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Career Profile: Corporate Paralegal

Why Is Legal Representation a Job of Tomorrow?
With a bigger population, the majority of which does not understand the intricacies of law, the need for experienced lawyers is clear. Law is a convoluted subject, based on years of previous rulings, the Constitution, and politics. Lawyers will be needed well into the next decades to ensure that everyone receives equal representation in court for a fair trial, and as their employment rate rises, the need for paralegals will increase as well. This is particularly true for corporate paralegals, who deal with business matters. As the business sector booms, thanks to advances in technology and globalization, they are encountering new business crimes that require legal assistance to resolve. Employment opportunities for paralegals, including corporate paralegals, are expected to grow 22 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Corporate paralegals make an average salary of $52,220 annually.

What Does a Corporate Paralegal Do?
Corporate paralegals are legal assistants to lawyers. They perform many of the same tasks as lawyers, such as preparing cases, investigating claims, and tracking the progress of a particular case. However, unlike lawyers, paralegals are barred from duties that deal with carrying out the law. Instead, one of their main responsibilities is to help a lawyer prepare for closings, hearings, trials, and meetings. They conduct research, analyze and organize information relevant to the case, and write reports that the lawyer will use to determine how the case should be handled. Paralegals also work in handling smaller cases, such as helping clients with tax returns, setting up trust funds, and planning estates. Corporate paralegals in particular help lawyers working with a business to set up employee contracts, shareholder agreements, stock plans, and employee benefit plans. They may also keep updated on government regulations to ensure that the business operates within government-mandated parameters and avoid legal trouble.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a Corporate Paralegal?
Most corporate paralegals have an associate degree in paralegal studies, or a bachelor's degree with a certificate in paralegal studies. An associate degree would take about two years to earn, and a bachelor's would typically take four years to earn. Paralegal studies certificate programs generally last about a year, though some only require a few months to complete. Paralegal studies programs cover courses in legal research, legal applications of computers, and other related topics. Certification can be obtained from several paralegal associations, such as the National Association of legal Assistants, the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc., and the National Federation of Paralegal Association. All of these different organizations offer slightly different certifications depending on the paralegal's education level and work experience.