Paralegals work closely with attorneys to handle administrative tasks, such as filing motions, drafting documents, investigating facts of a case, maintaining and organizing files, and much more. New York offers vast opportunities for paralegals; in fact, New York has the third highest level of employment in the nation for paralegals, second only to California and Florida, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Students who graduate from paralegal schools in New York should be well-prepared to enter into this exciting, fast-paced workforce.
Specialization for paralegals in New York
Specialization in the legal world is not as clear-cut as that of other professions. Though many law firms choose to focus on one particular type of law, such as bankruptcy or personal injury, it is common for legal professionals to have knowledge and expertise in multiple areas, if not all areas, of law. Since paralegals are expected to handle numerous cases and tasks that might benefit more than one attorney, they should have a wide breadth of knowledge and experience, regardless of the area of law the firm targets.
However, a paralegal might be more attractive to employers if he or she has proven experience in a particular area. Specialization in the following areas is among the most common for paralegals, including those in New York:
- Family law
- Corporate law
- Real estate
Experienced paralegals can look into these specializations in order to make themselves more attractive to employers in those particular fields of law. To broaden the legal horizons, paralegals can opt for certifications that make them more marketable to any law firm or legal service.
Certifications and degrees from paralegal schools in New York
Though New York does not require any particular education for a person to begin work as a paralegal, the vast majority of employers look for those who have had some formal education. The larger the firm, the more likely a paralegal must have a degree in order to be considered for an entry-level position. Associate degrees are common, though many schools also offer bachelor's and master's degrees in paralegal studies. Those who already hold a college degree might take an accelerated paralegal course in order to become qualified to work in a law office. Most of these programs require an internship in a law firm or other type of law service in order to gain experience.
The Empire State Alliance of Paralegal Associations (ESAPA) recommends that paralegals receive, at minimum, an associate degree in paralegal studies in order to work in a law office. The American Bar Association currently approves 20 paralegal education programs in the state of New York, including those that culminate in an associate, bachelor's degree or certificate.
The two most common certifications include:
- Registered Paralegal (RP): The Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam prepares students to earn the RP designation, proving excellence in five key areas of legal tasks. Applicants must hold at least an associate degree and several years of quality paralegal experience.
- CORE Registered Paralegal (CRP): The Paralegal CORE Competency Exam is for those who are in their first two years of practice as a paralegal. This certification proves that applicants are proficient in the skills expected of an entry-level paralegal.
These certifications are offered by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), which is affiliated with ESAPA. Because of this affiliation, most paralegals in New York choose one of these two designations. Students might also opt for certification as a Certified Paralegal (CP) or Professional Paralegal (PP). These are offered through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the Association for Legal Professionals (NALS), respectively.
Paralegal salary and career outlook
New York has the third highest level of employment for paralegals in the nation; the vast majority of paralegals jobs are centered in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, which includes New York City. Paralegals can expect to see job growth in New York of 15.8 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to Projections Central; that's just slightly lower than the 17 percent national growth reported by the BLS.
The salary for paralegals can be very good for qualified applicants. The national mean wage for paralegals was $47,570 in 2013, and paralegals in New York fared even better, with a mean wage of $54,990 in 2013. Those who worked in the metropolitan New York City area made an even higher wage of $57,190. Paralegals might find that the vast number of major law firms in the NYC area makes for better job opportunities, especially for those who have earned certifications or a degree from paralegal schools in New York.
- ABA Approved Paralegal Education Programs, New York, American Bar Association, http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/paralegals/directory/ny.html
- Becoming a Paralegal in New York, ParalegalEDU, http://www.paralegaledu.org/new-york/
- Frequently Asked Questions, Empire State Alliance of Paralegal Associations, Inc., http://www.empirestateparalegals.org/faqs
- Paralegal Certification, National Federation of Paralegal Associations, http://www.paralegals.org/
- Paralegal Job Overview, U.S. News and World Report, http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/paralegal
- Paralegals and Legal Assistants, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
- Paralegals and Legal Assistants, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm#tab-1
- Paralegals and Legal Assistants, New York, Long Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, https://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm