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Paralegals and Legal Assistants Job Outlook

Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is expected to grow by 18 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

As employers try to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of legal services, they are expected to hire more paralegals and legal assistants. Following the cutbacks experienced during the recent recession, some law firms are rebuilding their support staff by hiring paralegals. Paralegals can be a less costly alternative to lawyers and perform a wider variety of duties, including tasks once done by lawyers. This will cause an increase in demand for paralegals and legal assistants.

In addition, paralegals’ work is less likely to be offshored than that of other legal workers. Paralegals routinely file and store important documents and work with lawyers to gather documents for important transactions, hearings, and depositions. They frequently handle documents and take statements, which must be done in person.

Law firms will continue to be the largest employers of paralegals, but many large corporations are increasing their in-house legal departments to cut costs. For many companies, the high cost of lawyers and their support staff makes it much more economical to have an in-house legal department rather than to retain outside counsel. This will lead to an increase in the demand of legal workers in a variety of settings, such as finance and insurance firms, consulting firms, and health care providers.

However, demand for paralegals could be limited by law firms’ work loads. When work is slow, lawyers may increase the number of hours they can bill a client by doing tasks that were previously delegated to paralegals. This may make a firm less likely to keep some paralegals on staff or hire new ones until the work load increases.

Job Prospects

This occupation attracts many applicants, and competition for jobs will be strong. Experienced, formally trained paralegals should have the best job prospects. In addition, many firms will prefer paralegals with experience and specialization in high-demand practice areas.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition