Are you passionate about law and justice? Then you might want to make a career in the legal field. First, make sure you know a thing or two about becoming a paralegal vs. lawyer.
The median annual wage for lawyers is close to $123,000. Those working for the federal government can earn over $144,000 per year. The downside is that it takes more than seven years of full-time study to become an attorney.
Paralegals, on the other hand, need a bachelor’s degree and specialized training. Some employers only require an associate’s degree. Therefore, it’s much easier to become a paralegal than a lawyer.
The good news is, you don’t have to choose between the two. Many attorneys start out as paralegals and continue their education over the years.
What Is a Paralegal?
Lawyers and paralegals perform similar duties but have different degrees of responsibility.
Paralegals assist attorneys and have the right to carry out subsidiary legal work. Depending on the job, they may be responsible for:
- Filing paperwork
- Writing reports
- Investigating cases
- Providing assistance at trials
- Interviewing clients
- Conducting legal research
These legal professionals may specialize in one or more areas, such as family law, personal injury, or litigation. They work under the supervision of an attorney and ensure the proper functioning of the law firm.
If you pursue this career path, you also have the option to join or start a paralegal firm. In this role, you may provide certain legal services, such as helping clients fill out pre-existing forms.
How to Become One
To become a paralegal, it’s necessary to complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program. Ideally, choose a school that offers undergraduate programs in paralegal studies.
Consider earning a certification to increase your chances of finding work.
California is the only state where paralegal certification is mandatory. Even if this designation isn’t required in your state, it can demonstrate your commitment to the profession.
Paralegal vs. Lawyer: What’s the Difference?
Most states require aspiring attorneys to earn a doctoral degree and continuing education credits. Lawyers must also take and pass a licensing exam. Paralegals are not subject to these requirements.
As an attorney, you will carry more responsibility and have greater power than a paralegal. Your day-to-day duties may include:
- Prepare and file contracts, wills, and other documents
- Write legal regulations
- Represent your clients in the court of law
- Provide legal advice
- Collect and analyze evidence
- Perform case research
Several types of lawyers exist, depending on their area of practice. Daniel Kim at usaccidentlawyer.com, for instance, is a personal injury lawyer. In this role, he assists clients who were involved in car, motorcycle, or pedestrian accidents.
All in all, the primary difference between lawyers and paralegals lies in their education. Licensing requirements differ, too. On top of that, lawyers have more authority than a paralegal.
Choose a Career Path That Fits You
Now that you know more about working as a paralegal vs. lawyer, it’s time to choose a career path. Remember, you can always start out as a paralegal and take the steps needed to become an attorney later on.
Note that your skills and competencies matter, too. Both professions require strong communication, interpersonal, and research skills. You also need the ability to work under pressure and make quick decisions.
Take the time to browse our Business and Lifestyle section for other career tips! We’ll show you how to write a winning resume, how to plan your career, and more.