Career Development

15 Alternative Careers for Paralegals

Having worked as a paralegal, many of your legal and soft skills transfer to other careers.

Administrative Assistant

Administrative assistants help manage an office and coordinate the day-to-day operations. Duties include:

  • Distributing mail
  • Creating and keeping filing systems, both physical and electronic
  • Managing accounts and bookkeeping
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Maintaining calendars
  • Scheduling meetings for staff and others
  • Answering phone and welcoming visitors
  • Prepare materials, such as memos, reports, invoices, emails, and more

These duties are similar to that of a paralegal, and this is to your benefit. Most employers like to see administrative assistants with prior experience in the field, so you should be able to work in a variety of offices.

The average administrative assistant earns $15.42 per hour in the United States, though more experienced ones can earn $30 per hour.

To be a successful administrative assistant, you should have excellent:

  • Writing skills. This includes punctuation, grammar, sentence flow, and spelling. Since you’re writing professional correspondences on behalf of others and a company, coherence and accuracy are of the utmost importance.
  • Decision-making skills. As an administrative assistant, you’ll be forced to make decisions daily, and there won’t always be someone to consult.
  • Organizational skills. This role requires juggling many responsibilities and keeping records straight.
  • Communication and collaboration. As an administrative assistant, you should be able to work well with others, including clients, support personnel, and other coworkers.

Arbitrator

Arbitrators help settle disagreements that don’t appear in court. Almost every legal contract contains an arbitration clause that forces both parties to resolve their dispute out-of-court. This is placed in contracts because arbitration is often faster, more efficient, and overall far less of a headache than going to court.

As an arbitrator, you hear the case presented by both sides and make a decision on the issues. This decision is usually final. You need to consider evidence, draw on your knowledge of the law, and weigh both sides carefully.

Overall, the duties of an arbitrator include:

  • Schedule appointments between parties
  • Interview stakeholders
  • Clarify arguments of both parties
  • Encourage communication between the disputing parties
  • Analyze documents and records
  • Apply industry knowledge and laws to settle arguments

Arbitrators are frequently employed by government agencies, labor unions, or businesses as full-time workers. To be an arbitrator, you’ll need a Law or Business degree, as well as experience working in the industry for which you are arbitrating.

Arbitrators must possess excellent communication skills, take on a neutral position, and have an excellent understanding of law and procedures.

On average, arbitrators make $63,900 per year, with junior-level arbitrators starting out at $46,460 per year. Arbitrator careers are projected to grow 8% through 2029.

Attorney

One natural progression for paralegals is to become an attorney. Spending time being a paralegal can prepare a person for the legal field very well.

As an attorney, you:

  • Stay up-to-date on legislation
  • Provide legal support
  • Meet with clients to discuss their needs and how to defend them
  • Advise clients on how to lower their charges, including public image and social media
  • Alert clients of various legal options available to them
  • Craft compelling arguments in favor of your clients based on the law and evidence
  • Prepare legal documents such as pleadings, contracts, and depositions

To thrive as an attorney, you’ll need to be able to:

  • Communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing
  • Pass the bar
  • Handle many cases and work long hours
  • Work independently to solve a case OR work with a team of lawyers
  • Think critically
  • Speak well in public
  • Work well with others (strong interpersonal skills)

The average attorney earns $89,278 per year, and you’ll need to obtain a JD before you can pass the bar and practice law. The job outlook for lawyers from 2019-2029 is an increase of 4%, or about average.

Banking

Like many other institutions, banks handle lots of contracts and legal documents. Paralegals can transition into the banking field by working with these contracts, including:

  • Writing legally accurate documents
  • Executing legal documents correctly
  • Filing legal documents with the courts

Banking professionals want to see people with experience in the field, so make sure to list that experience if you have it. The ideal candidate has a college degree and 1-3 years of experience in the field.

As a paralegal, you can work with business banks, corporate banks, mortgage banks, real estate banks, and more.

The average banking paralegal earns $56,158 per year, with those on the starting end earning closer to $30,000 and those on the upper end earning close to $100,000.

Contracts Administrator

As a contract administrator, you’ll be responsible for:

  • Writing contract letters, notices, and other communications
  • Creating status reports on projects
  • Making sure all records are up-to-date and accurate
  • Analyzing contracts to make sure they comply with federal and state laws
  • Negotiating contract terms and making sure budgets are met
  • Reviewing contract estimates to make sure that they are reasonable and include necessary line items, such as production costs, proposed materials, and more

Typical qualifications include 3+ years of experience in this role or a related field.

Contracts administrators should possess the following skills:

  • Attention to detail
  • Negotiation skills
  • Analytical thinking and problem-solving abilities
  • Ability to work as part of a team and on your own
  • Understanding finance, contract law, and accounting
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Time management skills

The typical median pay is $54,188, and there are often many career advancement opportunities. However, 25% of contract administrators work more than 50 hours per week, and you may be required to travel often.

Court Clerk

Typical duties for a court clerk include:

  • Answering official court correspondences and recording court appearances
  • Collecting fees
  • Preparing agendas
  • Performing bookkeeping and accounting duties
  • Gathering information for judges

The average base salary for court clerks is $16.11 per hour, or $34,272 per year. Most court clerks work a typical 40-hour week, although some work after-hours to finish administrative tasks.

The majority of jurisdictions prefer court clerks to obtain a bachelor’s degree, particularly in criminal justice, law, political science, business, or a related field. Your experience as a paralegal will be extremely beneficial.

Note that court clerks cannot provide legal advice, which can be challenging because people often ask you for it. People at courthouses are there due to hardship, so tempers run short and high. Court clerks, especially more junior ones dealing with the public, must have thick skin.

Court Reporter

Have you ever seen the person on a specialized typing machine taking down what everyone’s saying during a legal proceeding? That’s a court reporter. These professionals write transcripts of court hearings, including trials, legislative meetings, and hearings. 

Court reporters record the events verbatim so they can’t later be disputed. They document what the plaintiffs, lawyers, judges, jury members, and defendants say.

Court reporters:

  • Write transcripts for proceedings, depositions, hearings, and other events that need a written record.
  • Use special technology such as recording devices, video equipment, stenography machines, and microphones.
  • Record speaker’s gestures and actions.
  • Provide all involved parties with the finished transcript.
  • Seek clarification for unclear dialogue.

Most court reporters spend their days in the courtroom, although some work for broadcasting companies to provide captions for TV shows.

The average salary for court reporters is $55,120 annually or $26.50 per hour. Some states require a professional license to be a court reporter, meaning you’ll need to pass a written exam.

Court reporters must possess excellent:

  • Reading comprehension
  • Concentration
  • Listening and writing skills
  • Attention to detail

Criminal Justice

The field of criminal justice is vast. As a paralegal, there are a variety of roles you can take, including:

  • Researcher
  • Clerk of courts
  • Attorney liaison

You can work for either private investigators, government offices, or law enforcement agencies. You’ll need to know the laws and how they apply to courts. To work in the criminal justice system, a paralegal will need a paralegal degree or certification to work in the criminal justice field, given by the state.

Exact requirements vary, but you can count on a minimum number of years of experience and a certification.

Human Resources

Many of the skills required to be a successful paralegal apply to the field of human resources. It’s important to note that human resources is a broad term that encompasses many roles, from employment specialist to human resources coordinator to recruitment manager.

Typical duties in HR vary according to your exact position, but you can expect to work with people, benefits packages, possibly make hiring decisions or screen candidates, work on employee-company communication, assist with employee complaints, and more.

The average salary for an HR professional depends on the role you take, but you can expect to earn at least $16 per hour all the way to almost $100,000 annually for Director of Human Resources. 

As an HR professional, you must have:

  • Excellent communication skills, as you’re often working with people
  • Attention to detail when working on documentation, such as benefits packages
  • Strong written communication
  • Organizational skills for managing various tasks and employees
  • Analytics (especially for entry-level)
  • Digital literacy, as HR professionals work with various technologies
  • Coaching skills
  • Intercultural sensitivity and open-mindedness
  • Teamwork, as HR professionals collaborate often

Legal Secretary

Legal secretaries typically work at law firms and legal offices performing clerical duties. To be a legal secretary, you must be highly knowledgeable about legal language, proceedings, and documents.

Employers want to see at least a high school diploma, though college classes are preferred. Some employers want to see a professional certification. In many cases, legal secretaries receive on-the-job training.

The duties of a legal secretary include:

  • Organize and maintain legal files
  • Maintain electronic databases
  • Prepare documents such as spreadsheets, subpoenas, legal briefs, and other office materials
  • Schedule meetings, take notes during said meetings, and answer office calls
  • Submit documentation to courthouses for trials

The median annual salary for legal secretaries is $47,300, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a 22% reduction in employment from 2019-2029. 

Legal Recruiter

As with any company, law firms are looking for the best talent. Legal recruiters find that talent and attempt to fill open positions with the most qualified candidates possible.

Using search directories, social media, and networking, legal recruiters locate and “headhunt” the best talent out there.

Duties as a legal recruiter include:

  • Contacting law firms and keeping in touch, so you’re updated on any open positions
  • Screening applicants to ensure only the best ones are permitted to interview
  • Work with candidates who ask for help finding a legal job
  • Schedule interviews and decide on interview questions with firm staff 
  • Interview the most qualified candidates

At the very least, employers want to see candidates with undergraduate degrees. While your exact field of study isn’t critical, you’ll have an edge if you’ve taken legal or business classes. Many employers prefer candidates with a law degree. 

Legal recruiters are classified by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as human resources specialists. For that profession, the annual median salary is $60,350, but you’re likely to earn more than the median if you hold a law degree.

According to the BLS, the field of legal recruiters is expected to grow by 7% through 2026.

Litigation Associate

If you enjoy a healthy debate, you might make an excellent legal associate. These professionals prepare and argue in court, supporting all parts of the litigation process.

Litigation associates:

  • Collect evidence
  • Handle client database
  • Manage discoveries
  • Uphold depositions
  • Research cases and arguments
  • Prepare pleadings
  • Coordinate and oversee outside experts

As a litigation associate, it’s critical that you have excellent:

  • People skills
  • Research skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Written skills
  • Time management skills

Working as a legal associate is demanding and may require extended hours to prepare for court proceedings. Most legal associates are entry-level or mid-level attorneys, so you’ll need to attend law school and pass the bar.

The median average annual salary for a litigation associate is $143,879 per year, and the market is expected to grow by 6% through 2028.

Mediator

Mediators are excellent listeners, writers, and work well with people. They help resolve disputes both in court and out of court.

Sample duties of mediators include:

  • Provide judges with neutral evaluations of cases
  • Conduct mediations for family law and foreclosure cases
  • Help parties reach settlement agreements by encouraging communication
  • Mediate financial, family, and interpersonal disputes
  • Mediate police disputes

The field of mediators is projected to grow 8% through 2028, and the average mediator makes $59,261 per year.

Special Library Technician

Special library technicians use their legal knowledge to work in the libraries of law firms, corporations, or government agencies. 

Duties include:

  • Work at the circulation desk to check out resources
  • Maintain and update databases
  • Communicate with library users to answer questions about the library’s inventory and services
  • Organize the shelves and remove damaged materials

Requirements for becoming a special library technician range from a high school diploma to completing post secondary training. If you’re looking to work in law libraries, an understanding of the law is helpful.

The most successful library technicians possess excellent:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Reading comprehension
  • Verbal communication skills
  • Active listening

The median salary for library technicians is $32,890 per year, and the job is expected to grow at an average pace from 2016 to 2026.

Victim Advocate

Victim advocates work with the victim of a crime and court. The advocate explains to victims how legal proceedings and the criminal justice system works and what processes he or she may be expected to endure.

Duties as a victim advocate include:

  • Counseling witnesses and victims
  • Bringing victims to court
  • Helping victims get restitution
  • Supporting victims at court
  • Helping victims maintain their safety by aiding them in filing protective measures

The median annual salary for victim advocates is $49,470, or $23.78 per hour. However, this doesn’t account for the small costs an advocate may incur. Victim advocates transport victims to court and sometimes offer them assistance or meals when they cannot get help elsewhere.

To be a successful victim advocate, you must possess excellent:

  • Organizational skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, this job is expected to grow 16% through 2026, far faster than the average job.

You’ve Got Options

Having worked as a paralegal, many of your legal and soft skills transfer to other careers. Perhaps you want to switch out of law entirely and work in human resources, or maybe you enjoy using your legal brain but want to use it to advocate for victims of crime. 

As a paralegal, you’ve got plenty of choices.

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