If you are interested in a career in the legal system, it is possible to earn to a degree in Paralegal Studies in far less time than it would take to complete Law School.
Contrary to popular belief, paralegals also work in many different places besides law firms. There are several fields that require paralegals, and the demand for paralegals is greater than ever.
Let’s look at some of the different places paralegals work, what the work looks like in each field, and which regions are the best places for paralegals to find employment.
Eight Fields Where Paralegals Can Find Work
The demand for parlegals is high. The Bureau of Labor Statistic projects a 12% job growth for paralegals between 2020 and 2030. Over 41,000 new paralegal jobs will be created over this time frame.
Note: The data provided above are from a source unaffiliated with MTI College, are for informational purposes only and represent the employment field as a whole. They are not solely specific to MTI graduates and, by providing the above information, MTI makes no representation, direct or implied, or opinion regarding employability.
Here are eight sectors where paralegals can find employment opportunities.
1. Law Firms / Legal Services
Legal firms continue one of the most prominent places where paralegals find work. This makes sense as the basic duties of paralegals are to provide support to attorneys. While paralegals cannot give legal advice or practice law, they provide invaluable support to legal offices and perform essential work.
In California, about 75% of paralegals work in Legal Services. Nationally, about 73% of paralegals work in Legal Services.
Paralegals in private law firms work under the supervision of an attorney to investigate laws, gather evidence, create reports, interview clients, compile and organize documents, prepare paperwork for filing with the Court, prepare cases for trial, and other important duties which keep the law firm running smoothly and ensure that the clients’ are zealously represented.
Entry-level paralegal positions in California usually require an Associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies. Candidates with a Bachelor’s degree might be able to start at higher positions within a law firm. Salary is usually dependent on experience, location of the firm, and size of the firm.
Both nationally and in California, the three leading places where paralegals work are, in order: Legal Services, Government (Federal, State, and local), and Corporate Law. According to EDD, these are the leading sectors where paralegals work in California:
|Industry Title||Percentage of Paralegal Employment in California|
|Management of Companies and Enterprises||1.5%|
Paralegals are needed at all levels of government: federal, state, and local. The duties you will perform will vary depending on the level of government in which you are working. At the state level, you may need to be familiar with insurance or housing law. Paralegals working in local government may work with county attorneys or public defenders, legal aid assistance, or be involved with community outreach. In government positions, you must have highly focused knowledge of the area of law that your agency deals with.
Paralegals in corporate law usually work in-house for a single company, helping set up legal documents for a company. If you are a paralegal working in corporate law, you will seldom interact with the courts or the public. So, what type of work does the corporate paralegal do?
Typical duties an in-house paralegal might do include: reviewing contracts, protecting intellectual property, overseeing company compliance with federal and state regulations, preparing incorporation documents, recording board of directors minutes, helping human resources, and working with outside counsel on litigated matters. Paralegals in corporate law may also review contracts for product licensing, consult on legal documents for partnerships and affiliate agreements, or draft privacy or GDPR policies.
Corporate paralegals work in a fast-paced environment, and typically have more career mobility than paralegals in a private law firm. If business fascinates you, this may be the ideal career path for you as a paralegal.
4. Real Estate and Title Insurance
This is a specialized field that may require the paralegal to earn a certification for working with real estate documents (depending on your state). In most states, you will have to pass a realtor’s exam to prepare this paperwork. If you are also selling title insurance, you will have to pass a certification exam to be an insurance broker.
Why might you choose this path? Every time a mortgage is underwritten and real estate is sold, a title company must prepare documents for filing, as ownership of the property is transferred. Houses and property are always being sold, and there is always a need for licensed individuals who can prepare these documents. Paralegals that work in real estate or title insurance can perform a title search and file the necessary documents with the courts after a sale.
5. Estate Planning and Probate
Estate planning is an important service. As people get older, they begin planning how their estate will be managed after their death. Navigating the laws can be confusing and overwhelming for clients, and the paralegal helps them through this process. Empathy, interpersonal skills, and compassion are traits that will help the paralegal work effectively with clients in this sector.
The estate planning paralegals help clients prepare wills, set up estates and trusts, plan property distribution, and help with probate hearings and deeds. Some of the tasks you may be required to help clients with include managing the recordation of deeds, managing inheritance taxes, preparing and filing wills and living wills, or filing probate pleadings.
6. NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations)
If you are motivated by social issues, and want to make a difference, becoming a paralegal for an NGO might be a viable option for you. NGOs are almost always non-profits, and usually rely on donations and government grants to do their work. As a result, the pay for an NGO paralegal will almost certainly be less than a for a paralegal working in corporate law or in a prestigious law firm. However, the impact you can make on the world can be fulfilling.
Some examples of issues that NGOs may tackle include: low-income housing, legal representation for refugees or immigrants, representing domestic abuse victims, documenting human rights violations, fighting for civil liberties, or protecting land involved in tribal treaties.
Certain NGOs may visit other countries, and paralegals may assist in acquiring paperwork or documenting specific rights violations. In these cases, a deep understanding of international law will be beneficial.
Paralegals for NGOs may not be in the public eye, but they provide a valuable service for the clients they assist.
7. Immigration Services
Paralegals working in immigration law may work at a law office specializing in immigration law or at corporations that require an immigration lawyer (i.e., for H-B1 visas). These paralegals may assist in gathering, preparing, and filing legal documents; petitioning for political asylum for clients, or preparing paperwork to prevent deportation.
Fluency in different languages is a plus for this type of work, as the immigration law firm may value multilingual employees and depend on their talents. If you enjoy making a positive difference or like fast-paced work, immigration law may be a good career option for you.
8. Medical / Healthcare
Healthcare paralegals are needed as insurance companies, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and medical companies all require some form of legal departments. Medical malpractice lawsuits are one reason for this need for paralegals. Lawsuits against a hospital or facility can take three to five years to culminate, and many of these cases are settled out of court. There can be hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars, on the line in these cases, so healthcare paralegals are a necessity. Insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies may also be incentivized to minimize litigation.
Even outside of litigation or malpractice cases, paralegals can stay busy at a hospital reviewing contracts with healthcare unions, hospital vendors, and overseeing HIPPA regulation and other compliance policies.
Challenges for California Employers Looking for Paralegals
A 2020 survey of 509 California employers by the Employment Development Department (EDD) showed that the biggest challenge is finding qualified applicants with experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements. Many also say that even when looking for applicants without prior paralegal experience, many do not meet their minimum hiring requirements.
There is still a large ongoing opportunity for trained paralegals who are ready to step into a position, especially in high demand states like California.
The Paralegal Associate of Arts Degree program at MTI College, whether delivered in OnlinePlus hybrid learning style, or fully online (for qualified students), uses a curriculum approved by the American Bar Association and is staffed by MTI’s seasoned paralegal faculty.
After graduation, you will become valuable members of the legal services field, providing solid, knowledgeable support in civil, criminal and regulatory areas of the law. Our Paralegal Studies graduates are highly qualified and able to effectively perform substantive and procedural legal tasks under the supervision of licensed attorneys.
Next, what does the job market look like for paralegals in California and the rest of the country?
How Much Can I Earn as a Paralegal in My Local Market?
You may be wondering what the paralegal job market looks like in California compared to the rest of the United States. Below are some statistics on specific areas where paralegals are in demand, and how much paralegals earn on average in those areas. Note: This information is from May 2020 via the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Top 10 States by Paralegal Jobs
|State||Number of Jobs||Employment per 1000 jobs||Hourly Mean Wage||Annual Mean Average Salary|
States with Highest Average Pay for Paralegals
|State||Number of Paralegal Jobs||Employment per 1000 Jobs||Mean Average Annual Salary||Average Hourly Wage|
|District of Columbia||5,870||8.55||$83,330||$40.06|
California Regions – Paralegal Employment Stats
|California Region or Metro Area||Paralegal Employment||Employment per 1000 jobs||Annual Mean Average Salary||Hourly Mean Average Wage|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||15,250||2.619||$63,390||$30.48|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||6,390||2.742||$75,820||$36.45|
|San Diego-Carslbad, CA||2,620||1.873||$68,130||$32.76|
|Riverside-San Bernadino-Ontario, CA||1,730||1.159||$61,180||$29.41|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||1,530||1.390||$90,280||$43.40|
|Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA||520||1.742||$58,230||$28.00|
|Bakersfield, CA||360||1.176||$60,510||$29.09||Santa Barbara-Santa Maria, CA||300||1.629||$63,260||$30.41|
|Santa Rosa, CA||300||1.526||$75,390||$36.24|
|North Coast region of California, non-metropolitan||100||0.971||$58,300||$28.03|
|North Valley-North Mountain Region of California, non-metropolitan||80||0.850||$49,710||$23.90|
|Redding, CA||Not reported||Not reported||$57,930||$27.85|
|Eastern Sierra- Mother Lode region of California, non-metropolitan||Not reported||Not reported||$54,750||$26.32|
Take The First Steps Towards Becoming a Paralegal
The A.A. Online Paralegal Studies program at MTI College is open to students residing in California who have already completed 54 quarter units (36 semester units) in general studies and business from an accredited institution and have an Associate’s degree or higher. This fully online program will let you fast track your education to becoming a paralegal in California. For more details, or to talk directly to our friendly Admissions department, call (916) 339-1500 or fill our contact form today. A representative from MTI College will be in contact with you shortly afterwards.
If you reside in the Sacramento area, you can also attend our Paralegal Studies Associates Degree program, in our OnlinePlus format. This format allows student to complete most coursework online, with minimal in-classroom required days. Our Admissions team can give you details on our paralegal programs.