Paralegal FAQs | ABA Approved Program | Seattle, Washington State (2023)

How Does a Paralegal Differ From a Legal Secretary?

Generally, paralegals do more professional work, similar to work done by attorneys, such as creating documents, interviewing witnesses and clients, and conducting research, all under attorney supervision. Sometimes job responsibilities are identical for legal secretaries and paralegals, the only difference being the title. Some in the field claim the best way to get a paralegal job is by first "learning the ropes" as a legal secretary. Other former secretaries say they had to change firms to get recognition as a paralegal. The paralegals may have to convince an attorney that making coffee, typing and photocopying are not the best uses of their skills. The paralegal does less clerical work and may not be expected to be an expert typist or word processor, but may have to do some of this just as some attorneys do. Salaries of paralegals and legal secretaries may not differ either, but generally the paralegal has greater potential for earnings.

What Makes a Successful Paralegal?

To begin with, general skills and characteristics of the prospective paralegal include the following: (1) the ability to write clearly and communicate effectively orally; (2) a high degree of motivation; (3) skill in analyzing and summarizing material; and (4) a desire to be a paralegal rather than an attorney. A paralegal must be a self-starter, be able to meet deadlines and handle stress, yet be willing to do repetitious work. While it is often necessary to work independently, the paralegal must work well with other people, both in taking and following orders from supervisors and getting along with peers. Specific performance criteria that suggest a person will succeed include: at least a 3.0 GPA; a B.A. or B.S. degree; or two years work experience, particularly in law-related work.

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What Does a Paralegal Do?

A paralegal is a non-lawyer who assists attorneys in their professional duties. The lawyer's task is to obtain facts, research the law in a case, then apply the law to a set of facts in order to reach a legal conclusion. The paralegal is limited to the first two tasks. In general, the paralegal can do everything an attorney can do except give legal advice and represent clients in court. There is no required training, certification or licensing procedure to become a paralegal. The day-to-day tasks of a paralegal depend on the employer and the specific job. It is estimated that 70% of paralegals work for attorneys in private practice, about 25% work for government agencies, and the remaining 5% are in the legal departments of corporations, freelancing, etc. Within these, the paralegal may specialize in one area of law such as: (1) litigation; (2) probate, wills, estates and trusts; (3) real estate; (4) business and corporate law; (5) family law and domestic relations; (6) criminal law; (7) bankruptcy; and (8) administrative law. These are discussed below, but first, here is a list of general tasks which may be performed by paralegals:

  • Researching law and writing summaries of the research
  • Preparing briefs of researched cases
  • Applying research of facts to attorney's case
  • Composing office memoranda
  • Composing letters to clients and general correspondence
  • Drafting legal documents; digesting depositions
  • Interviewing clients and making telephone contacts
  • General supervision of the law library in the office
  • Updating, filing pocket parts in the law books
  • Gathering information for client files / investigation
  • Docket control, maintaining timely and orderly flow of office work
  • Attendance at court hearings
  • Presenting papers to court which do not require an attorney
  • Maintenance of books and records for clients
  • Trial preparation, depositions, witnesses, negotiations
  • Tax work and accounting

    The litigation specialist works with people who sue (plaintiffs) and people who are being sued (defendants) in civil cases (actions between private parties). The paralegal does much of the work in preparation for trials such as interviewing clients and witnesses, making telephone contacts, drafting documents for use in court, research and writing, handling correspondence, organizing and filing documents and exhibits, and preparing witnesses for trial. There are more paralegals in this specialty than in any other. A person doing this work must thrive on detail and deadline pressures as the trial draws near. Personal injury practice is a large specialized area of litigation. A knowledge of medical terms is an asset for this practice area.

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    This is an area of law which combines two certainties of life--death and taxes. The paralegal will often work directly with clients drafting wills, creating trusts, and doing much more of the work involved in probating an estate. Some of the tasks in probate are: gathering information about estate assets and heirs; drafting and filing the necessary court papers; monitoring the timing of matters (docket control); distribution of assets; and transfer of securities. Finally, death often results in taxes due, and the paralegal may have to do the Federal Estate Tax and income taxes. Knowledge of business, accounting and investments may be needed. There may be less pressure in this job than in some others because deadlines are known well in advance.


    Knowledge of real estate law is essential here. The paralegal handles drafting of deeds, offers to purchase, mortgages, contracts, closing statements, as well as other documents; makes financial arrangements for clients; does lease agreements; goes over contracts for clients; orders title insurance; and often must search for title records.

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    The paralegal in this specialty must understand the laws on the formation of corporations and other business enterprises and how they operate under the law. Much of the work is preparing and filing documents necessary for the formation and operation of businesses. There may be a little client contact. Much of the time is spent drafting bond issues and stock certificates following the many applicable state and federal regulations.


    When working for an attorney with a family law practice, the paralegal may deal directly with clients in guardianship matters, dissolutions, custody, paternity disputes, dependency proceedings, support enforcement and abuse in the home, among other matters. Adoptions are the most pleasant part of family law. Gathering facts, drafting documents, investigation and trial preparation are some of the tasks involved.

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    In criminal law, the attorney is defending a client accused of a crime-so the paralegal should know criminal law and the importance of defenses. Some of the tasks involved are: investigation of facts; interviewing witnesses; motion and trial preparation; and keeping track of documents and evidence. The paralegal might be dealing with the client, who is allegedly a criminal, and must feel comfortable with this.


    Here, the paralegal will draft documents in connection with the bankruptcy of the client and the defense of those involved. It requires a knowledge of the Bankruptcy Act and procedures to be followed.

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    Administrative agencies are created by governments to administer particular legislation such as the Social Security Act, Workmen's Compensation Act, establishment of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), etc. If a person is denied benefits by one of these agencies, he or she is entitled to appeal. A paralegal can take the client's case from the initial interview, through preparation for the hearing, and finally represent the client when the case is heard before an administrative judge. Appeals before a court must be handled by an attorney. Some cases involve persons who have allegedly been overpaid by the agency, which is suing to get their money back. Most of these cases involve the poor, and the use of paralegals rather than attorneys can save them money. The paralegal in all cases must work under an attorney.


Do you need a certificate to be paralegal in Washington state? ›

There are no specific requirements set by law for becoming a paralegal in the state, so prospective paralegals can start by pursuing a degree or certification in paralegal studies, or by gaining experience on the job. However, most attorneys do prefer to hire applicants who have formal paralegal training.

How do I get a paralegal certificate in Washington state? ›

Complete 45 credits from an ABA-approved paralegal program. Complete a sequence of online courses in specific practice areas. Have 3,000 hours of paralegal work experience. Pass three exams – the Paralegal Core Competency (PCC) Exam, the Practice Area Exam, and the Professional Responsibility Exam.

Why doesn t the American Bar Association certify paralegals? ›

Paralegal Certification

The American Bar Association does not certify Paralegals. Paralegals may not represent themselves as "ABA-certified paralegals," because the ABA's approval applies to the paralegal education program rather than to the individual paralegal.

What are three good sources of paralegal continuing education? ›

The three nationally recognized certifying bodies in the field each have certain CLE requirements associated with renewing their certifications.
  • The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) ...
  • The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) ...
  • The Association for Legal Professionals (NALS)

How much do paralegals get paid in Washington? ›

How much does a Paralegal I make in Washington? The average Paralegal I salary in Washington is $69,959 as of January 26, 2023, but the range typically falls between $62,059 and $79,147.

Can you be a paralegal with just a degree? ›

You do not need a Law Degree to become a paralegal. However, many employers look for legal or paralegal training. There are specialist qualifications for paralegals, developed to give you the skills and knowledge to work effectively as a paralegal.

How long does it take to qualify as a paralegal? ›

This typically takes 24 months to complete as a mix of workplace learning and study.

What can paralegals do in Washington state? ›

Paralegal Career Information in Washington

In Washington's counties of Pierce, King, and Spokane, for many ex-parte court matters that are time-sensitive, paralegals are allowed to present court filings, instead of waiting for an attorney to do so.

What is the best degree for a paralegal? ›

An associate's degree can be a great option for aspiring paralegals because it is more affordable than attending a four-year college and allows you to enter the field earlier. Many community colleges offer associate's degrees in paralegal studies or legal studies.

What are four things that a paralegal Cannot do? ›

Generally, paralegals may not represent clients in court, take depositions, or sign pleadings. Some federal and state administrative agencies, however, do permit nonlawyer practice. See, for example, Social Security Administration.

Does the FBI use paralegals? ›

FBI paralegal specialists assist attorneys in conducting research, preparing legal pleadings, and reviewing and analyzing case material for various assignments.

Why do people become paralegals instead of lawyers? ›

The time to become a paralegal is significantly shorter than the minimum seven-year educational process to becoming a lawyer. It is also a lot less expensive to undertake a paralegal degree compared to a law degree, meaning choosing to become a paralegal is both faster and cheaper than going into law school.

What type of paralegal is most in demand? ›

What are the Most In-Demand Specializations for Paralegals?
  • Contract law.
  • Corporate law.
  • Healthcare law.
  • Intellectual Property (IP) law.
  • Real estate law.

What state has the highest demand for paralegals? ›

Paralegal Salaries by State
RankStateUS Average10-Year Growth (2018-2028)312%
1West Virginia11%
42 more rows

How many words per minute is good for a paralegal? ›

Ability to keyboard at a minimum rate of 25 words per minute. No significant record of emotional instability, personality disorder, or other unresolved mental health concerns that may impair of the paralegal duty function, or risk to the mission.

Is it stressful to be a paralegal? ›

Being a paralegal is stressful, and paralegal burnout is real. Paralegals work notoriously long hours, and their tasks include everything from office management to doing case research and preparing and editing legal contracts and documents. Paralegal's tasks have a direct impact on the outcomes of matters and cases.

What city pays paralegals the most? ›

New York City — the average annual salary for paralegals in NYC is $60,430. Chicago — the average annual salary for paralegals in Chicago is $60,690.
Best Paying Cities for Paralegals.
Metropolitan AreaParalegal Salary – 2019 Annual Mean Wage
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA$67,110
6 more rows

Is being a paralegal hard? ›

Stressful and Challenging Work Environment

You may answer to several attorneys at once, each with different needs. Clients, too, can be demanding and difficult. The ability to switch gears quickly and to multitask under pressure is critical to your success as a paralegal.

What is a Level 3 paralegal? ›

NALP Level 3 Qualifications in Paralegal Practice are entry-level qualifications for students with some paralegal experience wanting to become a paralegal and looking to enhance their career. They cover the main areas associated with traditional High Street legal practice.

What are 5 typical duties of paralegals? ›

Paralegal Job Duties
  • Research.
  • Case Preparation.
  • Document Management.
  • Courtroom and Legal Proceedings Assistance.
  • Communication and Coordination.

Do paralegals go to court? ›

Paralegal duties would typically involve preparing legal documents, research, admin, providing quotes to clients, interviewing clients and witnesses, giving clients legal information, going to court and handling a caseload of clients.

Can I be a paralegal with a 2 2? ›

Many firms specify that a 2:1 is the minimum requirement for people applying for their trainee positions. Some simply won't allow people with 2:2s to continue with the online application.

Do paralegals earn much? ›

As of 2021, the average starting salary for a paralegal is $41,500 to $67,500.

Do you need the LPC to be a paralegal? ›

Should I do the LPC/BPTC? A small number of paralegal jobs (mostly those in larger solicitors' firms) will require you to have successfully completed the Legal Practice Course or the Bar Professional Training Course. If you are going for one of those jobs, then you may wish to think about doing the LPC/BPTC.

What type of law do paralegals make the most money? ›

Types of Paralegals Ranked by Highest Pay
  • International Law Paralegal. ...
  • Personal Injury Lawyer Paralegal. ...
  • Family Law Paralegal. ...
  • Freelance Paralegal. ...
  • Litigation Paralegal. ...
  • Public Defender Paralegal. ...
  • Estate Planning and Probate Paralegal. ...
  • Real Estate Paralegal.

What do most paralegals make? ›

How do paralegal salaries compare?
CareerMedian Annual Salary
Paralegals and Legal Assistants$56,230
Legal Secretaries and Administrative Assistants$47,710
Court Reporters and Simultaneous Captioners$60,380
Legal Support Workers, All Other$59,790
1 more row

What is the next step after a paralegal? ›

As a paralegal, you may be wondering about your career options. The next logical step is to become a practicing lawyer, utilizing the legal knowledge you've gained to further your law career.

What comes after paralegal? ›

Paralegals can become lawyers by attending law school and passing the bar exam just like anyone else who aspires to become a lawyer. As paralegals, these types of professionals spend a lot of time assisting lawyers in their work.

Are paralegals worth it? ›

Paralegal training is faster, much cheaper, and opens up many professional doors (more on that later). Becoming a paralegal is a noble, exciting goal. You can do a lot of good in this role. If you're motivated to help others and ready to challenge yourself, this can be a deeply rewarding career.

What are 3 duties that paralegals usually perform? ›

Typical duties of a paralegal include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Conduct client interviews and maintain general contact with the client.
  • Locate and interview witnesses.
  • Conduct investigations and statistical and documentary research.
  • Conduct legal research.
Jun 8, 2021

What do attorneys think of paralegals? ›

Attorneys definitely see paralegals as a means to keeping costs under control; saving time by delegating certain work to a competent lower level and the ability to create a profit center.

How do paralegals deal with difficult clients? ›

Tips for dealing with angry clients
  1. Listen. Books. ...
  2. Listen some more. Often people want to feel they have been heard. ...
  3. Reflect. Reflecting does not have to take hours - just a pause to reflect on what you have heard before responding can help. ...
  4. Be solutions focused. ...
  5. Be aware of your personal and professional boundaries.

What does a CIA paralegal do? ›

As a Paralegal for CIA, you will provide case management, legal research, case-cite verification, blue book citations, and general paralegal support to the Office of General Counsel. You will support legal issues relating to foreign intelligence, counterintelligence activities, and both civil and criminal litigation.

What industry is paralegal? ›

Paralegals and legal assistants are found in all types of organizations, but most work for law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies. They usually work full time, and some may have to work more than 40 hours a week to meet deadlines.

How do you become a CIA lawyer? ›

Minimum Qualifications
  1. Juris Doctor (JD) degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association.
  2. Active membership of the bar (any US jurisdiction). ...
  3. For Honors Attorneys with no prior work experience prior to law school, a law school GPA of at least 3.5 for schools on a 4.0 scale.

Can paralegals call themselves lawyers? ›

A paralegal may work in a law firm, but they cannot represent you in court or make legal filings on your behalf. You may need a solicitor or barrister for those responsibilities. Therefore a paralegal cannot call themselves a lawyer.

Is paralegal prestigious? ›

It truly is a prestigious and significant profession. Simply put, paralegals help people. They help their employers be more efficient in their jobs, they can increase a firm's revenue and productivity, and they also help the clients.

Are paralegals respected? ›

For a variety of reasons, professional paralegals can be extremely valuable to law firms, and more shops should respect and invest in professional paralegals. As many attorneys know from first-hand experience, professional paralegals often learn valuable information about the practice of law.

What is the passing mark for paralegal exam? ›

Passing the exam.

We have set the passing score for each exam at 50%.

What is the beginning salary for most paralegals? ›

What is the total pay trajectory for Entry Level Paralegal?
Job TitleSalary
Entry Level Paralegal$41,096 /yr
Paralegal$54,813 /yr
Senior Paralegal$80,517 /yr

What type of person makes a good paralegal? ›

An indispensable paralegal has an ability to multitask, a strong attention to detail, a willingness to learn, an expertise in organization, and psychic abilities.

Is paralegal good pay? ›

Paralegal Salaries in London

The average salary for Paralegal is £29,082 per year in the London. The average additional cash compensation for a Paralegal in the London is £1,500, with a range from £444 - £5,068.

What is the largest employer of paralegals? ›

Private law firms are the largest employers of paralegals. Businesses, corporations, and the government are also large employers of paralegals. Paralegals work in a variety of legal practice areas, ranging from litigation and trial practice to tax, real estate transactions, and estate planning.

Can paralegals make six figures? ›

Can paralegals make six figures? Sure. If you're certified by either NALA, NFPA, or another certifying organization, have years of experience and have become a subject matter expert in your field. Many larger law firms have tiers for paralegals and they advance through the ranks as do attorneys.

Do paralegals need to type fast? ›

Minimum typing skills of 50 WPM, required; You will work with attorneys, paralegals, and other legal and administrative staff to service clients.

Do paralegals make mistakes? ›

Even experienced paralegals make mistakes, and god knows you'll see lawyers themselves make plenty of them. But there are certain mistakes brand-new paralegals seem to be famous for making.

Do paralegals have to read a lot? ›

Paralegals spend a significant amount of time learning about the law and conducting research by reading through old case files. The point is to try to find precedents for lawyers to use in their own court cases. Paralegal jobs require reading late into the night and under pressure if deadlines are fast approaching.

Do you need qualifications to work paralegal? ›

You will be expected to have a good standard of general education, a good understanding of the law and legal system, and good administration skills. The LLB Law is equivalent to a BA or BSc and is a Qualifying Law Degree and one of the recommended paralegal course paths towards becoming a paralegal.

Do you need qualifications to be a paralegal? ›

While there are no set requirements to enter the profession, it will benefit you to have good GCSE and A-Level grades. Also, it's essential to know that the level of competition for paralegal positions is high, and you'll be contending with many law graduates.

Can a paralegal practice law in Washington State? ›

Admission and Practice Rule 28 (APR 28) was finalized in 2015 and allowed paralegals meeting certain educational standards and passing a test to perform limited practice in the area of family law in Washington state.

Can you become a paralegal without an LPC? ›

Do I need training/qualifications? As the paralegal profession is an unregulated one, there is - generally speaking - no particular qualification you must have to either join the profession or to progress within it.

Is a paralegal job stressful? ›

Being a paralegal is stressful, and paralegal burnout is real. Paralegals work notoriously long hours, and their tasks include everything from office management to doing case research and preparing and editing legal contracts and documents. Paralegal's tasks have a direct impact on the outcomes of matters and cases.

Why be a paralegal and not a lawyer? ›

Here are a few reasons why you might want to consider becoming a paralegal instead of a lawyer: Paralegals typically have less student loan debt than lawyers. The number of years in education required to become a paralegal is typically less than what is required to become a lawyer. Paralegals make a comfortable salary.

Is a paralegal a qualified lawyer? ›

A paralegal is a highly-valued member of a legal team that has extensive knowledge of the law and legal matters, but is not a qualified lawyer. Paralegals undertake a wide variety of administrative and legal work.

Why it now pays to become a paralegal? ›

Demand has increased over the past decade, and it is now estimated that paralegals account for more than 100,000 roles in the legal field — the second highest number after solicitors.

How competitive are paralegal roles? ›

As a result, getting a paralegal role is competitive and not a soft option. Be warned also that some positions require previous experience, so it's worth taking the time to find the right position for you. Becca realised that: 'Even doing a week of work experience at a law firm can help kick-start your career in law.

Can I work as a paralegal with a GDL? ›

If you're currently studying a law degree, GDL or LPC, paralegal roles are well within your reach, and I'd encourage you to be aware of them and consider whether paralegalling could be for you.


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