Paralegals have training and skills that give them front-row access to courtroom proceedings.
You can also work for law firms and legal organizations as a paralegal.
Your skills in legal writing and as a legal aide will go far if you decide to pursue a master of law degree to become a lawyer.
First, determine which jobs to consider when getting certified as a US paralegal.
List of Entry-Level Jobs for Paralegals
Here is a list of the most popular jobs for professionals trained as a paralegal.
You can earn a certificate or certification as a paralegal and apply for applicable positions.
If you are in an area with few entry-level paralegal jobs per se, you can find a job in a similar field.
This way, you can use your degree or certificate as a paralegal and still gain relative experience.
Otherwise, entry-level paralegals are hired by law firms to work for attorneys.
Become a legal secretary to utilize your new knowledge of the legal system and laws.
This is a job where you must have a working knowledge of the field of law.
In addition, your job involves administrative assistant tasks, such as filing paperwork and overseeing accounting.
The typical salary for a legal secretary in the US, according to PayScale, is $59,460 a year.
Office Assistant for a Small Law Firm
You can do a lot as an office assistant with entry-level paralegal experience.
Your tasks include answering the phones, communicating with clients, and filing paperwork.
Travel arrangements, inventories, and marketing materials are tasks performed by an office assistant for a small law firm.
Start with a small legal office as an entry-level paralegal to stay calm as you learn how to be a paralegal.
The salary for an office assistant ranges from 36,912 to $47,292 a year in the US.
Municipal Court Administrative Assistant
A municipal court administrative assistant is most like a paralegal.
This job requires you to review court cases and process citations.
You are also involved with legal writing and legal filing.
The administrative side of this position entails managing customer service requests and processing legal paperwork.
The job as a municipal court administrative assistant in the US pays between $45,212 and $55,811.
File Clerk for Courts
Providing an essential function of paralegals, court file clerks handle all document filing.
This includes preparing and organizing court case documents.
A file clerk also archives records and deals with pulling records.
If you are an entry-level paralegal, working as a file clerk for courts will give you plenty of experience dealing with legal filing and documentation.
The average salary for a file clerk for courts in the US is 36,328.
If you want to become an attorney or lawyer later in your legal career, start with an entry-level job as a legal researcher.
You must research case laws and information needed for casework in pre-trial scenarios.
You work directly with research lawyers and legal executives in the process.
This job pays well for an entry-level paralegal at between 55,252 to $68,739 a year.
As a stenographer for a legal office, your job involves transcribing audio into written text.
A legal stenographer works with dialogue recorded in courtrooms and public events.
If you are an entry-level paralegal who wants to become a court reporter one day, a job as a legal stenographer will lead to good work experience.
Also, stenographers are needed for the medical industry to transcribe medical proceedings.
You can branch out from the legal field to work in medicine as a stenographer.
A legal stenographer typically earns between $44,701 and $81,101 annually in the US.
You must train in machine transcription to transcribe audio and verbal communication into written text.
Paralegal work involves various aspects like court reporting and machine transcription.
Working as an entry-level paralegal, you can get a job as a machine transcriptionist for the courtrooms or a legal firm.
Gain a strong foothold with machine transcription tools, software, and legal shorthand.
This job also requires you to do legal writing and research, along with preparing professional reports.
An audio machine transcriptionist in courtrooms earns approximately $51,300 a year.
Court reporters are the professionals who sit front and center in a courtroom.
As a court reporter, you record all the communication and events during a trial or disposition.
You must learn case laws and the legal process as you prepare to sit through entire days of court sessions.
Court reporters are also responsible for transcribing court documents for lawyers and legal teams.
A court reporter’s salary ranges from $44,698 to $81,084 annually.
Legal Aide / Legal Assistant
A legal aide is synonymous with a paralegal assistant or legal assistant.
You can work as a legal aide at most law firms if you are an entry-level paralegal.
This is one of the more accessible routes to gaining a foothold as a paralegal.
You can also be a legal aide for legal aid societies and government offices.
Legal assistants earn an average of $54,877 a year.
Choose a job as a litigation assistant if you want more experience working with legal tasks and administrative duties.
Unlike a paralegal who focuses on legal responsibilities, a litigation assistant works directly with a lawyer.
This occupation provides entry-level paralegals with more experience on the lawyer side of the table.
You provide administrative assistance to a lawyer and work as a liaison on their behalf.
By serving as a litigation assistant, you learn more about what it is like to work as a lawyer.
The typical salary for a litigation assistant is $53,883 a year.
5 Tips for Paralegals Looking for a Job
As you pursue a job as a paralegal, there are tips for getting hired by the employer you want to work for in a timely manner.
Along with being prepared with a paralegal certificate or degree, you need to have related experiences.
These can be work or volunteer experiences but must involve law or the legal process.
Here are five more tips for helping you find a job as a paralegal.
1. Complete an Internship While in Paralegal School
While you are still in school for paralegal training, look for an internship opportunity.
Your academic advisor and school program will be the ideal source to go to for an internship.
If nothing is available, go directly to law firms and lawyers.
Send them your resume and share that you are currently enrolled in paralegal training.
Discuss the possibility of an internship, which could be paid and lead to a job upon completion.
An internship grants students a free and more relaxed way to gain work experience without having to be hired.
While you need to apply to a law firm and get additional training as an intern, finding a mentor and a place to be an intern is not impossible.
2. Update Your Resume to Focus on Law and Legal Experience
You are ready to add that to your resume once you have finished school to be a paralegal.
In addition, any work-study or internship programs you complete while a paralegal should be included on your new paralegal resume.
Here is where you also want to update the resume to focus only on past work experience and volunteering that relates to law.
You might need to fill in some gaps and get a few more networks lined up.
This brings up the following tip for paralegals looking for employment.
3. Join an Association for Paralegals to Network
There are several types of associations for paralegals to network and help you find a job faster.
The American Bar Association provides the bar exam for lawyers.
If you plan later to pursue a career as an attorney or lawyer, work with the ABA as a paralegal to gain an advantage.
States typically have a state-wide association for paralegals; most civic groups will have their own paralegal association.
Here is a list of some of the different associations that are available for paralegals:
- American Bar Association
- The Paralegal Association (NALA)
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- Washington State Paralegal Association
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- American Association for Justice (AAJ) Paralegal Affiliates
- American Association for Paralegal Education
Choose one of these associations and become a member.
While the paid membership might seem like a lot now, getting a great paying job as a paralegal will be more than worth the cost.
You can also find more resources like discounts for paralegal-related services and products.
Associations for paralegals are also important for helping you feel connected as a community and group with other paralegals.
4. Get Specialized With Paralegal-Related Certifications
Many certification exams are paralegal-related and can help you achieve your career goals.
For example, the American Alliance of Paralegals offers the Paralegal Certification Program and AACP certification.
Here is a list of some of the paralegal certifications that you can obtain with training as a paralegal:
- Certified Paralegal Certification
- Professional Paralegal Certification
- Advanced Paralegal Certification
- Legal Document Assistant Certification
- Accredited Legal Professional Certification
- Certified Legal Professional Certification
- Professional Legal Secretary Certification
Each of these certification exams requires prerequisites that must be met.
Generally, you must have graduated from a paralegal certificate or degree program.
In addition, you will most likely have a minimum number of internship or work hours to be eligible for certification.
You also have to apply and send a payment of typically $200 per exam sitting.
If accepted for the board exam, you can take the test on a given date.
Upon a passing score for the board exam, you receive certification for that specialized area as a paralegal.
Training is required before you are ready to take these exams for certification.
You will be required to know a lot of detailed and applicable information related to the certification exam.
After all, these professional exams prove that you are highly qualified in that area.
5. Volunteer With Legal Aid Societies and Firms
You can volunteer with legal aid societies and firms to expand your career reach.
You can connect with mentors or volunteer on committees with your skills as an entry-level paralegal.
There are many legal aid societies and nonprofit organizations that work with communities.
This includes the Legal Services Corporation.
The Legal Services Cooperation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit organization in 1974.
Congress is responsible for the LSC, which provides financial support and civil legal aid to low-income families.
Locally, look for places where you can volunteer your legal services.
In the Northwest, some examples are the Thurston County Volunteer Legal Services in Washington or the Washington Pro Bono Council.
The American Bar Association also provides free legal aid to individuals, and you can help.
Apply to volunteer for the ABA and learn what services are most needed by the public.
Use this insight to help you gain more expertise and certifications in more relevant areas of law and the legal process.
This will help you boost your resume and get a job as an entry-level paralegal.