Paralegals help attorneys in private law offices, government agencies, corporations and community legal service organizations. Working under the supervision of attorneys, paralegals perform legal and factual research, draft legal documents and correspondence, interview clients and witnesses, help the attorney at trial and other hearings, maintain and organize files, and coordinate the use of technology in law practice settings.
Paralegal work can be demanding, requiring overtime and managing multiple deadlines, but it is often rewarding with great compensation and benefits. Furthermore, opportunities in paralegal work are expected to increase at an above-average rate in the next few years, making it an attractive career opportunity.
The California Employment Development Department (EDD) collects data about the state’s workforce. These data include information about the number of people employed in the field, job outlook, and wage information. The California EDD predicts for the period 2008-2018 the number of openings for paralegals and legal assistants to increase by over 17%. For more detailed information about positions in the legal support field, check the California Occupational Guide for the occupation listed below:
- Paralegals and Legal Assistants (SOC 23-2011)
Necessary Education and Skills for Career Success
The Paralegal Studies Program at De Anza College is approved by the American Bar Association.
Success as a paralegal requires excellent research, logic and reasoning, and writing and speaking skills. Computers are playing an increasingly important role in the practice of law, and paralegals need to be comfortable using electronic databases and research tools. California law also demands that paralegals complete specified educational requirements.
The primary goal of the program is to educate students for positions as paralegals where they can demonstrate the competency and ethical standards demanded of the profession. The program’s specific objectives are:
- Provide paralegal students with a well-rounded, balanced education founded on a beneficial mix of general education and legal education including theory and practical courses, and stressing understanding and reasoning rather than rote learning of facts.
- Develop in paralegal students an understanding of the basic organization and operation of the federal and California state legal systems.
- Promote the development of paralegals who understand and appreciate the role of and ethical responsibilities of paralegals in the legal field.
- Develop in paralegal students the following practical skills:
- Written and oral communication skills
- Ability to do basic legal research, including computer assisted legal research, demonstrating familiarity with both federal and state research tools
- Ability to do basic legal writing including office correspondence, interoffice memoranda and memoranda of law
- In-depth knowledge and ability to function in the area of civil litigation including the ability to draft documents such as pleadings and motions
- Sufficient familiarity in one or more areas of law to function as a paralegal working in that substantive area
Paralegal graduates cannot give legal advice, appear in court, or otherwise engage in the unauthorized practice of law. The practice of law by non-attorneys is strictly prohibited by law.