Paralegals Can Do What??
Published on February 4, 2013 by arothstein
Contributed by Brian Craig, Paralegal Program Chair, Broadview University
While many paralegal graduates work for law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies, a variety of nontraditional careers for paralegal graduates exist. Graduates of the paralegal program at Broadview University have many different career options. Some of the alternative employers of paralegal graduates include legal staffing companies, the JAG Corps, legal publishers, collection agencies, law libraries, colleges and universities, title companies, the banking and finance industry, and nonprofit organizations. Other alternative legal careers include working in legislative positions or as a court clerk, guardian ad litem, or mediator.
Legal Staffing Companies
Legal staffing agencies, such as Kelly Law Registry and Robert Half Legal, often work with legal employers. Many legal professionals work on temporary assignments to test out different office cultures while searching for full-time employment. Sometimes a temporary or project assignment may lead to full-time employment. Legal staffing companies also employ legal recruiters and a paralegal graduate may consider a career as a legal recruiter.
A military career with the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps might be an option for individuals who want to serve their country as either an enlisted or civilian employee. The Army, Navy, and Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps employ paralegals who possess knowledge and expertise regarding military and civilian legal systems. The JAG corps, like private law firms, employs not just lawyers but also paralegals and legal assistants. Actress Zoe McLellan portrayed Jennifer Coates, a Legalman (or paralegal and administrative assistant) in Seasons 8-9 on the JAG television series. Individuals who have an interest in working as a paralegal for the Army, Navy, or Air Force JAG corps should contact a local recruiter.
Legal Aid Positions
Working for a legal aid organization is a great way to gain experience and help others in providing access to justice. Some students in the paralegal program have completed internships with Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota and the Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services.
Employment opportunities are also available in the legal publishing industry. The major legal publishers include Reed Elsevier (LexisNexis, Matthew Bender, and Martindale Hubbell), Thomson-Reuters (West, RIA, and Sweet & Maxwell), Wolters Kluwer (CCH, Aspen, and Loislaw), and Bloomberg BNA. Thomson-Reuters is one of the largest private employers in Minnesota with approximately 6,800 employees at its Eagan facility. Paralegal graduates with good people skills may consider pursuing a career in legal publishing in sales and account management. According to glassdoor.com, a site where employees can anonymously submit their salary information, the average salary for a Thomson Reuters Account Manager, based on 37 reported salaries, is approximately $72,776 per year. Indeed, there are many opportunities available with legal publishers for paralegal graduates.
Working for a collection agency as a collections agent or collections specialist is another career option. A collections agent may answer customer questions regarding problems with their accounts, advise customers of necessary actions and strategies for debt repayment, and help locate and notify customers of delinquent accounts by mail or telephone to solicit payment. Taking courses in contracts and bankruptcy can help prepare those who are considering positions with a collection agency.
Another nontraditional legal career for a paralegal graduate is to work as a library assistant or law librarian for a law library. Both universities and law firms employ law librarians and library assistants. A paralegal graduate could work as a library assistant and help catalog and shelve materials. To be a law librarian, a candidate will need to pursue additional education toward a master’s degree in library science (MLS). The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) has some excellent resources about law library careers.
Colleges and Universities
A career in education may also be an opportunity for paralegal graduates. Opportunities exist with career services, alumni relations, and admissions. A paralegal who has gained experience may also consider working as a paralegal instructor at a college or university.
Job opportunities are also available with title companies and property management companies.
Some of the job titles in real estate include mortgage closer and title specialist. Taking courses in real estate and contracts can be especially helpful when considering a job as a mortgage closer or title specialist.
Banking and Finance Industry
The banking and finance industry involves many complex regulatory and compliance issues. Paralegal graduates with knowledge of legal processes may consider opportunities to work as bank probate administrators, escrow agents, compliance specialists, funds administrators, insurance brokers, trust examiners, risk managers and other similar positions.
Paralegal graduates may also consider working for nonprofit organizations to work in philanthropy. Many nonprofit organizations engage in awareness and advocacy of important issues. For example, some students at the Minnesota School of Business have previously completed internships with the Autism Advocacy & Law Center, LLC. For job opportunities in philanthropy, visit the job board with The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Being part of the legislative process as a legislative assistant or as a constituent representative can be an exciting opportunity. There are also opportunities with lobbyists or legislative advocacy firms. For example, one student in the paralegal program at Globe University completed an internship with the North Dakota Motor Carriers Association in Bismarck, North Dakota and helped track pending legislation in the North Dakota State Legislature. Opportunities are available as a constituent services representative. Many new opportunities become available after an election cycle. Some job titles include legislative assistant, page, constituent services representative, chief of staff, or sergeant at arms. Check the website for the state legislature in your home state for opportunities or contact your local elected representatives about internship and employment opportunities.
Court Clerk/Clerk Administrator
Court clerk positions exist with both the federal and state court systems. A court clerk needs good customer service skills and attention to detail. A strong knowledge of legal processes can be helpful for a court clerk or court administrator.
Guardian ad Litem
Those who have a special interest in representing the interests of children may consider working as a guardian at litem. A guardian ad litem is an advocate who represents the best interests of abused and neglected children in court proceedings. Volunteering as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteer is an excellent way to gain experience as a guardian ad litem. CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children. To learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer, visit the website.
To save time and money, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is being used more frequently and in some states, paralegal graduates may qualify as mediators. Some states even require court-appointed mediator in family law cases. The requirements for mediators vary from state to state. While most mediators are attorneys or retired judges, there are also opportunities for paralegal graduates to work as mediators.
Final Words of Advice
To learn more about alternative careers for paralegals, visit the blog post from Lynne DeVenny and this article from About.com.
While sometimes it can be challenging to find a job, it is important to be flexible when starting a new career and stay positive. Take advantage of every opportunity that becomes available. Be willing to pay your dues. If you work hard and perform well, you can advance in your career.
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