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Paralegal Supervisory Careers
Experienced paralegals with good management skills have the opportunity to perform complex legal work and make a competitive salary as a paralegal supervisor. Paralegal supervisors must have extensive experience in their field, be skilled problem solvers and should have at least two years of college education. Some states also require you to hold a paralegal certificate. Increasingly, however, larger law firms and more competitive firms are seeking paralegals with master's degrees in paralegal studies--relatively new programs designed to give you high-level legal research and administration skills.
Government paralegal supervisors may work in the state attorney’s office or for the public defender working closely with attorneys to prepare paperwork and research. Paralegal supervisors also oversee the work of other paralegals in the office. Government paralegal supervisors may also be responsible for some human resource functions, including interviewing and training entry-level paralegals and legal assistants. Generally, government paralegal supervisors will need at least an associate’s degree, paralegal certificate, and five to ten years of experience working in the legal field.
Corporate paralegal supervisors work in private industries such as accounting, pharmaceuticals or manufacturing rather than traditional law firms. They conduct research, draft documents and work with in-house counsel to manage the legal matters of the company. If you have a degree in another field, such as nursing, chemistry, or physics, this environment may be a good fit as it can allow you to use your full range of skills.
Corporate paralegal supervisors will also manage the day-to-day operations of the legal department and may be the main point of legal contact for non-attorney workers. They may help non-attorney employees write letters or handle simple legal correspondence. Corporate paralegals typically have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to their industry, as well as a paralegal certificate or equivalent work experience. Paralegal supervisors must also have management or supervisory experience.
Private Law Firms
Paralegal supervisors may work in private practice in either civil or criminal law, hiring lower-level paralegals and evaluating their daily performances. Paralegal supervisors will also be responsible for training other legal assistants and secretaries and ensuring that these employees meet deadlines. Paralegal supervisors will also perform complex legal analysis and research. Although there is no minimum educational requirement for a private practice paralegal supervisor, most will have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, a paralegal certificate, five to ten years experience as a paralegal and some supervisory experience. Often, paralegal supervisors in private law firms are promoted to their role after years of service to the firm.
Foundations and Trusts
Paralegal supervisors working for foundations or trusts must have an in-depth knowledge of contracts and laws governing taxation and charitable giving. At a foundation or trust, paralegal supervisors will oversee day-to-day legal matters, manage other administrative staff and prepare tax documents and filings. Paralegal supervisors for foundations and trusts typically have a bachelor’s degree, paralegal certificate and at least ten years experience in the legal field. Since they must work independently paralegal supervisors for trusts and foundations can earn quite a bit more than other paralegal supervisors. These paralegals may be self-employed or work as independent contractors.
Paralegal Supervisor Skills
Regardless of the setting in which you work, a paralegal supervisor will need a specific skill set, namely:
- Work well under pressure and handle stressful situations while maintaining focus.
- Be able to write in plain, easy-to-understand language and proofread others' work.
- Strong teaching skills, including teaching less experienced paralegals about your office's operations.
- Research skills, regarding federal, state, local, and appellate law.
- A strong professional presence, including the ability to speak to judges, opposing counsel, and clients
- Good managerial abilities, such as being able to give other paralegals constructive feedback.
- The ability to work with minimal supervision, along with the willingness to take specific instructions from your supervising attorney.
- Up-to-date knowledge on major rulings in your field of practice.
- Willingness to continue your education, including taking continuing education courses.
- Strong organizational skills, including maintaining paper and electronic files, monitoring attorney schedules, and ensuring that subordinate paralegals are meeting their deadlines.
- The ability to protect confidentiality and handle sensitive client information.
Moving Up in the Paralegal Field
In addition to gaining hands-on experience as a paralegal, showing your supervising attorneys that you are interested in growing in your role can help you move up in the field faster. For example, as a new paralegal, develop strong professional relationships with both your paralegal supervisor and the attorneys you work under. If there are aspects of the job that you do not understand, ask questions so that you gain a deeper understanding of the field.
Once you feel confident in your skills, talk to your supervising attorney about taking on extra responsibilities. For example, if you are interested in particular case, ask if you can assist with extra research. If you work with many other paralegals and have a special skill set--such as exceptional writing or organizational skills--offer to give you co-workers a training session.
During your performance reviews, also draw on any positive feedback and be explicit in letting your supervisors know that you are committed to your paralegal career and hope to expand your role. Be open to new opportunities in the firm, even if they are outside of your normal comfort zone. This will show flexibility--a skill valued by many law firms and legal departments.
If you do not receive regular performance reviews, ask your supervisor to sit down and talk to you about your job performance. Ask for specific examples of what you are doing well and the areas in which you can improve. Use this feedback to improve as an employee. Your proactive approach and ability to integrate feedback to improve you work can display the type of leadership that a paralegal supervisor needs to succeed.
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Information on Paralegal Careers
- Paralegal Job Overview | Best Jobs | US News Careers
U.S. News's paralegal job overview with comprehensive information on necessary job training, expected salary and job satisfaction, plus tips on job openings.
- Paralegal Job Education, Skills, Duties and Salary
Paralegal Careers - A Paralegal Career Profile: Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, are individuals trained to assist attorneys in the delivery of legal services.
- Paralegals and Legal Assistants : Occupational Outlook Handbook: : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Paralegals and legal assistants do a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents.