You’re crushing it in legal support, and now you’re wondering: what’s next? Choosing the right paralegal career path for you is an important part of your personal journey.
For many people, becoming a paralegal is a life goal. Once they start their career, they happily remain working for decades. Their career paths remain firmly rooted in legal support, though they might seek out more specialized and highly paid positions.
Others see their paralegal position as a step in a much longer and more windy career path. The skills they build in their early legal support career are highly transferable to other types of work.
No matter where you want to go, our free eBook Next steps in your paralegal career can help you create a solid plan. You can get a copy right here:
In this article, we’ll explore some of the career maneuvers you can make as a paralegal. If you’re looking to apply your hard-earned skills to pivot away from your paraprofessional career, we hope you find these suggestions useful.
Stay in law and become an attorney
Becoming a lawyer is perhaps the most obvious “next step” for a paralegal. Indeed, many people may argue that working as a paralegal yields invaluable experience that will provide an advantage in law school and beyond.
Sadly, some of your colleagues will try to convince you otherwise.
The general consensus among law school educators and attorneys is that working as a paralegal gives limited administrative experience that will not help with the substantive issues presented in law school and practice.
That seems like elitist hogwash to this writer.
In fact, the right paralegal at the right firm will have received plenty of opportunities to perform legal research, writing, and trial preparation responsibilities that will undoubtedly aid in future academic and professional endeavors.
Plus, you get to see first-hand what the legal world is like. There’s no better way to decide whether a legal career is right for you than actually working in the legal industry.
At the very least, paralegals entering law school will have much greater familiarity with things like research resources, court procedures, and the legalese that is necessary just to survive within a law firm.
As someone who entered law school with no legal experience whatsoever, I’d say those are major advantages.
Don’t let the lawyer/academics dissuade you — and there are a lot of them. You have a strong upper hand here. Use your time as a paralegal to make connections, build relationships, and prepare yourself for the rigors of law school.
Combine law and medicine as a nurse paralegal
Another great career stepping stone for paralegals is to become a nurse paralegal.
These double-major individuals can start with either profession, so long as they end up with both a nursing degree and a paralegal certificate.
In case you’re wondering why someone would go through the rigorous schooling and training required for this position, consider the possibilities.
Nurse paralegals are highly employable by insurance companies, government agencies, and law firms specializing in health care law. They are also called upon to act as consultants in cases where physical injuries are at play.
In essence, the dual course training makes nurse-paralegals perfectly poised to “interpret medical jargon” for legal professionals and to interpret legal jargon for medical professionals.
And, in many cases, the extra degree will come with a sizable bump in salary.
Use your leadership skills to become a paralegal manager
The next career path to consider is that of a paralegal manager.
As the title implies, paralegal managers are responsible for managing teams of paralegals. For example, they might be charged with assigning paralegals to specific matters or to oversee their work with specific attorneys.
Other tasks, however, are more akin to those of a traditional manager.
Hiring, firing, and retention are within the purview of a paralegal manager. So are things like training, giving performance reviews, and acting as a liaison with other departments within the firm.
Importantly, paralegal managers can be a huge benefit to the firm’s bottom line if they understand how to turn paralegals into profit centers.
If you hope to land this position someday, you’d be wise to study up on this critical issue as lawyers and law firms typically have a difficult time saying no to the promise of increased profitability.
Land people the job you’re leaving as a recruiter
Let’s face it, some people (present company included) have the best intentions for a career in the law, but don’t end up liking the day-to-day practice all that much.
The good news is that your legal career will open all kinds of other doors for you. One of the most attractive options is that of a legal staffing recruiter.
In this position, you will typically be hired by a law firm as an outside staffing consultant. Your job will include publishing job postings, reviewing cover letters and resumes, screening candidates, and setting up interviews for the most qualified job seekers.
While many attorney recruiters are former lawyers or JDs themselves, that’s not necessarily the case for recruiters of non-attorney legal professionals.
As one of my attorney-recruiting friends used to say: “if you don’t like the job, send someone else in to do it.” I personally think that’s a brilliant strategy.
Capitalize on your charisma in legal sales
How many times in your paralegal career have you sat through a lunchtime presentation given by one legal resource vendor or another?
Maybe the presentation dealt with trial preparation software or a cloud-based filing system. Regardless of the topic, most of the salespeople you encounter in these presentations have a legal background themselves.
If sitting at your paralegal’s desk all day every day doesn’t do it for you, perhaps you’d be more interested in a job that allows you to get out and meet people.
As with any sales job, your ultimate income is often determined by your ability to work the room (i.e., make sales). If you’re a natural extrovert and undeniable charmer, this may be the job for you.
Embrace data and details as a conflicts analyst
Finally, if you enjoy working in a law firm setting but do not particularly enjoy paralegal work, perhaps you should consider becoming a conflicts analyst.
As you already know, law firms generally may not represent separate parties with competing interests. In the most basic of examples, a law firm may not represent a company in one lawsuit while it is currently representing that company’s legal adversary in another pending matter.
Importantly, not all conflicts of interest are that easy to spot. That’s why many law firms hire conflict analysts to fully vet new clients and their adversaries before they accept a retainer.
This is a great job for people who love data, research, and meticulous organization.
Planning the next steps in your paralegal career
Ultimately, paralegals have a plethora of options when it comes to alternate careers. Don’t be afraid to seek the advice of a career counselor along your journey. We can’t wait to see you thrive in your next position.
When you’re ready to plan your career path, this free eBook is here to help. Next steps in your paralegal career walks you through the whole process, from identifying your priorities to choosing the next position you want to pursue. Get it right here: