To Be or Not to Be: The Paralegal Industry Outlook

Though often overlooked, paralegals are an integral part of all legal organizations—and non-legal organizations have taken notice. While traditional employment within the legal industry continues to grow, non-traditional work options in various fields are expanding job opportunities for current (and potential!) paralegals and legal assistants.

INDUSTRY OUTLOOK

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of paralegals and legal assistants will grow around fifteen percent from 2016 to 2026, which is more than the average of all other occupations (as seen in the graph below). As law firms and other businesses strive for more efficiency and less cost for clients, they are turning to paralegals to help them achieve this goal.

Because of these market demands, paralegals and legal assistants are not only taking the place of entry-level lawyers, they are also taking on hybrid roles, where legal secretary duties are combined with paralegal responsibilities. As a result, the need for paralegals with technological and database skills has increased.

While employers typically prefer employees with an associate degree in Paralegal Studies, job-seekers with tech proficiency and a paralegal certification will likely find themselves in the enviable position of being quite hireable in today’s tech-drive workforce.

NON-TRADITIONAL JOB OPPORTUNITIES

Law firms and government agencies are the most common employers of paralegals, but businesses outside the legal industry are increasingly switching to in-house and contracted legal counsel. Many companies in finance, tech, and healthcare are either hiring or contracting paralegals as consultants to fulfill their basic legal needs in compliance and regulatory areas. Amazon is one such tech company that retains an in-house legal team in their offices all over the world and is constantly hiring for paralegal and other related positions, which you can find by searching on Amazon’s job site.

The healthcare industry, with its complicated regulatory and compliance needs, often seeks in-house legal help; health insurance companies, like Aetna, also hire in-house legal aides. Since this sector often requires more specialized knowledge, employees with medical backgrounds are highly sought after, such as Legal Nurse Consultants and Nurse Paralegals.

Large finance companies like J.P. Morgan Chase also hire paralegals to assist their in-house attorneys all over the United States. A quick search for jobs with J.P. Morgan Chase reveals a need for paralegals in cities across the country.

And, of course, in the 21st century’s pervasive gig economy, freelance paralegals are able to make a comfortable living on flexible terms, allowing them to raise families and attend to other needs they might have. However, it is advisable to have a few years of experience before becoming a paralegal freelancer.

PARALEGAL SALARY

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2017 the median wage for paralegals was $50,410, with the bottom ten percent making less than $31,130 and the top ten percent making over $81,180. Your location, work experience, industry, and specialized knowledge will, of course, contribute to how much you earn, with paralegals in the utilities and healthcare industries making more than those in the retail or advertising sectors.

The paralegal occupation, overall, is an excellent career choice that does not require a four-year (or more) degree with crippling student debt. With a bright industry outlook and great salary potential, those interested in the legal field but not in the law school sticker price should consider enrolling in a paralegal program.

The Paralegal Institute at Brighton College offers an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies as well as a Paralegal Certificate Program. The Paralegal Institute offers all courses online, along with affordable tuition and an emphasis on employability after graduation. For more information, please check out our website—we look forward to hearing from you!