals N/A $22,980
Florence N/A $22,980
Dothan N/A $28,970
     
Metro Area (Alaska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anchorage 450 $62,600
Fairbanks 50 $57,270
     
Metro Area (Arizona) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Mesa 4060 $51,420
Scottsdale 4060 $51,420
Phoenix 4060 $51,420
Tucson 540 $46,200
Flagstaff 70 $39,290
Yuma 60 $41,280
Kingman 40 $37,150
Lake Havasu City 40 $37,150
Prescott 40 $40,400
     
Metro Area (Arkansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Conway 600 $39,870
North Little Rock 600 $39,870
Little Rock 600 $39,870
Jonesboro 50 $36,960
Hot Springs N/A $33,880
     
Metro Area (California) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Long Beach 11460 $54,870
Los Angeles 11460 $54,870
Anaheim 11460 $54,870
Oakland 4780 $65,480
Hayward 4780 $65,480
San Francisco 4780 $65,480
Carlsbad 2750 $57,990
San Diego 2750 $57,990
Santa Clara 2620 $65,250
San Jose 2620 $65,250
Sunnyvale 2620 $65,250
Riverside 1780 $54,660
San Bernardino 1780 $54,660
Ontario 1780 $54,660
Arden 1610 $52,470
Roseville 1610 $52,470
Arcade 1610 $52,470
Sacramento 1610 $52,470
Fresno 720 $44,960
Oxnard 390 $56,100
Thousand Oaks 390 $56,100
Ventura 390 $56,100
Santa Maria 280 $45,660
Santa Barbara 280 $45,660
Santa Rosa 210 $43,840
Bakersfield 200 $52,210
San Luis Obispo 170 $43,990
Arroyo Grande 170 $43,990
Paso Robles 170 $43,990
Salinas 170 $53,600
Santa Cruz 150 $60,400
Watsonville 150 $60,400
Porterville 130 $45,190
Visalia 130 $45,190
Lodi 120 $55,060
Stockton 120 $55,060
Napa 100 $54,890
El Centro 70 $41,280
Redding 70 $47,760
Chico 50 $41,190
Fairfield 40 N/A
Vallejo 40 N/A
Merced 30 $39,000
Yuba City 30 $40,610
Modesto N/A $49,000
     
Metro Area (Colorado) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Aurora 4320 $51,210
Lakewood 4320 $51,210
Denver 4320 $51,210
Boulder 490 $51,270
Colorado Springs 440 $48,410
Fort Collins 200 $52,270
Greeley 110 $39,460
Grand Junction 110 $42,690
Pueblo 70 $34,520
     
Metro Area (Connecticut) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Hartford 2690 $50,420
East Hartford 2690 $50,420
West Hartford 2690 $50,420
Bridgeport 1360 $58,090
Norwalk 1360 $58,090
Stamford 1360 $58,090
New Haven 680 $49,470
Waterbury 200 $34,450
Danbury 170 $54,310
     
Metro Area (Delaware) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Dover 150 $44,530
     
Metro Area (Florida) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Fort Lauderdale 9140 $51,570
West Palm Beach 9140 $51,570
Miami 9140 $51,570
St. Petersburg 3650 $46,390
Tampa 3650 $46,390
Clearwater 3650 $46,390
Orlando 3120 $48,860
Sanford 3120 $48,860
Kissimmee 3120 $48,860
Jacksonville 1190 $42,820
North Port 630 $46,130
Bradenton 630 $46,130
Sarasota 630 $46,130
Tallahassee 610 $43,060
Fort Myers 500 $48,230
Cape Coral 500 $48,230
Deltona 420 $41,350
Daytona Beach 420 $41,350
Ormond Beach 420 $41,350
Ferry Pass 410 $42,060
Brent 410 $42,060
Pensacola 410 $42,060
Winter Haven 340 $39,920
Lakeland 340 $39,920
Marco Island 260 $45,430
Naples 260 $45,430
Immokalee 260 $45,430
Port St. Lucie 240 $43,060
Palm Bay 200 $38,010
Titusville 200 $38,010
Melbourne 200 $38,010
Gainesville 160 $42,340
Ocala 140 $35,780
Panama City 140 $42,270
Fort Walton Beach 120 $41,950
Crestview 120 $41,950
Destin 120 $41,950
Punta Gorda 110 $44,910
Sebastian 100 $41,800
Vero Beach 100 $41,800
Sebring N/A $36,830
     
Metro Area (Georgia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Roswell 5820 $52,400
Atlanta 5820 $52,400
Sandy Springs 5820 $52,400
Savannah 430 $42,520
Macon 170 $47,250
Athens 110 $39,540
Clarke County 110 $39,540
Gainesville 110 $40,870
Dalton 60 $39,310
Rome 60 $42,650
Brunswick 60 $43,790
Hinesville 30 $39,580
Warner Robins N/A $39,540
Valdosta N/A $39,720
     
Metro Area (Hawaii) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Urban Honolulu 890 $43,890
Lahaina 50 N/A
Wailuku 50 N/A
Kahului 50 N/A
     
Metro Area (Idaho) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Boise City 500 $44,550
Coeur d'Alene 70 $41,340
Pocatello 60 $36,060
Idaho Falls 50 $36,460
     
Metro Area (Illinois) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Peoria 360 $46,310
Bloomington 250 $49,250
Springfield 130 $46,310
Rockford 120 $38,230
Urbana 90 $39,110
Champaign 90 $39,110
Danville 30 $35,970
Carbondale 30 $36,300
Marion 30 $36,300
     
Metro Area (Indiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anderson 1900 $47,210
Carmel 1900 $47,210
Indianapolis 1900 $47,210
Fort Wayne 370 $38,500
Goshen 190 $35,040
Elkhart 190 $35,040
West Lafayette 90 $39,370
Lafayette 90 $39,370
Terre Haute 60 $26,820
Muncie 40 $29,570
Columbus 40 $37,040
Kokomo N/A $36,770
Bloomington N/A $37,570
     
Metro Area (Iowa) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Des Moines 830 $51,110
Des Moines 830 $51,110
Cedar Rapids 290 $46,470
Cedar Falls 170 $44,830
Waterloo 170 $44,830
Iowa City 70 $44,840
Dubuque 40 $41,640
Ames 30 $46,480
     
Metro Area (Kansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Wichita 330 $46,590
Topeka 280 $39,400
Lawrence 50 $36,200
     
Metro Area (Kentucky) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lexington 350 $44,890
Fayette 350 $44,890
Bowling Green 150 $42,040
Fort Knox 120 $34,710
Elizabethtown 120 $34,710
Owensboro 60 $42,370
     
Metro Area (Louisiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Metairie 1520 $46,590
New Orleans 1520 $46,590
Baton Rouge 730 $39,990
Lafayette 580 $35,520
Shreveport 220 $43,920
Bossier City 220 $43,920
Monroe 110 $36,310
Lake Charles 110 $37,040
Hammond 80 $33,620
Alexandria 70 $41,220
     
Metro Area (Maine) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Portland 480 $48,410
Portland 480 $48,410
Lewiston 110 $41,730
Auburn 110 $41,730
Bangor 80 $37,680
     
Metro Area (Maryland) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Baltimore 3650 $53,740
Towson 3650 $53,740
Columbia 3650 $53,740
Lexington Park 40 $40,980
California 40 $40,980
     
Metro Area (Massachusetts) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
New Bedford 140 $47,030
Gardner 50 N/A
Leominster 50 N/A
Barnstable Town N/A $30,580
Pittsfield N/A $46,130
     
Metro Area (Michigan) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Warren 3490 $49,270
Detroit 3490 $49,270
Dearborn 3490 $49,270
Wyoming 500 $47,150
Grand Rapids 500 $47,150
East Lansing 300 $50,120
Lansing 300 $50,120
Ann Arbor 210 $46,080
Saginaw 130 $39,900
Portage 100 $43,340
Kalamazoo 100 $43,340
Flint 90 $57,380
Benton Harbor N/A $45,370
Niles N/A $45,370
     
Metro Area (Minnesota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
St. Cloud 150 $33,860
Rochester 110 $44,330
North Mankato 50 $45,240
Mankato 50 $45,240
     
Metro Area (Mississippi) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Jackson 770 $53,190
Gulfport 220 $43,020
Pascagoula 220 $43,020
Biloxi 220 $43,020
Hattiesburg 50 $51,660
     
Metro Area (Missouri) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Springfield 390 $45,290
Columbia 130 $31,660
Jefferson City 110 $31,560
Joplin 80 $33,660
     
Metro Area (Montana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Billings 210 $51,430
Missoula 190 $42,060
Great Falls N/A $55,040
     
Metro Area (Nebraska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lincoln 300 $44,160
     
Metro Area (Nevada) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Paradise 1590 $50,310
Henderson 1590 $50,310
Las Vegas 1590 $50,310
Reno 160 $51,470
Carson City 40 $53,450
     
Metro Area (New Hampshire) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Manchester 370 $53,420
     
Metro Area (New Jersey) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Trenton 400 $63,280
Atlantic City 250 $56,900
Hammonton 250 $56,900
Vineland N/A $45,180
Bridgeton N/A $45,180
Ocean City N/A $52,180
     
Metro Area (New Mexico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Albuquerque 1090 $41,560
Santa Fe 200 $41,160
Las Cruces 90 $44,440
     
Metro Area (New York) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Niagara Falls 1080 $45,450
Buffalo 1080 $45,450
Cheektowaga 1080 $45,450
Rochester 1030 $42,710
Albany 1030 $50,070
Schenectady 1030 $50,070
Troy 1030 $50,070
Syracuse 520 $50,520
Binghamton 190 $39,770
Utica 120 $52,190
Rome 120 $52,190
Ithaca 110 $36,450
Glens Falls 60 $43,870
Elmira 50 $41,680
Watertown N/A $45,340
Fort Drum N/A $45,340
Kingston N/A $47,680
     
Metro Area (North Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Raleigh 1490 $48,720
Salem 1020 $33,660
Winston 1020 $33,660
High Point 670 $41,530
Greensboro 670 $41,530
Durham 560 $41,090
Chapel Hill 560 $41,090
Asheville 470 $41,360
Wilmington 410 $43,900
Fayetteville 270 $41,950
Greenville 170 $37,560
New Bern 140 $36,380
Lenoir 130 $36,660
Hickory 130 $36,660
Morganton 130 $36,660
Jacksonville 110 $35,790
Goldsboro 70 $33,830
Rocky Mount 70 $37,380
Burlington 40 $36,560
     
Metro Area (North Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bismarck 130 $49,520
     
Metro Area (Ohio) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Elyria 2130 $48,370
Cleveland 2130 $48,370
Columbus 1770 $46,970
Dayton 500 $39,090
Akron 490 $41,740
Toledo 310 $50,760
Canton 60 $42,800
Massillon 60 $42,800
Springfield 50 $35,100
Lima 40 $31,000
Mansfield N/A $34,070
     
Metro Area (Oklahoma) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Oklahoma City 1150 $43,190
Tulsa 980 $40,700
Lawton 50 $37,100
     
Metro Area (Oregon) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Salem 220 $46,630
Eugene 140 $51,480
Bend 80 $46,020
Redmond 80 $46,020
Medford 70 $49,210
     
Metro Area (Pennsylvania) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Pittsburgh 1710 $56,210
Carlisle 760 $46,010
Harrisburg 760 $46,010
Lancaster 340 $36,810
Barre 330 $35,970
Hazleton 330 $35,970
Wilkes 330 $35,970
Scranton 330 $35,970
Reading 250 $46,020
York 170 $38,740
Hanover 170 $38,740
Erie 150 $45,930
Williamsport 130 $33,840
Altoona 120 $32,470
Chambersburg 100 $47,550
Waynesboro 100 $47,550
State College 60 $37,530
Lebanon 50 $42,880
East Stroudsburg N/A $35,570
     
Metro Area (Puerto Rico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Caguas 500 $36,140
Carolina 500 $36,140
San Juan 500 $36,140
     
Metro Area (South Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Columbia 1680 $42,210
Charleston 900 $42,520
North Charleston 900 $42,520
Anderson 550 $45,210
Greenville 550 $45,210
Mauldin 550 $45,210
Bluffton 350 $44,660
Beaufort 350 $44,660
Hilton Head Island 350 $44,660
Florence 250 $29,440
Spartanburg 240 $42,630
Sumter 50 $34,500
     
Metro Area (South Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Sioux Falls 130 $46,150
Rapid City N/A $37,110
     
Metro Area (Tennessee) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Murfreesboro 2000 $51,980
Franklin 2000 $51,980
Davidson 2000 $51,980
Nashville 2000 $51,980
Knoxville 480 $43,520
Jackson 100 $37,110
Johnson City N/A $36,490
     
Metro Area (Texas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Arlington 7230 $57,200
Fort Worth 7230 $57,200
Dallas 7230 $57,200
Sugar Land 5750 $54,190
The Woodlands 5750 $54,190
Houston 5750 $54,190
Austin 3250 $47,230
Round Rock 3250 $47,230
New Braunfels 2170 $44,150
San Antonio 2170 $44,150
Corpus Christi 410 $38,220
El Paso 350 $41,760
Mission 340 $36,530
Edinburg 340 $36,530
McAllen 340 $36,530
Tyler 340 $40,430
Lubbock 270 $30,790
Beaumont 190 $46,250
Port Arthur 190 $46,250
Killeen 180 $38,660
Temple 180 $38,660
Brownsville 150 $28,610
Harlingen 150 $28,610
Waco 120 $42,750
Laredo 110 $37,580
Midland 110 $61,820
College Station 90 $43,210
Bryan 90 $43,210
Wichita Falls 50 $43,690
Abilene N/A $24,030
Denison N/A $31,210
Sherman N/A $31,210
Amarillo N/A $38,660
Longview N/A $42,920
Odessa N/A $59,800
     
Metro Area (Utah) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Salt Lake City 1900 $44,230
Provo 310 $45,310
Orem 310 $45,310
Ogden 240 $34,390
Clearfield 240 $34,390
St. George 70 $35,470
     
Metro Area (Vermont) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Burlington 270 $50,130
Burlington 270 $50,130
     
Metro Area (Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Richmond 1770 $49,410
Roanoke 380 $39,890
Charlottesville 320 $46,490
Lynchburg 180 $35,790
Harrisonburg 110 $37,040
Christiansburg N/A $46,400
Radford N/A $46,400
Blacksburg N/A $46,400
     
Metro Area (Washington) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Tacoma 3670 $59,010
Seattle 3670 $59,010
Bellevue 3670 $59,010
Spokane 280 $48,420
Spokane Valley 280 $48,420
Tumwater 160 $55,130
Olympia 160 $55,130
Yakima 150 $38,890
Silverdale 150 $53,400
Bremerton 150 $53,400
Bellingham 110 $53,160
Anacortes 70 $46,070
Mount Vernon 70 $46,070
Wenatchee 70 $53,280
Longview 40 $36,950
Kennewick 40 $45,220
Richland 40 $45,220
Walla Walla 30 $52,020
     
Metro Area (West Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Charleston 570 $45,210
Morgantown 220 $42,030
Beckley 100 $36,310
Parkersburg 70 $47,470
Vienna 70 $47,470
     
Metro Area (Wisconsin) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Milwaukee 2060 $49,520
Waukesha 2060 $49,520
West Allis 2060 $49,520
Madison 850 $49,670
Eau Claire 170 $34,720
Wausau 130 $37,770
Green Bay 120 $45,840
Appleton 100 $36,430
Neenah 90 $40,350
Oshkosh 90 $40,350
Sheboygan 50 $39,210
Racine 50 $42,790
Beloit 40 $30,470
Janesville 40 $30,470
Fond du Lac 40 $43,720
     
Metro Area (Wyoming) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cheyenne 130 $48,930
Casper 90 $46,410

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Paralegals and Legal Assistants

To find out more about building a career as Paralegals And Legal Assistants, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Professional And Technical Services 189,730 75% $44,580
Government 34,310 13% $49,370
Business Management 5,820 2% $55,910
Office Services And Staffing 5,520 2% $48,300
Insurance 4,840 1% $51,810
These schools offer particularly quick info upon request, and we have written detailed profiles for each (click school names to see the profiles). Request info from multiple schools, by clicking the Get Info links.
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Paralegals and Legal Assistants.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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