Recession-Proof Jobs: Paralegals Raise the Bar
A paralegal career is a great choice to survive the recession and provide a stable income for you and your family.
Slow economic growth, an unstable market, and rising unemployment make for very bleak outlook for a significant percentage of the population, but there is good news on some fronts. Choosing the right career path-or changing careers from a troubled industry-can be the key to financial stability.
The outlook for a paralegal career is very bright for several reasons. In order to save money, many law firms are shifting tasks once performed by attorneys to the paralegal staff. Expanded job descriptions equal more demand for paralegals. In a January press release from Robert Half, executive director Charles Volkert says that legal firms are offering higher salaries to people with the right skills.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for a paralegal or legal assistant (comparable positions) is expected to be almost twice as good as for other jobs.
But is it recession-proof?
Everyone is asking the same questions. Will I lose my job because of the recession? Will my hours be cut? In order to figure it out, examine what makes a job recession-proof.
Q: Can this job be outsourced to a foreign country where people will work for pennies?
A: Unlikely. Laws are complex and vary from state to state. It's difficult to understand them in your native tongue, let alone try to wrangle meaning from legalese in a second language. Plus, paralegals often have to interview witnesses and track down evidence, so they must be local to the law firm.
Q: Can the company or firm make more money by scaling back employees?
A: No. Without the work performed by paralegals, the company can make no money. They can, however, make more money by hiring fewer lawyers with huge salaries and more paralegals to perform everything but the court arguments.
Q: Will the need for paralegals lessen?
A: As discussed above, no. The job market is expected to grow rapidly.
Other factors to consider
Education - Education can vary widely. Certification is a plus but not a requirement for most employers. Formal paralegal studies are offered by over 1,000 colleges, community colleges, and specialized private paralegal schools, and recognized certification standards have been established by several professional organizations. A paralegal certificate program can be found anywhere in the country and can be completed in as little as 18 months. Online schooling is also available.
Pay Scale - The average starting salary for a paralegal is about $27,000 and top earners make nearly $70,000. Many paralegals also earn bonuses.
Associations and certification:
- The National Association of Legal Assistants - a professional organization with information about the profession, education, and certification
- The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. - administers the Paralegal Advanced Competency Examination (PACE)
- NALS.org - the association for legal professionals, offers two competency certifications for paralegals
- The American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. - offers the AACP certification
- ASSOCIATES VERSUS PARALEGALS: THE SHIFTING BALANCE OF PROFITABILITY, an article on the American Bar Association website outlining the benefits of hiring paralegals over associates
- MSN Encarta calls paralegal a "rock solid career choice"
- Preparation Key to Making Yourself Recession-Proof an article at lawjobs.com
- How to get a contract paralegal job - video