Students who are considering earning a degree in paralegal studies may be wondering if paralegals work long hours. The answer is that they sometimes do, but it depends considerably on where the paralegal is working and the deadlines that must be met. The following is a more in-depth analysis of the work hours paralegals typically put into their jobs.
What Paralegals Do
Paralegals are legal professionals who do much of the same work a lawyer does. They typically must perform their work under the supervision of a licensed attorney, meaning their hours are often tied to the tasks an attorney needs to complete. They may draft legal documents, interview witnesses, make filings with the court, perform legal research and more. There are certain restrictions placed on the tasks paralegals can complete, however. They cannot set rates, represent clients in court or give legal advice.
Paralegal Work Environments
Paralegals can work in a number of different work environments, which all affect how often they may have to work long hours. Most paralegals work in law firms, which can range from small to large in size. Others work for the legal departments of private corporations or government agencies of all levels. Some even work for themselves on a freelance basis and provide paralegal services to a variety of clients. Paralegals typically work in an office environment, although occasionally they may travel to gather evidence or accompany attorneys to trial.
When Paralegals Work Long Hours
Paralegals may be called upon to work long or odd hours during a major case. Deadlines are of critical importance in the legal field and paralegals occasionally work long hours to ensure those deadlines will be met. This can include deadlines for filing important legal documents or to complete perpetrations before a trial is due to start. Long hours are most common for paralegals working at law firms but it can happen to paralegals working for corporations or the government as well. Long hours are not always to be expected, however. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most paralegals work a regular 40-hour workweek most of the time. It is only when specific cases or deadlines call for it that they may be expected to work long hours.
Paralegal Pay For Additional Hours
Some paralegals work on an hourly basis and are therefore paid overtime for any additional hours they work. Others are salaried and earn the same amount no matter how many hours they put in a week. Self-employed paralegals must find and manage their own clients but get to take home as much pay as they earn. What a paralegal earns for longer hours is wholly dependent on their individual arrangement with their employer as well as relevant state and federal laws. The average annual salary for a paralegal per PayScale is $46,738. Top earners can earn more than $80,000. As with all occupations, salary expectations will vary based on individual skill and experience as well as location. Paralegals with technical skills, especially database management, will be more sought-after.
The paralegal field is an attractive one to many and only expected to remain in demand as more individuals and corporations need legal services. Most paralegals work a regular 40-hour full-time workweek in an office environment. They occasionally work long hours but only on a case-by-case basis.