Paralegal jobs are involved in nearly every type of business, because they are needed wherever lawyers are. Most paralegals (about 70%,) work for law firms, but a great deal are employed in organizations such as:
- Corporate legal departments
- Insurance companies
- Legal clinics
- Accounting and engineering firms
- Title companies
- Construction companies
Still others are employed in government agencies such as the US Department of Justice, the Social Security Administration, the US Department of Treasury, state and local governments, and various courts.
Some paralegals are self-employed, contracting out their services to several clients. Many of these freelance paralegals specialize in a specific area of law, such as litigation, corporate law, criminal law, intellectual property, family law or real estate.
According to the US Labor Bureau, the duties of paralegals vary depending on who employs them.
Paralegals working for corporate legal departments assist with internal business such as employee contracts, shareholder agreements, stock-option and benefit plans, annual reports, and corporate loan forms. They are responsible for keeping up with changes in the legal system and ensuring that corporations stay within the law.
Paralegals working in law firms or litigation analyze legal materials, maintain files, conduct research and analyze evidence. They often prepare internal background briefs and other documents.
Paralegals in community legal service help the poor and other people in need of legal assistance They conduct research, prepare and file documents and will occasionally represent clients at hearings, when authorized.
According to the National Federation of Paralegal Association’s 2006 Salary Survey, paralegals most commonly specialize in litigation, with 46 percent of those polled reporting the specialization.
Between 15 and 20 percent of paralegals reported specializing in contracts, corporate governance, personal injury defense and probate estates or trusts.
Here you can learn more about different types of paralegals, or read a general paralegal job description.
(Figures courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Employment & Wages database.)