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Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools And Careers

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Paralegals And Legal Assistants - Career Information

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

 

The Top Cities tab shows employment statistics for Paralegals and Legal Assistants by major metro area.

The Top Industries tab shows which industries have the most jobs for Paralegals and Legal Assistants, along with salary data by industry.

The Browse Schools tab lets you search for schools by field of study, degree level, and location.

  • Overview
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  • Career Stories
  • Top Industries
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Metro Areas Rated for Popularity for:
Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Listed below are metro areas ranked by the popularity of jobs for Paralegals and Legal Assistants relative to the population of the city, as of 2008. Salary data was obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A Relative Popularity of 1.0 means that the city has an average number of the particular job, for its population, compared to the rest of the US. Higher numbers mean proportionally more jobs of that type.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Metro Area Jobs Salary
(2013)
Relative
Popularity

Alabama

     
Anniston 80 $35870 0.97
Oxford 80 $35870 0.97
Jacksonville 80 $35870 0.97
Florence 0 $22980 0
Muscle Shoals 0 $22980 0
Huntsville 280 $40110 0.67
Daphne 100 $39890 0.8
Fairhope 100 $39890 0.8
Foley 100 $39890 0.8
Dothan 0 $28970 0
Birmingham 1250 $49510 1.27
Hoover 1250 $49510 1.27
Mobile 380 $37330 1.12
Montgomery 230 $49860 0.71
Tuscaloosa 130 $35890 0.67

Alaska

     
Anchorage 450 $62600 1.29
Fairbanks 50 $57270 0.71

Arizona

     
Flagstaff 70 $39290 0.6
Phoenix 4060 $51420 1.1
Mesa 4060 $51420 1.1
Scottsdale 4060 $51420 1.1
Prescott 40 $40400 0.37
Lake Havasu City 40 $37150 0.46
Kingman 40 $37150 0.46
Tucson 540 $46200 0.78
Yuma 60 $41280 0.51

Arkansas

     
Hot Springs 0 $33880 0
Jonesboro 50 $36960 0.46
Little Rock 600 $39870 0.91
North Little Rock 600 $39870 0.91
Conway 600 $39870 0.91

California

     
Bakersfield 200 $52210 0.34
Fresno 720 $44960 1.07
Chico 50 $41190 0.37
El Centro 70 $41280 0.65
Oxnard 390 $56100 0.67
Thousand Oaks 390 $56100 0.67
Ventura 390 $56100 0.67
Redding 70 $47760 0.6
Riverside 1780 $54660 0.69
San Bernardino 1780 $54660 0.69
Ontario 1780 $54660 0.69
Sacramento 1610 $52470 0.93
Roseville 1610 $52470 0.93
Arden 1610 $52470 0.93
Arcade 1610 $52470 0.93
Salinas 170 $53600 0.54
San Diego 2750 $57990 1.03
Carlsbad 2750 $57990 1.03
Los Angeles 11460 $54870 1.03
Long Beach 11460 $54870 1.03
Anaheim 11460 $54870 1.03
Merced 30 $39000 0.27
Modesto 0 $49000 0
Napa 100 $54890 0.71
Santa Cruz 150 $60400 0.87
Watsonville 150 $60400 0.87
Santa Maria 280 $45660 0.78
Santa Barbara 280 $45660 0.78
Santa Rosa 210 $43840 0.56
San Francisco 4780 $65480 1.11
Oakland 4780 $65480 1.11
Hayward 4780 $65480 1.11
Stockton 120 $55060 0.28
Lodi 120 $55060 0.28
San Jose 2620 $65250 1.31
Sunnyvale 2620 $65250 1.31
Santa Clara 2620 $65250 1.31
Vallejo 40 $0 0.15
Fairfield 40 $0 0.15
Visalia 130 $45190 0.47
Porterville 130 $45190 0.47
Yuba City 30 $40610 0.44
San Luis Obispo 170 $43990 0.78
Paso Robles 170 $43990 0.78
Arroyo Grande 170 $43990 0.78

Colorado

     
Fort Collins 200 $52270 0.71
Grand Junction 110 $42690 0.96
Greeley 110 $39460 0.58
Boulder 490 $51270 1.46
Colorado Springs 440 $48410 0.85
Denver 4320 $51210 1.6
Aurora 4320 $51210 1.6
Lakewood 4320 $51210 1.6
Pueblo 70 $34520 0.6

Connecticut

     
Hartford 2690 $50420 2.36
West Hartford 2690 $50420 2.36
East Hartford 2690 $50420 2.36
New Haven 680 $49470 1.24
Waterbury 200 $34450 1.5
Bridgeport 1360 $58090 1.66
Stamford 1360 $58090 1.66
Norwalk 1360 $58090 1.66
Danbury 170 $54310 1.08

Delaware

     
Dover 150 $44530 1.24

Florida

     
Gainesville 160 $42340 0.63
Jacksonville 1190 $42820 0.97
Cape Coral 500 $48230 1.06
Fort Myers 500 $48230 1.06
Crestview 120 $41950 0.61
Fort Walton Beach 120 $41950 0.61
Destin 120 $41950 0.61
Deltona 420 $41350 1.17
Daytona Beach 420 $41350 1.17
Ormond Beach 420 $41350 1.17
Orlando 3120 $48860 1.42
Kissimmee 3120 $48860 1.42
Sanford 3120 $48860 1.42
Palm Bay 200 $38010 0.51
Melbourne 200 $38010 0.51
Titusville 200 $38010 0.51
Panama City 140 $42270 0.91
Pensacola 410 $42060 1.28
Ferry Pass 410 $42060 1.28
Brent 410 $42060 1.28
Port St. Lucie 240 $43060 0.92
Punta Gorda 110 $44910 1.23
Lakeland 340 $39920 0.84
Winter Haven 340 $39920 0.84
Miami 9140 $51570 1.9
Fort Lauderdale 9140 $51570 1.9
West Palm Beach 9140 $51570 1.9
Naples 260 $45430 0.99
Immokalee 260 $45430 0.99
Marco Island 260 $45430 0.99
North Port 630 $46130 1.16
Sarasota 630 $46130 1.16
Bradenton 630 $46130 1.16
Ocala 140 $35780 0.73
Sebastian 100 $41800 1.05
Vero Beach 100 $41800 1.05
Sebring 0 $36830 0
Tallahassee 610 $43060 1.95
Tampa 3650 $46390 1.52
St. Petersburg 3650 $46390 1.52
Clearwater 3650 $46390 1.52

Georgia

     
Athens 110 $39540 0.7
Clarke County 110 $39540 0.7
Atlanta 5820 $52400 1.19
Sandy Springs 5820 $52400 1.19
Roswell 5820 $52400 1.19
Gainesville 110 $40870 0.7
Hinesville 30 $39580 0.95
Brunswick 60 $43790 0.73
Dalton 60 $39310 0.47
Rome 60 $42650 0.82
Macon 170 $47250 0.87
Savannah 430 $42520 1.36
Valdosta 0 $39720 0
Warner Robins 0 $39540 0

Hawaii

     
Kahului 50 $0 0.33
Wailuku 50 $0 0.33
Lahaina 50 $0 0.33
Urban Honolulu 890 $43890 0.99

Idaho

     
Boise City 500 $44550 0.89
Idaho Falls 50 $36460 0.45
Coeur d'Alene 70 $41340 0.66
Pocatello 60 $36060 0.93

Illinois

     
Bloomington 250 $49250 1.32
Carbondale 30 $36300 0.32
Marion 30 $36300 0.32
Champaign 90 $39110 0.44
Urbana 90 $39110 0.44
Danville 30 $35970 0.58
Peoria 360 $46310 1.05
Rockford 120 $38230 0.41
Springfield 130 $46310 0.6

Indiana

     
Fort Wayne 370 $38500 0.89
Bloomington 0 $37570 0
Indianapolis 1900 $47210 0.97
Carmel 1900 $47210 0.97
Anderson 1900 $47210 0.97
Columbus 40 $37040 0.43
Elkhart 190 $35040 0.78
Goshen 190 $35040 0.78
Kokomo 0 $36770 0
Lafayette 90 $39370 0.51
West Lafayette 90 $39370 0.51
Muncie 40 $29570 0.49
Terre Haute 60 $26820 0.47

Iowa

     
Ames 30 $46480 0.4
Iowa City 70 $44840 0.39
Cedar Rapids 290 $46470 1.03
Des Moines 830 $51110 1.21
West Des Moines 830 $51110 1.21
Dubuque 40 $41640 0.37
Waterloo 170 $44830 0.97
Cedar Falls 170 $44830 0.97

Kansas

     
Lawrence 50 $36200 0.51
Topeka 280 $39400 1.32
Wichita 330 $46590 0.57

Kentucky

     
Bowling Green 150 $42040 1.11
Elizabethtown 120 $34710 1.15
Fort Knox 120 $34710 1.15
Owensboro 60 $42370 0.61
Lexington 350 $44890 0.68
Fayette 350 $44890 0.68

Louisiana

     
Alexandria 70 $41220 0.61
Baton Rouge 730 $39990 0.95
Hammond 80 $33620 0.93
Lafayette 580 $35520 1.36
Lake Charles 110 $37040 0.59
Monroe 110 $36310 0.71
New Orleans 1520 $46590 1.38
Metairie 1520 $46590 1.38
Shreveport 220 $43920 0.62
Bossier City 220 $43920 0.62

Maine

     
Lewiston 110 $41730 1.1
Auburn 110 $41730 1.1
Portland 480 $48410 1.22
South Portland 480 $48410 1.22
Bangor 80 $37680 0.61

Maryland

     
Baltimore 3650 $53740 1.41
Columbia 3650 $53740 1.41
Towson 3650 $53740 1.41
California 40 $40980 0.42
Lexington Park 40 $40980 0.42

Massachusetts

     
Leominster 50 $0 0.49
Gardner 50 $0 0.49
New Bedford 140 $47030 1.11
Pittsfield 0 $46130 0
Barnstable Town 0 $30580 0

Michigan

     
Ann Arbor 210 $46080 0.5
Flint 90 $57380 0.34
Grand Rapids 500 $47150 0.48
Wyoming 500 $47150 0.48
Detroit 3490 $49270 0.93
Warren 3490 $49270 0.93
Dearborn 3490 $49270 0.93
Saginaw 130 $39900 0.76
Lansing 300 $50120 0.73
East Lansing 300 $50120 0.73
Kalamazoo 100 $43340 0.37
Portage 100 $43340 0.37
Niles 0 $45370 0
Benton Harbor 0 $45370 0

Minnesota

     
Rochester 110 $44330 0.48
St. Cloud 150 $33860 0.73
Mankato 50 $45240 0.55
North Mankato 50 $45240 0.55

Mississippi

     
Gulfport 220 $43020 0.77
Biloxi 220 $43020 0.77
Pascagoula 220 $43020 0.77
Hattiesburg 50 $51660 0.45
Jackson 770 $53190 1.49

Missouri

     
Jefferson City 110 $31560 0.76
Columbia 130 $31660 0.72
Joplin 80 $33660 0.54
Springfield 390 $45290 1

Montana

     
Great Falls 0 $55040 0
Billings 210 $51430 1.26
Missoula 190 $42060 1.71

Nebraska

     
Lincoln 300 $44160 0.89

Nevada

     
Carson City 40 $53450 0.82
Reno 160 $51470 0.4
Las Vegas 1590 $50310 0.89
Henderson 1590 $50310 0.89
Paradise 1590 $50310 0.89

New Hampshire

     
Manchester 370 $53420 1.72

New Jersey

     
Atlantic City 250 $56900 1.02
Hammonton 250 $56900 1.02
Ocean City 0 $52180 0
Trenton 400 $63280 0.9
Vineland 0 $45180 0
Bridgeton 0 $45180 0

New Mexico

     
Albuquerque 1090 $41560 1.47
Las Cruces 90 $44440 0.68
Santa Fe 200 $41160 1.69

New York

     
Albany 1030 $50070 1.19
Schenectady 1030 $50070 1.19
Troy 1030 $50070 1.19
Glens Falls 60 $43870 0.55
Ithaca 110 $36450 1.16
Buffalo 1080 $45450 1.01
Cheektowaga 1080 $45450 1.01
Niagara Falls 1080 $45450 1.01
Binghamton 190 $39770 0.92
Elmira 50 $41680 0.66
Kingston 0 $47680 0
Rochester 1030 $42710 1.02
Syracuse 520 $50520 0.88
Utica 120 $52190 0.51
Rome 120 $52190 0.51
Watertown 0 $45340 0
Fort Drum 0 $45340 0

North Carolina

     
Asheville 470 $41360 1.34
Fayetteville 270 $41950 1.11
Goldsboro 70 $33830 0.93
Greensboro 670 $41530 0.96
High Point 670 $41530 0.96
Greenville 170 $37560 1.18
Hickory 130 $36660 0.46
Lenoir 130 $36660 0.46
Morganton 130 $36660 0.46
Jacksonville 110 $35790 1.2
Burlington 40 $36560 0.39
Durham 560 $41090 0.98
Chapel Hill 560 $41090 0.98
Raleigh 1490 $48720 1.34
Rocky Mount 70 $37380 0.64
New Bern 140 $36380 1.63
Wilmington 410 $43900 1.69
Winston 1020 $33660 2
Salem 1020 $33660 2

North Dakota

     
Bismarck 130 $49520 0.87

Ohio

     
Akron 490 $41740 0.77
Canton 60 $42800 0.19
Massillon 60 $42800 0.19
Cleveland 2130 $48370 1.06
Elyria 2130 $48370 1.06
Columbus 1770 $46970 0.89
Dayton 500 $39090 0.69
Lima 40 $31000 0.39
Mansfield 0 $34070 0
Springfield 50 $35100 0.54
Toledo 310 $50760 0.53

Oklahoma

     
Lawton 50 $37100 0.52
Oklahoma City 1150 $43190 0.96
Tulsa 980 $40700 1.15

Oregon

     
Bend 80 $46020 0.55
Redmond 80 $46020 0.55
Eugene 140 $51480 0.48
Salem 220 $46630 0.73
Medford 70 $49210 0.46

Pennsylvania

     
Altoona 120 $32470 1
Harrisburg 760 $46010 1.22
Carlisle 760 $46010 1.22
Chambersburg 100 $47550 0.84
Waynesboro 100 $47550 0.84
East Stroudsburg 0 $35570 0
Erie 150 $45930 0.58
Pittsburgh 1710 $56210 0.76
Reading 250 $46020 0.75
Lancaster 340 $36810 0.75
Lebanon 50 $42880 0.57
Scranton 330 $35970 0.65
Wilkes 330 $35970 0.65
Barre 330 $35970 0.65
Hazleton 330 $35970 0.65
State College 60 $37530 0.42
Williamsport 130 $33840 1.22
York 170 $38740 0.49
Hanover 170 $38740 0.49

Puerto Rico

     
San Juan 500 $36140 0.38
Carolina 500 $36140 0.38
Caguas 500 $36140 0.38

South Carolina

     
Florence 250 $29440 1.57
Greenville 550 $45210 0.73
Anderson 550 $45210 0.73
Mauldin 550 $45210 0.73
Hilton Head Island 350 $44660 2.54
Bluffton 350 $44660 2.54
Beaufort 350 $44660 2.54
Charleston 900 $42520 1.44
North Charleston 900 $42520 1.44
Columbia 1680 $42210 2.35
Spartanburg 240 $42630 0.9
Sumter 50 $34500 0.71

South Dakota

     
Rapid City 0 $37110 0
Sioux Falls 130 $46150 0.45

Tennessee

     
Jackson 100 $37110 0.77
Johnson City 0 $36490 0
Knoxville 480 $43520 0.66
Nashville 2000 $51980 1.15
Davidson 2000 $51980 1.15
Murfreesboro 2000 $51980 1.15
Franklin 2000 $51980 1.15

Texas

     
Abilene 0 $24030 0
Amarillo 0 $38660 0
Austin 3250 $47230 1.77
Round Rock 3250 $47230 1.77
Houston 5750 $54190 1
The Woodlands 5750 $54190 1
Sugar Land 5750 $54190 1
Beaumont 190 $46250 0.57
Port Arthur 190 $46250 0.57
Brownsville 150 $28610 0.56
Harlingen 150 $28610 0.56
College Station 90 $43210 0.45
Bryan 90 $43210 0.45
Corpus Christi 410 $38220 1.09
Dallas 7230 $57200 1.11
Fort Worth 7230 $57200 1.11
Arlington 7230 $57200 1.11
El Paso 350 $41760 0.62
San Antonio 2170 $44150 1.16
New Braunfels 2170 $44150 1.16
Laredo 110 $37580 0.56
Longview 0 $42920 0
Lubbock 270 $30790 0.99
McAllen 340 $36530 0.72
Edinburg 340 $36530 0.72
Mission 340 $36530 0.72
Midland 110 $61820 0.57
Killeen 180 $38660 0.7
Temple 180 $38660 0.7
Odessa 0 $59800 0
Sherman 0 $31210 0
Denison 0 $31210 0
Tyler 340 $40430 1.74
Waco 120 $42750 0.53
Wichita Falls 50 $43690 0.45

Utah

     
Provo 310 $45310 0.77
Orem 310 $45310 0.77
St. George 70 $35470 0.6
Salt Lake City 1900 $44230 1.46
Ogden 240 $34390 0.51
Clearfield 240 $34390 0.51

Vermont

     
Burlington 270 $50130 1.12
South Burlington 270 $50130 1.12

Virginia

     
Blacksburg 0 $46400 0
Christiansburg 0 $46400 0
Radford 0 $46400 0
Harrisonburg 110 $37040 0.91
Charlottesville 320 $46490 1.54
Richmond 1770 $49410 1.45
Roanoke 380 $39890 1.25
Lynchburg 180 $35790 0.91

Washington

     
Bremerton 150 $53400 0.9
Silverdale 150 $53400 0.9
Bellingham 110 $53160 0.68
Longview 40 $36950 0.56
Mount Vernon 70 $46070 0.76
Anacortes 70 $46070 0.76
Kennewick 40 $45220 0.21
Richland 40 $45220 0.21
Olympia 160 $55130 0.8
Tumwater 160 $55130 0.8
Seattle 3670 $59010 1.02
Tacoma 3670 $59010 1.02
Bellevue 3670 $59010 1.02
Spokane 280 $48420 0.64
Spokane Valley 280 $48420 0.64
Walla Walla 30 $52020 0.67
Wenatchee 70 $53280 0.83
Yakima 150 $38890 0.88

West Virginia

     
Beckley 100 $36310 1.12
Charleston 570 $45210 2.48
Parkersburg 70 $47470 0.89
Vienna 70 $47470 0.89
Morgantown 220 $42030 1.8

Wisconsin

     
Appleton 100 $36430 0.42
Fond du Lac 40 $43720 0.43
Green Bay 120 $45840 0.36
Janesville 40 $30470 0.29
Beloit 40 $30470 0.29
Eau Claire 170 $34720 1.09
Oshkosh 90 $40350 0.51
Neenah 90 $40350 0.51
Racine 50 $42790 0.31
Madison 850 $49670 1.16
Milwaukee 2060 $49520 1.26
Waukesha 2060 $49520 1.26
West Allis 2060 $49520 1.26
Sheboygan 50 $39210 0.44
Wausau 130 $37770 0.97

Wyoming

     
Casper 90 $46410 1.1
Cheyenne 130 $48930 1.45
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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.

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Most Popular Industries (as of 2008) for:
Paralegals and Legal Assistants

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

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Industry Jobs Percent Salary
(2008)
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
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Paralegal Training Schools by State

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.