Working for a Law Office or Corporation?

Paralegals that work for corporations complete many of the same types of tasks as do paralegals that work for law firms. However, there are some subtle differences between the two employment environments, with the most important being the type of clients.

Where are the Jobs?
There are fewer jobs available for paralegals in the corporate realm than there are at law firms, and the positions that exist in corporate “in house” legal departments are often prestigious and high-powered. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 71 percent of all paralegals work at small, medium, and large law firms, and the remaining 29 percent work for corporations, a branch of the government, or they are self-employed.

Most law firms, no matter how small, need to employ at least one paralegal to keep office operations running smoothly. However, most small corporations do not have their own legal department, and therefore do not have an immediate need to employ a full-time or even a part-time paralegal. Most corporations that hire paralegals are considered to be “large” and in general, they are located in medium to large sized metropolitan areas.

Who are the Clients?
There is a clear distinction between the clients served by law firms and those served by corporations. Law firms serve outside clients, whereas corporate legal departments serve the people and/or the interests of the corporation itself.

Paralegals who work for law firms are usually considered specialists in one or two specific areas of the law. Those who work for corporations, however, are expected to have a broader knowledge of the business world, and they must be familiar with the means of keeping their employer compliant with various industry rules and regulations.

Education Requirements?
The education requirements for paralegal positions in law firms and at corporations vary by specific job. Most require a minimum of a certificate in paralegal studies. Depending on the level of the position, some require a certificate combined with a higher level degree. Additionally, many law firm and corporate employers require that paralegal certification be earned (which is different than a “certificate” in paralegal studies).

Job Outlook?
According to the website LegalCriminalJjusticeSchools.com, “Paralegal jobs are projected to grow 22 percent between the years of 2006 and 2016.” This statistic covers paralegal positions in law firms, corporations, and other entities that employ paralegals. One of the main reasons for the high growth projection is the ability of law firms and corporations to hire and utilize paralegals for much of the same work that lawyers produce but at a fraction of the cost. However, according to the same website, corporate paralegals are often paid higher salaries than law firm-employed paralegals. Payscale.com lists the salary range for corporate paralegals as ranging from $39,682 to $85,657, and the salary range for law firm paralegals is from $26,755 to $64,053.

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