What Can You Do With a Master's Degree in Paralegal Studies?

The paralegal profession is a quickly growing field full of excitement for anyone who is interested in law. Depending on the job, paralegals usually work closely with attorneys to prepare for trials, hearings, company meetings or deal closings. They conduct legal research, draft necessary documentation, maintain files and handle multiple legal-related tasks.

They can perform many of the same tasks as lawyers, though they are not allowed to defend clients or provide legal advice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly salary in 2016 for paralegals and legal assistants was $53,180. Furthering your education and obtaining a master’s degree could open up a variety of opportunities and could even lead to a higher salary.

The BLS indicates that the majority of paralegals enter into legal services, though other individuals have found paralegal work in different fields. If you are unsure about what you could do with a Master’s degree in Paralegal Studies, here are five business sectors you could enter into:

1. Law firm

Though this is the environment where most paralegals work, the job responsibilities vary greatly based on the size of the firm, the level of expertise and specialization in certain areas of law, such as immigration, family law, criminal and personal injury. In most cases, paralegals support their attorneys by doing research, drafting reports, organizing files, meeting with clients and more.

Common duties for law firm paralegals include investigating and gathering information, conducting research on relevant regulations and laws, putting documents in an electronic filing system, gathering evidence for case preparation and summarizing reports for lawyers’ trials. Other responsibilities may include drafting legal documents or contracts, giving affidavits and formal statements for court purposes, handling exhibits, taking notes during trials, filing appeals or other legal documentation and calling witnesses or clients to schedule meetings or interviews.

Paralegal talking with clients

2. Government

From local to federal, government agencies need legal services and many turn to the expertise of paralegal professionals. The precise duties of a government employed paralegal vary depending on the branch of government they work for. For example, with all the changes taking place with the Affordable Care Act, paralegals may need to specialize in health care law and may spend their time preparing and reviewing a range of insurance or health care-related legal documents.

3. Corporation

Just as corporations require in-house attorneys, they also need paralegals who offer a wide variety of skills to meet their unique needs. For example, if you have specialization in intellectual property law, tech companies may turn to you to closely monitor and document their patent or production processes. Or, a software company may look for a paralegal to manage their subsidiary setup process.

At most organizations, the job responsibilities may include working with the tax, finance, HR and law departments. They may handle anything from marketing to licensing to negotiating legal agreements with the direction of the corporation’s attorney. While paralegals cannot provide legal counsel, they can support a wide range of tasks, such as managing merger and acquisition transactions, or drafting documents for corporate development projects.

If you hope to enter into corporate law, you must be familiar with the various laws and regulations affecting the company you intend to work for. For example, working for an innovative tech startup will be drastically different than an international publishing organization. Working in a company environment can be demanding at times, as specific job responsibilities may be constantly evolving based on immediate needs. However, if you enjoy variety and showcase a range of organizational, technical, personal and leadership skills, this may be the field for you.

4. Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) sector

If you want to make an impact on a large scale, you should consider working for a non-governmental organization. These work environments have specific goals, missions and ideals in mind and usually work toward a unified goal. Some examples of NGOs are:

  • The International Rescue Committee: serves refugee populations in need
  • The Red Cross: supports individuals with health problems during times of disaster
  • The World Wide Fund for Nature: supports vulnerable animal population
  • CARE International: helps fight global poverty

These are just a few of the many NGOs around the country. Whether you work for one of these international NGOs or at a local nonprofit, these organizations usually have minimal staff members and a single paid attorney to handle difficult legal matters. Sometimes organizations that work with immigrant and refugee populations will employ more lawyers to support their clients.

As a paralegal in the NGO sector, you will draft and file legal paperwork related to a variety of issues, such as visas, child custody, divorce, citizenship and more. You must have prior knowledge, experience or specialization in government regulations, specifically how these laws may affect the work your NGO is doing. For example, at an environmental organization, you likely will need to be familiar with various Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

This specific field can be demanding and stressful, as lives may hang in the balance based off of paperwork you file or issues you champion. Yet, the rewards can be immense when you recognize how you are impacting people’s lives for the better.

Paralegal doing legal paperwork

5. Real estate

Many real estate firms hire paralegals to handle various aspects of the property buying and selling processes. On an average day, they will draft up sales contracts, prepare documents for closings, review appraisal reports and environment surveys, review title commitments, prepare insurance policies and handle other aspects of the real estate process. The responsibilities vary greatly depending on if the work is primarily residential or commercial, along with the size of the firm.

You must be extremely organized in this business sector, as one error in a loan document or missed environment impact survey could completely derail a sale and have awful financial and personal consequences for the buyers and sellers. Paralegals who hope to enter into real estate law must be familiar with the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act and other relevant laws and regulations. This is the ideal business sector for anyone who loves assembling the necessary documentation to ensure a successful real estate transaction.

If you are looking to make a career change or further your career advancement opportunities, you should consider George Washington University’s online Master’s in Paralegal Studies. As one of the few paralegal master’s degrees in the country, the program will equip current or future paralegals with the skills, experience and knowledge they need to succeed. Contact one of our representatives today to learn more about our intensive curriculum offerings.

Sources

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm#tab-1

http://paralegalstudiesmasters.online.gwu.edu/

https://www.thebalance.com/alternative-legal-careers-2164443

http://work.chron.com/can-one-master-legal-studies-23234.html

http://www.becomeaparalegal.org/blog/7-paralegal-jobs-not-in-law-firms-where-to-look-what-to-expect/

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