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2020 Vision for Paralegals: Forecast, Formal Training & Finding Work

Posted by Tami Riggs

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Aug 28, 2019 11:00:00 AM

2020 Forecast AdobeStock_282754492Texas has the fourth highest employment rate for paralegals and legal assistants in the United States.1

Dallas-Ft Worth and Houston Metropolitan areas, representing six major US cities, account for the highest level of jobs in the profession in Texas.

The outlook for paralegals and legal assistants is not just good, it’s great! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Projections Central, employment in the field is expected to grow much faster than average, compared to other occupations, with a 15% increase projected nationwide through 2026.2 Prospects for legal roles in Texas are even higher, with a projected annual increase of 22%. This means more jobs, more positive employment opportunities and an optimistic outlook for the profession. 

A paralegal is a legal support staff member who is not a lawyer but is qualified to perform substantive legal work, with the exception of certain restricted legal activities. Despite popular belief, paralegals are not secretaries who only perform administrative tasks. The role of a paralegal spans many functions such as researching legal precedent, performing investigative work on cases and preparing legal documents. Job descriptions for paralegals are diverse and will vary by firm, practice area and industry. However, one thing is certain: education and training are fundamental for paralegal success. According to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, “…the role of higher education and formal paralegal education is increasingly important in the growth and development of the paralegal profession.”3

Paralegals can obtain qualifications through a formal training program like those available at Center for Advanced Legal Studies (CALS). CALS teaches to the highest standards and offers paralegal programs on campus in Houston, Texas and online nationwide. CALS also conferred more paralegal credentials in 2016-2017 than any other accredited program in Texas and ranked fourth in the United States.4 With 30+ years of experience specializing in the education and training of paralegals nationwide, CALS is uniquely positioned to help you begin or advance your career. 

How you start working in the paralegal profession depends on many factors. CALS has posted blogs on a variety of topics: paralegal program length and non-accredited short-term programs, overcoming “no experience obstacles”, the importance of relationship building, effective writing and communication, and other skills necessary to ensure success; available at www.paralegal.edu/blog. Bottom line - be prepared! The following recommendations will increase your chances for success:

  1. Complete your formal education from an accredited program that meets industry-recommended standards and contains at least 24 semester hours of skills-based paralegal training. Maintain strong attendance and good grades. Law firms often correlate academic achievement with ability.
  2. Hone skills that will enable you to perform legal tasks. Foster good personal habits. Maintain ethical standards. In order to be successful as a paralegal the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE) recommends that paralegals demonstrate computer proficiency and a common core of legal knowledge and competencies which includes critical thinking, organization, research, writing, verbal communication, and interpersonal skills.5
  3. Intern or volunteer with a legal entity to gain legal experience.
  4. Network with career counselors, paralegal organizations and recruiters to strengthen your connections and build contacts.
  5. Draft a resume that will wow your future employer. Make details of your background compelling but don’t embellish or exaggerate. Be able to explain breaks in employment or other gaps in your history.
  6. Present yourself as someone who wants a legal position. This means showing up on time for the interview dressed appropriately with a resume that reflects your training and background. Ask questions so that you understand the role, the firm, it’s organizational and cultural structure and how you would be a good fit for the job. Finally, mail a thank you note after the interview.

Not only is the prospect for more jobs apparent, but as new practice areas also evolve to address emerging issues, a variety of new and different jobs are anticipated on the legal landscape. The scope of work for paralegals is expanding and the outlook is bright. Paralegals have been in high demand and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm (visited June 06, 2019).
2 https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm (visited July 03, 2019).
3 National Federation of Paralegal Associations, “Paralegal Responsibilities”, on the Internet at https://www.paralegals.org/files/Paralegal_Responsibilities.pdf (visited July 03, 2019). 
4 U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. (2016/2017)
5 American Association for Paralegal Education, “Paralegal Students”, on the Internet at https://www.aafpe.org/paralegal-students (visited July 03, 2019).

Tami Riggs 125px Tami Riggs
Director of Outreach and Career Services

Tami has an extensive and varied professional background that spans criminal justice, paralegal education, and international school marketing and communication. Her career has been guided by a focus on developing strategic partnerships that facilitate school growth and student opportunity. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Texas State University.

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