Choose your own way on your career path as a paralegal. Choosing to specialize can increase your value to a firm or corporation. Gaining additional knowledge in a specific area of the law can help you advance in your paralegal career.
Continuing legal education (CLE) courses may be available to help you gain specific knowledge. These can be taken before entering the job market or after gaining some experience. Check out some of the most popular areas for paralegals to specialize in.
1. Litigation Paralegals are involved in cases where someone is suing someone else. These cases are fast-paced and deadline driven. Law firms and corporations employ these paralegals and may practice in different areas of the law such as bankruptcy, personal injury or intellectual property cases. If you thrive in this investigative and high-energy type of environment, litigation may be of interest to you.
Duties of litigation paralegals include:
- Drafting pleadings
- Conducting discovery
- Collecting evidence
- Interviewing witnesses
- Preparing exhibits for trial
2. Corporate Paralegals work for corporations rather than for law firms. Around 20 percent of paralegals work in this environment. Corporate paralegals focus on contracts and compliance, so research and detail are top priorities in these positions. They are involved in the inner workings of a corporation rather than working with individual clients, the courts or opposing counsel.
Corporate paralegal duties include:
- Drafting and reviewing contracts
- Reviewing company policies
- Dealing with human resource and employee benefit issues
3. Labor and Employment Paralegals handle employment and workplace safety issues. They may see cases dealing with union disputes, issues with the hiring or firing of employees, and discrimination and sexual harassment complaints. Labor and employment paralegals must be familiar with the procedures of various government agencies.
- Drafting and filing complaints and appeals
- Client correspondence
- Collecting and organizing information
- Preparing for trial
4. Intellectual Property (IP) Paralegals work in government agencies, corporations or law offices. Intellectual property law deals with trademarks, patents and intellectual property as well as litigation. These paralegals focus on research, attention to detail and marketing skills.
- Preparing trademark and patent applications
- Assisting with Intellectual Property litigation
- Patent and trademark research
5. Bankruptcy Paralegals work for law firms that assist clients with financial issues. Bankruptcy paralegals work with individual clients. Excellent people skills are necessary in this area. This field also focuses on numbers, and attention to detail.
- Collecting and organizing information
- Preparing bankruptcy petitions and adversary pleadings
- Working with creditors
- Meeting deadlines and maintaining calendars
6. Immigration Paralegals assist clients with immigrating to the United States. They work in law offices or for corporations researching and preparing petitions and applications. These paralegals are familiar with the procedures of several government agencies.
- Preparing and proofing petitions and applications
- Legal research and analysis
7. Family Law Paralegals need to have excellent people skills and diplomacy. Family law is one of the most popular specialties for paralegals. They may work in law firms and will see a variety of cases and situations.
Duties of family law paralegals include:
- Scheduling appointments and hearings
- Preparing pleadings
- Organizing and maintaining files
8. Estate Planning and Probate Paralegals have similar duties to other paralegals, but this type of office generally has a slower pace than other law offices. Math skills and attention to detail are important skills for this type of work.
- Client communication
- Pleading and document preparation
- Corresponding with other professionals
The paralegal field opens the doors to many career opportunities. Consider your situation and your local legal community to decide if a paralegal specialization will benefit you.