Paralegals are a growing branch of law professionals, performing many of the more mundane tasks for lawyers, and some of the administration of legal cases. Paralegals help lawyers prepare for closings, hearings and trials, and for corporate meetings. They conduct much of the research necessary for these activities, looking at appropriate laws, judicial decisions, articles in journals and similar activities and present written reports summarizing and analyzing this information. They also help draft contracts and other legal agreements and documents, and help in tax planning and estate management. However, they are explicitly prohibited from carrying out duties which are considered to be the practice of law, for instance giving legal advice, and presenting cases in court.
Employers usually require formal training in the form of an associate or bachelor���s degree. Paralegal training programs are offered by many paralegal schools, and include the study of law and legal research methods, and some specialized areas of law such as estate planning, litigation, family law and criminal law. Students will increasingly study administration and legal information systems.
Prospects are good, with jobs projected to grow faster than average according to the US Department of Labor. Earnings are good too, with an average salary of around $35,360 and the top 10% earning as much as $56,060 in 2000.