How to Become a Legal Researcher In 5 Steps – Career Guide

Understanding the law and basic concepts of the court system is the underlying role of a Legal Researcher.

Legal Researcher

A Legal Researcher helps lawyers and other personnel in a law firm by finding the necessary information about laws by compiling proper facts to uphold a case.

Those who have a great understanding of the legal process and are organized will have the best success in this career.

Job Description

As a Legal Researcher, you will likely work with attorneys throughout the legal process of defending or prosecuting an offender.

Your job will be to keep a record of all the laws about the case as well as find information about the client’s history, the opposing side’s history, and much more.

Along with simple research, a Legal Researcher will also be tasked with:

  • Reviewing legal documents
  • Understanding upcoming changes in laws
  • Providing attorneys with integral information about cases
  • Traveling to courts, prisons, law offices and more
  • Providing accurately researched information
  • Scheduling meetings
  • Interviewing necessary witnesses and experts


In the United States, the average Legal Researcher will make $36 an hour, which adds up to $1,440 per week for full-time employees.

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Yearly, the average Legal Researcher has a salary of $74,880.

The highest salary that a Legal Researcher may obtain throughout their career is likely $51 per hour.

This comes out to about $2,040 or $106,080 for a full year of working in this occupation.

When you are just beginning your career as a Legal Researcher, you should expect to have a salary closer to $25 an hour which comes out to $1,000 each week and $52,000 per year.

Salary Information by State

State Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Arkansas2,160- NA -- NA -- NA -- NA -
District of Columbia5,580$91,880$44.17$124,650$56,780
New Hampshire1,310$56,530$27.18$81,100$37,890
New Jersey9,580$65,570$31.52$96,480$38,650
New Mexico1,850$51,420$24.72$70,010$37,660
New York30,020$69,860$33.59$103,890$45,720
North Carolina12,290$56,120$26.98$81,310$35,920
North Dakota580$54,090$26.00$75,500$39,360
Rhode Island1,320- NA -- NA -- NA -- NA -
South Carolina6,150$52,060$25.03$65,960$37,300
South Dakota500$55,290$26.58$68,120$44,300
West Virginia1,990$50,380$24.22$77,230$28,760
Puerto Rico710$45,220$21.74$65,670$30,560
Virgin Islands70$54,500$26.20$70,620$43,880

Annual Average Salary: Top 10 States

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $91,880.

These are the top 10 earning states in the field:

  • District of Columbia - $91,880
  • California - $76,080
  • Washington - $72,590
  • Massachusetts - $71,670
  • New York - $69,860
  • Colorado - $68,920
  • Delaware - $68,340
  • Connecticut - $67,310
  • Oregon - $66,250
  • New Jersey - $65,570
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Paralegals and Legal Assistants, OCC Code 23-2011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become

1. Earn an Associates Degree

Your first step when considering working as a Legal Researcher is to earn an associate’s degree.

Find the right school for you when you consider enrolling online or in person at a local community college or university.

To get the most out of your career, you will want to have a major in legal studies of some sort.

Consider enrolling in a program such as Communications, Political Science, Business, or Criminal Justice.

It should take about two years to finish an associate degree, and in that time you will want to complete relevant classes that pertain to the judicial system such as Business Law, Investigative Techniques, Office Administration, and writing classes.

Expect to conduct research while in school and learn how to network with lawyers, police officers, witnesses, and offenders.

2. Complete Certification

While it is not mandatory to earn certification to work as a Legal Researcher, many law firms encourage it.

Those who pursue certification will have a set of skills that sets them apart from others.

These qualifications can take anywhere from six months to a couple of years to complete.

Some of the certifications that you may want to consider when becoming a Legal Researcher are:

  • Certified Paralegal
  • Certified Legal Assistant
  • Advanced Certified Paralegal

These certifications will typically expire every two years, so you will need to renew your certification.

There are different associations to consider when finding certification that is accredited, the best ones to look into are the American Alliance of Paralegals, National Association of Legal Investigators, Bloomberg Law

3. Gain Experience

Whether you plan to complete certification or not, you will need to have some experience to be the best Legal Researcher.

This can be done while you are in school or after, with an internship, job shadowing, or work-study program.

Those who are pursuing a career as a Legal Researcher may even be qualified for an entry-level job while completing their Associate’s degree.

Either way, you will want to have at least one year of experience in a law office before you graduate.

Having career experience will set you on a winning path when you graduate with your Associate’s degree.

4. Earn a Bachelors Degree

Now that you have spent two years studying for your Associate’s and have graduated, and have experience in the field, you may be ready to pursue higher education.

Consider completing a bachelor’s degree, which is not necessary to become a Legal Researcher, but does set you apart in the field.

A bachelor’s degree can help you with promotions, raises, and experience in the world of law.

You’ll want to study relevant fields such as legal studies, Criminal Justice, or Political Science.

This is a more in-depth degree than an associate degree, so make sure that you cover your bases with specialized courses that should include:

  • Legal English
  • Healthcare Law
  • Digital Transformation of Law
  • Ethical and Legal Principles

It should take another two years to complete a bachelor’s degree.

5. Advance Your Career

Your schooling is done, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep learning as you continue your career as a Legal Researcher.

The more education you have and the more experience you gain, you’ll have the opportunity to enrich your career with promotions, raises, and other advancements.

You could start by completing a program to complete a Juris Doctorate.

A Juris Doctorate is an advanced degree that will allow you to practice law.

Through case studies, real-life learning experiences, and exams, students in the Juris Doctorate program can become lawyers.

Those who don’t plan to become a full lawyer can still get promoted in various ways such as specific niches, entering legal consulting, and working as a judicial specialist.


The first step to becoming a Legal Researcher is earning an associate’s degree.

This can be done through a local community college or even a university.

Students have even done their schoolwork online to fulfill their dream of becoming a Legal Researcher.

You’ll want to pursue programs that are related to the judicial system such as Criminal Justice, Political Science, Business, and even Communications.

To earn an associate degree, you’ll likely start by taking general education courses and then move on to more specialized courses related to law such as:

  • Criminal Law
  • Forensic Psychology
  • American Politics
  • Law Ethics

While earning an education, you will likely have the opportunity to intern, shadow, or work while learning in a local law firm or other government agency.

Take this opportunity to gain experience and delve into the hands-on experience provided.

After completing your Associate’s degree, you’ll be ready to find a career as a Legal Researcher, or you could pursue a bachelor’s degree.

Once you earn an associate’s degree, your Bachelor’s degree will only take two years to complete.

Within this time, you’ll have experience with research, law, and the judicial system so that you can fully prepare for a lifelong career.

Expect to spend a lot of time in the library understanding and learning about the laws of the country.

Working as a Legal Researcher takes a lot of organization, time, and focus to be successful.

That is why it is important to consider completing a bachelor’s degree in this field, while it is not necessary to begin entry-level work.

Both options for your education will get your foot in the door, and when you want to pursue promotions or become a junior lawyer, a well-rounded education will help you get exactly where you need to be.

Licensing & Certification

Most Legal Researchers do not need certification to maintain a wonderful career.

However, those who want to pursue higher wages, promotions, or other responsibilities within a law firm should consider completing a certification.

These can be done through the local colleges that offer legal studies, or through accredited judicial associations.

A top certification specialist is the National Association for Legal Support Professionals.

Through this organization, Legal Researchers can become certified with a minimum of three years of experience and in some cases more than five years.

Certification can take anywhere from six months to a couple of years to complete, depending on the type of certification desired.

Some examples of appropriate certifications for a Legal Researcher are Accredited Legal Professional, Certified Legal Professional, as well as Professional Paralegal.

Throughout the certification process, you will learn office skills, understanding of law, and research techniques.

To become certified, students will have to pass an exam.

There may be requirements for students to sit for exams, such as experience in the field, ability to speak with attorneys on a professional level, initiative and judgment as well as knowledge of procedural law.

Many websites provide mock exams to help study as the tests can be quite in-depth and may take more than one time to pass.

The exams are typically multiple choice and may have short answer sections to complete as well.

The more advanced the certification that you pursue, the harder the exam will be.

After finishing and becoming certified, you will need to continue your education and recertify after two years.

Certification is not a guarantee that you will gain promotions or special treatment in a law firm or other judicial office, it will simply help you succeed in your career path and teach you direct action to assist with fulfilling career requirements.

Job Outlook

Over the next ten years, the job outlook for Legal Researchers will grow by about 10%.

This is a great rate, and those who are looking to enter into this occupation should do so now.

The reason for this growth is the retirement of older Legal Researchers and also those who are moving up in their careers as well as leaving their careers as a whole.

Legal Researchers are in high demand, and many new career options are opening each year.

Many law firms are popping up all over the United States, providing new opportunities for Legal Researchers who are looking for their next great career.

Should You Become

Overall Satisfaction

The career of a Legal Researcher is one of the most flexible in the judicial system.

That is because you could start your day in an office and end in a courtroom or even a library.

Learning and growing are a big part of this career, and that is why many Legal Researchers find this occupation to be satisfying.

Plus, there are many ways to move up in a law firm, government agency, or other legal team.

If you are highly motivated and have great organizational skills, your time as a Legal Researcher will be well spent and satisfying.

Average Salary

When considering a career as a Legal Researcher, you may be curious about the salary.

The average salary for this occupation is $74,880 each year.

Weekly, that comes out to about $1,440 which is about $36 an hour.

Those with more experience and knowledge of the career can make up to $51 per hour, which is about $106,080 per year.

If you are just beginning your career, you will likely make closer to $25 an hour which is $52,000 per year.

Job Growth Outlook

The job outlook for Legal Researchers looks incredible for the next decade.

That is because new law firms are opening each year, and also many older Legal Researchers are hitting retirement age.

It is also possible to earn promotions frequently in this field, which means more opportunities for new Legal Researchers to enter the scene.

Expect this career to grow about 10% over the next ten years.

Those who are ready to step foot in this career should think about doing so now to get established.

Education Duration

It is required that you have at least an associate’s degree to become a Legal Researcher.

This is necessary so that you have a basic understanding of laws and know how to research important information in the proper procedure.

An associate’s degree will take about two years to finish.

Some law firms require certification, which can take another several months to a year to complete.

Many Legal Researchers even decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree, which is an added two-year experience if you already have an associate’s degree.

All in all, it should take anywhere from two to four years to become a Legal Researcher.

Personal Skills Needed

When you are working as a Legal Researcher, it is important to have a certain set of skills to help guide you in your career.

These skills will give you the upper hand in your job, and they will include such characteristics as:

  • Analytical thinking
  • Ability to do highly educated researcher
  • Critical thinking
  • Advanced writing and typing
  • Communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Networking
  • Organization
  • Ability to work as part of a team

Each day, you will be tasked with new and exciting opportunities, so the ability to work in a multitude of environments will also help in your career.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you have to go to school to become a Legal Researcher?

The minimum education needed to work as a Legal Researcher is two years, which will end in an associate’s degree.

Those who want to gain more education and learn the legal process can earn a bachelor’s degree, which is four years long.

If you have an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree will only take you another two years to complete.

To become a Legal Researcher, expect to spend two to four years in higher education.

Are Legal Researchers in high demand?

Yes, Legal Research is a highly sought-after career.

This is because new law firms continue to pop up all over the United States, plus older Legal Researchers are gaining promotions or retiring from their occupations.

Expect this career to continue to grow over the next ten years all over the country.

Highly populated areas will likely have more opportunities to work in this field.

What kind of education do you need to be a Legal Researcher?

To work as a Legal Researcher in most areas, you’ll need to own at least an associate’s degree.

This takes two years to complete and can be done online or in person at a community college or university.

Those who want to pursue more in their career may take advantage of a bachelor’s degree, which is a required four years of education.

It can take about two to four years to complete your degree and become a Legal Researcher.

How much money does a Legal Researcher make a year?

Working in the United States as a Legal Researcher means that you will typically make about $36 per hour.

Those who are just beginning in this career will have a salary closer to $25 per hour.

Depending on where you work and how many hours a week you are scheduled, you could make about $52,000 to $74,080 per year.

Maintaining your career and gaining experience will allow you to make over $100,000 per year in this role.

What skills do you need to have to be a Legal Researcher?

To do well in this career, it is important to have respect for the law and to have high organizational skills.

You will also want to have good communication abilities and know how to critically think.

Expand on your understanding of courtrooms, law firms, and the judicial system and you will have a long and wonderful career as a Legal Researcher.

Chelsea Wilson

About Chelsea Wilson

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LLM degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

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