Paralegals and Legal Assistants Can Add Value to Your Organization
- 4/5/17 |
- 1:16 PM
- 355 Views
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 8 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
However, in the first quarter of 2017, at J. Kent Staffing, a Denver based temporary staffing agency and direct hire recruiting firm we are noticing an uptick in the demand for skilled paralegals and legal assistants by many of our law firm clients and corporate legal departments. And, through J. Kent's GSA Schedule 736 (Temporary Administrative Professional Staffing Services) contract, we have recently provided a number of paralegals and legal assistants, and top administrative staff to our government customers.
What is Driving the Increased Demand for Paralegals and Legal Assistants?
As law firms try to increase the efficiency of legal services and reduce their costs, they are expected to hire more paralegals and legal assistants. In these cases, paralegals and legal assistants can take on a hybrid role within the firm, performing not only traditional paralegal duties but also some of the tasks previously assigned to legal secretaries, other legal support workers or entry-level lawyers.
Paralegals Perform Tasks Once Done by Entry-Level Lawyers
According to the BLS, Occupational Outlook Handbook, law firms also are attempting to reduce billing costs as clients push for less expensive legal services. Due to their lower billing rates to clients, paralegals and legal assistants can be a less costly alternative to lawyers despite performing a wide variety of tasks once done by entry-level lawyers. This should cause an increase in demand for paralegals and legal assistants.
In-House Legal Department Increases are Leading to Higher Paralegal Demand
Although law firms will continue to be the largest employers of paralegals; many large corporations are increasing their in-house legal departments to cut costs. For many companies, the high cost of outside counsel makes it more economical to have an in-house legal department. This will lead to an increase in the demand for legal workers in a variety of settings, such as finance and insurance firms, consulting firms, and healthcare providers.
Denver Law Firms Hire Paralegals and Legal Assistants to Control Costs
Law firms and corporate legal departments are no different than any other well run business--they are interested in controlling costs, and with the support of an experienced paralegal, this goal can be accomplished. A paralegal, in both private practice and in-house legal departments can perform semi-legal tasks, therefore, giving the much higher paid attorneys the actual legal work. Obviously, controlling costs is not the only reason…but it is right up there.
The Occupation Attracts Many - How Do You Get a Top Paralegal or Legal Assistant Job?
Becoming a paralegal is a great option for individuals who are interested in law but don't want to endure the lengthy process of becoming a lawyer. This occupation attracts many applicants, and competition for those top Denver jobs will be strong. Most paralegals and legal assistants have an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies, or a bachelor's degree in another field and a certificate in paralegal studies. However, at J. Kent Staffing we have found that most employers prefer, and many require, the applicants to have a bachelor’s degree. The combination of a paralegal education program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) with a college degree, is also highly sought after. Certainly education, certifications, training and experience are a core qualifier, however, let us not forget, it’s the soft qualifications that must be there as well:
- Communication skills: Paralegals must be able to document and present their research and related information to their supervising attorney.
- Computer and computer software skills: Paralegals need to be familiar with using computers for legal research and litigation support. They also use computer programs for organizing and maintaining important documents. Proficiency in MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook) is a basic must
- Interpersonal skills: Paralegals spend most of their time working with clients and other professionals and must be able to develop good relationships. They must make clients feel comfortable sharing personal information related to their cases.
- Organizational skills: Paralegals may be responsible for many cases at one time. They must adapt quickly to changing deadlines.
- Research skills: Paralegals need good research and investigative skills to conduct legal research.
What do Paralegals and Legal Assistants Typically Do?
- Investigate and gather the facts of a case
- Conduct research on relevant laws, regulations, and legal articles
- Organize and maintain documents in paper or electronic filing systems
- Gather and arrange evidence and other legal documents for attorney review and case preparation
- Write or summarize reports to help lawyers prepare for trials
- Draft correspondence and legal documents, such as contracts and mortgages
- Get affidavits and other formal statements that may be used as evidence in court
- Help lawyers during trials by handling exhibits, taking notes, or reviewing trial transcripts
- File exhibits, briefs, appeals and other legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Call clients, witnesses, lawyers, and outside vendors to schedule interviews, meetings, and depositions
- Help lawyers prepare for hearings, trials, and corporate meetings
What is the Earning Potential for Paralegals and Legal Assistants in Denver?
In Denver, Colorado, according to salary.com, for a Paralegal I, the median salary range (50th percentile) is $53,111 ($25.53/hour) and may go as high as $66,212 ($31.83/hour) (90th percentile). We have also seen that paralegals and legal assistants with advanced education and experience in high-demand practice areas such as litigation will see the greatest employment opportunities and earning potential. Fifty percent of all paralegals work in litigation but they are also found in such specialized areas as personal injury, criminal law, employee benefits, intellectual property, bankruptcy, immigration, family law, and real estate, and of course in the corporate world, for example, Contract Administration, and some, believe it or not, work in libraries.
One Final Thought - Paralegals and Legal Assistants Can Be a Great Asset in the Corporate World
Paralegals and legal assistants in many cases also make very good executive or higher level administrative assistants in the corporate world. They are generally well organized, able to meet deadlines, prioritize and work under stress. They are smart, self sufficient and highly proficient in current business software and database management. Furthermore, they are discreet, with the ability to handle sensitive, confidential information--so valuable in the C-level office suite. If they can make the transition from legal to corporate, you could have a winner and increased productivity.
The Information Provided Does Not Constitute Legal Advice
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics and salary.com