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What is this job like?

Paralegals, or legal assistants, help lawyers in their work. They perform some of the same tasks as lawyers. Paralegals investigate cases to make sure that lawyers know all of the important facts.

Paralegals also do legal research. They look up laws and past cases in books and on computers. Then, they write reports that lawyers use to help prepare their cases. They also keep track of the documents related to the case.

What paralegals do depends on where they work. For example, some paralegals help to write contracts and mortgages. Some help to prepare income tax returns and other financial documents.

Most paralegals work a typical 40-hour week. Most work year round, but some are only employed during busy times of the year. In law firms, some paralegals work very long hours. Most of their work is done at desks in offices and law libraries.

How do you get ready?

There are several ways to become a paralegal. Most people go to a community college for a 2-year degree. Some colleges offer more advanced degrees in paralegal studies.

Some people learn on the job. Sometimes, legal secretaries become paralegals.

Paralegals need good research and writing skills. They should also be able to use computers. Paralegals often deal with the public, so they should be polite. They also have to be honest and ethical.

To start getting ready for this job, students can take English classes to learn how to write and do research. Social studies classes teach about research and the law. People who want to be paralegals need strong reading skills.

How many jobs are there?

Paralegals held about 263,800 jobs in 2008. Most worked for law firms. Others worked for private companies and governments.What about the future?

The number of jobs for paralegals is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2018. Law firms will hire more paralegals to help lawyers prepare their cases. More people and businesses will need legal help. Many people like these jobs, so new workers are expected to face competition.

How much does this job pay?

In May 2008, paralegals had average yearly wages of $48,790. However, earnings of paralegals vary greatly. People who work for large law firms or in big cities earn more.

Are there other jobs like this?

Law clerks

Title examiners, abstractors, and searchers

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