Courtroom dramas make for an exciting night at the movies or an afternoon in front of the TV, watching litigation attorneys battle for their clients’ rights or freedoms. What’s often not shown (but should be) is the role litigation paralegals play in helping shape the outcome of attorneys’ cases. Paralegals who focus their careers on litigation matters are often the unsung heroes behind their supervising attorneys’ success stories.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING REQUIREMENTS
The first step toward a career as a litigation paralegal is to become a paralegal. Most legal employers require candidates to have a two-year paralegal studies degree, earned through an institution whose program is approved by the American Bar Association. If you already have a degree in another field, you may be able to work as a litigation paralegal after completing a paralegal certificate program.
In addition to general paralegal training courses — covering topics including legal research and writing, civil procedure, criminal law and procedure, and legal ethics — litigation paralegals must be skillful communicators, organized and detailed, and comfortable with technology. Much of the work paralegals do involves using online research tools and databases, as well as using systems to help with document preparation and filing.
Some candidates also choose to pursue litigation-specific paralegal certification programs offered through various industry associations including the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and the National Association of Legal Assistants.
TYPICAL LITIGATION PARALEGAL RESPONSIBILITIES
What does a litigation paralegal do? Litigation paralegals’ job responsibilities vary, but they usually handle much of the behind-the-scenes work leading to trials and appeals, as well as with cases that settle outside the courtroom.
Common tasks include the following:
- Researching and obtaining information relevant to clients’ cases — including case law and statutes, as well as uncovering other documents through the legal discovery process
- Conducting client interviews
- Organizing vast amounts of information
- Preparing and filing court pleadings and other documents, meeting strict formatting standards and filing timelines
- Preparing exhibits for attorneys’ use during trials and appeals
- Managing trial, deposition and filing calendars
A REWARDING CAREER FOR QUALIFIED PARALEGALS
Litigation paralegals who enjoy their jobs usually thrive on the satisfaction that comes from conducting thorough research, ensuring no detail is overlooked, and working to help their supervising attorneys and firms win clients’ cases.
Litigation paralegals’ compensation can differ greatly — depending on the size of the law firm, geographic location and legal specialty area. In general, however, paralegals who choose this career option can expect to be rewarded financially for their work.
As of May 2020, the median annual wage for all paralegals and legal assistants was $52,920. Litigation paralegals’ compensation is generally slightly higher than this figure, with a reported annual average base litigation paralegal salary of $53,386 as of April 3, 2021.
CHOOSE MACCORMAC COLLEGE FOR YOUR PARALEGAL STUDIES DEGREE
At MacCormac College, we have been training some of the Chicago area’s best paralegals since 1973. With the oldest two-year Paralegal Studies program in Illinois, students can be confident that we understand the legal marketplace, and we know what skills legal employers expect and prefer from entry-level paralegals. Our program is designed to prepare graduates to find career success in meaningful roles.
Please note that paralegals may not practice law or otherwise provide legal services directly to the public except as permitted by law.
Contact MacCormac College in Chicago to learn more about how you can pursue a career as a litigation paralegal or work in any of the many exciting paralegal job opportunities available to graduates of our two-year Paralegal Studies degree program. Ready to begin the next chapter of your life? We make it easy to get started. Apply online today!