When you think of working as a paralegal, you typically think of law offices. You might be surprised to learn, however, that paralegals work in a variety of different fields, not all of them law.
Let’s start with the obvious and then move on to a few not-so-common opportunities you may not have considered.
1. Law Firms
It would be weird if a law office wasn’t the first association you made when thinking of a paralegal career, at least according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Okay, so they don’t mention anything about being weird, but it is certainly no surprise that their data (pictured) found that 72% of paralegals work in the legal services industry.
Specifically, many paralegals work for lawyers in private practice. These firms vary in size and types of practice, which helps to broaden your job prospects.
Before you decide to work in private practice, you might want to ask yourself a few questions:
- What area of law are you interested in? (There are MANY!)
- What size and type of firm are you interested in? Large or small? Corporate or nonprofit?
- If you’re interested in a solo or small firm, are you ready to accept responsibility for other administrative duties?
There’s another important consideration. What if you take a job in a law firm to gain experience and later want to move to a law firm who practices a different area of law?
The good news is that you’re not stuck. Although many law firms may prefer paralegals to have experience in a particular area of law, they’re often open to hiring paralegals that have experience in other specialties. Some of the best places to look for paralegal jobs are, in no particular order, Indeed.com, Craigslist (yes, really), and with your local bar association. Some bar associations have placement services for paralegals.
2. Corporate Legal Departments
Look for jobs as a corporate paralegal if you want more hustle and bustle. As a corporate paralegal, you’ll answer to an attorney, review documents, and conduct research. You’ll even become intimately familiar with laws related to taxation, business, employment, and contracts. Corporations are a good choice if you don’t want to worry about billable hour requirements.
To find a position in a corporate legal department, go directly to the website of the business that you’re interested in, look for their career opportunities, and sort by department. Find the email address of the Human Resources manager and the managing attorney if you don’t see any open paralegal roles. Send an email to each of them that introduces who you are and includes your resume. Remember to encourage them to reach out to you in the event of future openings.
Paralegals now have the ability to pursue and succeed in self-employment. Websites like Upwork, FlexJobs, and SkipTheDrive provide a platform that gives paralegals the choice to work with small firms, solo lawyers, virtual attorneys, or all of the above!
As a self-employed paralegal, you can also determine whether you work part or full time.
Lawyers and businesses may hire a self-employed paralegal rather than having one in-house for a myriad of reasons including:
- They don’t always need full time help. Having a trusted, experienced paralegal that they can call on when they need help is an important aspect of their success.
- They may not want to or be able to afford to pay a full time paralegal. When it comes to having a full time employee, it’s not just a salary that they worry about. They also have to consider overhead costs, equipment costs, workers’ compensation insurance, health insurance, and other factors.
As a self-employed paralegal, you work from your own space and have the option to work for multiple clients. Even with handling your own taxes, it can be a very rewarding career choice.
Colleges that offer paralegal studies programs need educators. The credentials that each college requires from their teachers largely depend on the type of programs they offer. For instance, an institution with Associate degree programs in paralegal studies may prefer to hire those with a Bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies or an Associate’s degree plus several years of experience.
To find teaching positions, do some research to find paralegal studies programs in your area or online. You can then either visit that college’s employment section on their website, or use a job board service like Indeed.com to save a job search for teaching positions related to paralegal studies.
5. Human Resources
If you’d like to take a different route that will utilize the skills that you’ve developed, consider Human Resources. Your experience as a paralegal has made you a proficient researcher, and you’ve likely interacted with a plethora of clients. Transitioning to a Human Resources department is often a natural fit for paralegals.
6. Business Analyst
Similar to paralegals, business analysts have strong computer and communication skills. They are paid to consider the needs of a business and determine how changes in that industry will affect it. The information collected is then used to create reports and presentations for business owners or shareholders, which should be familiar territory for many paralegals.
And That’s Just the Beginning…
The training you have as a paralegal is invaluable to a multitude of industries. Almost every industry has a need for paralegals in the traditional sense, and your skills as a paralegal can make it easy for you to fit into number of other careers.
If you received educational training through a paralegal studies program and you’re struggling to find a job, reach out and contact them. Ask to speak with someone in their career services department. A career services specialist can look at your resume and may be able to help you find open opportunities that best fit your skills.