Both a paralegal and a lawyer work in a similar field, but their education, career path, and responsibilities differ. There are a variety of factors to consider when choosing between a career as a paralegal and a lawyer.
Becoming a paralegal requires a minimum of only three months’ training. Some law firms require that you have a paralegal certification, which may take two years to complete. Paralegal certification programs don’t require an entrance exam, nor is there an exam required before you can enter the field. Once certified, a paralegal isn’t required to continue their education. The job market for paralegals is one of the fastest growing in the US!
However, a paralegal is limited in their career. Unlike lawyers, they can’t practice law themselves, but must be supervised. The scope of a paralegal’s work is not as varied as that of a lawyer. Many of their assignments are administrative in nature. Their work is very routine. Because of this, paralegals must have excellent attention to detail and organizational skills.
The intensity of a career as a lawyer is reflected in the education required. In order to even be considered for law school, an aspiring lawyer must have a bachelor’s degree, and have taken the LSAT, a law school entrance exam. Even after completing law school, one can’t practice law until they pass the state bar exam. Once they begin practicing law, lawyers must meet continuing education requirements in order to maintain their license to practice.
A lawyer’s work is varied and challenging. The career path offers many opportunities for advancement and taking on more responsibility. While this is exciting, it can also be stressful. Although their position is salaried, meaning there aren’t any bonuses for working overtime during the evenings or weekends, lawyers have unlimited salary potential. Lawyers often receive other perks such as their own private office, and administrative support designed to help them. Unlike paralegals, lawyers don’t have to be supervised, but have the option to work autonomously.
When determining which career path is best for you, it’s important to consider a variety of factors. How many years of school are you willing to undertake? Is the idea of seven years of school and multiple intensive exams discouraging? Would you rather complete work that is exciting but stressful or administrative and routine? Are you an excellent and analytical communicator, or do you pride yourself on your attention to detail and organizational abilities? Remember that while both paralegals and lawyers work in the same field, their day to day work looks very different.