If you’re interested in working in law in the state of Florida, then you should know that the job outlook is quite promising. Florida is known for having a high population of immigrants. They may be here on student visas or they may have intentions of living permanently in the United States.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has good news for you: the outlook for American paralegals is expected to improve by 15% from now until the year 2026, which means that available jobs within what is considered a rather lucrative field will expand at a faster rate than many others; moreover, demand for immigration services is in high demand, and that’s just one of the areas of practice within the paralegal profession.
In August 2019, the Department of Homeland Security announced several job openings for legal assistants at multiple locations across the nation; more specifically, these offers were for individuals who would work for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Active hiring of paralegals by the DHS is part of a trend that has been observed during the Trump administration, and it is directly related to the numerous immigration policy changes undertaken in recent years. The DHS is hardly the only employer looking for paralegals; immigration law firms have also been on a hiring spree because of the dynamic policy field as it relates to work visas, asylum claims, detentions, family-based immigration, and removal orders.
With immigration law firms and other private practices doing their best to streamline their operations, more paralegals are in demand because their salary costs less than taking on more partners. Plus, paralegals can handle multiple duties usually performed by legal assistants and secretaries.
Why More Law Firms are Hiring Paralegals
Law firms hiring more paralegals have also proven to be a major benefit for their clients. Since billing is typically by the hour, client billing will be far more affordable with a paralegal on the team over another attorney. Clients are no longer gravitating towards Big Law firms such as Skadden, Jones Day, Greenberg Traurig, and DLA Piper as frequently as they used to, and this has a lot to do with sticker shock; these are firms that employ hundreds of attorneys, and this means that payroll costs are often passed onto clients.
Simply stated, attorney rates are higher. This will result in a satisfied client who will more likely return for legal services.
Some boutique law firms are starting to offer paralegals more substantial salaries to prevent Big Law from keeping all the top talent. The BLS reported a median annual salary of $50,410 for paralegals in 2017. If you obtain your Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies degree from Florida National University, a program that you can fully complete online and with financial assistance, you can apply to work in the state court system, for example. If hired, you will earn a minimum of $43,193.52 per year and a maximum of $92,211.20. Government salaries are pegged to a system that tries to guarantee equity and predictability in salaries.
At private law firms in Miami, you can earn more than the national median salary, but if you plan on moving to another state, you could earn considerably more. For more information about the paralegal profession in Florida, contact one of our admissions counselors.
Law firms and government agencies aren’t the only employers looking for paralegals in 2019. Corporations with an in-house legal team are also discovering the cost benefits and versatility of hiring more paralegals than practicing lawyers. Unfortunately, so are the attorneys. As a result, many of them go on to open their own private practices and in turn, hire more paralegals to keep their expenses lean.
A trend towards improving the efficiency of legal services is another reason paralegals are expected to be in high demand over the next few years. The scope of duties undertaken by paralegals has been considerably extended in the 21st century; it is not unusual for legal assistants to
- Conduct research.
- Become subject matter experts.
- Assess risk.
- Draft pleadings.
- Evaluate the merits and outcomes of cases.
- Investigate cases.
- Maintain databases.
- Prepare detailed reports.
- Have direct contact with clients.
This expansion of paralegal duties is closely related to the adversarial legal system of the U.S., its litigious nature, and the growing complexity of American business. In Miami, for example, the 11th Judicial Circuit has been operating a complex business litigation division since 2006 and the caseload handled by this court section is only getting larger.
States with Top Salaries for Paralegals
A paralegal degree from FNU is something that you can take with you when you move out of state; depending on the requirements of the bar association where you are moving to, you may have to follow a certain registration and certification process, but your educational requirements will be satisfied because FNU is an institution accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission. Once you complete your degree program, FNU can continue to help through our Job Placement Team, which provides workshops, resume assistance, interviewing skills training, job search resources, salary information, and more.
The District of Columbia
The median salary for paralegals and legal assistants in D.C. is $76,620, the highest in the country for this occupational field. It is not surprising to learn that the nation’s capital is where paralegals can find higher salaries; after all, this is where federal laws and regulations are introduced, debated and enacted. The contentious diversity of American political interests keeps paralegals pretty busy in D.C., and the high density of law firms translates into high demand for legal professionals.
The state nicknamed “The Last Frontier” can be quite generous in terms of paralegal salaries. Alaska is not a populous state by any means, but it is an important hub of economic and business activity. The median annual compensation for paralegals in Alaska is $66,950, but the demand is not very high. It is interesting to note that the median salary for paralegals employed by the federal government is about the same as those working for private law firms in Alaska.
In the Evergreen State, paralegals can expect to make just a little under $60K per year, but you will need more than your FNU degree should you choose to move there. The Washington State Bar Association recognizes paralegals as limited license legal technicians, and this means passing an exam plus completing an application process. In Seattle, quite a few law firms focus on intellectual property litigation, securities, and financial compliance practices. Paralegals who have experience with technology and software litigation can expect to earn more than the state median salary.
The Empire State has always been a hub of legal activity where paralegals can find median salaries of around $59,000 per year; however, those who find work in the New York City metropolitan area can negotiate higher salaries. It should be noted that the cost of living in Manhattan and other NYC boroughs is higher than in South Florida and the national average. As for demand, there is no shortage of law firms in New York, especially those that are ranked among the world’s largest and more profitable private practices. As previously mentioned, boutique law firms in New York actively compete against Big Law firms for talented paralegals, thus boosting the potential to earn more.
Median salaries for paralegals in the Golden State are a little lower than in New York, with one geographical exception: in Silicon Valley, it is not unusual to find paralegals making $75,000 per year, particularly those who work in San Jose and San Francisco. Similar to Seattle, software litigation, securities, and financial compliance law firms handle large caseloads. In an effort to attract the right talent, a few criminal defense law firms in California will offer higher salaries to the right candidates.
More About the Paralegal Profession
An important thing to remember about the legal profession is that it’s not recession proof, especially for private practices. Depending on the area of expertise a paralegal is working in, businesses could thrive or be quite stagnant.
Let’s take a look at some of the industries that paralegals can work in:
Here is a list of some of the departments you can find in a law firm:
- Estate Planning
- Labor & Employment
This is just a small list of some of the industries and departments that paralegals can work in, but depending on how well the economy is going, some can be a little slower than others. This could result in less work for paralegals. Paralegals are not authorized to practice law, so they don’t have the option of going off to start their own firm. They must work under a practicing attorney even when they provide their services on a freelance basis.
As for the increase of advanced technologies in the legal profession, paralegals should not be overly concerned about their jobs being replaced by smart automation. You may have heard about artificial intelligence being used for eDiscovery and to evaluate potential outcomes based on case law, but the American Bar Association does not see the substantive tasks performed by paralegals going away anytime soon. The work of the most advanced AI constructs and machine learning routines need to be vetted by legal assistants and attorneys before it can be put on legal documents or court filings.
At any rate, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 8% growth in this profession by the year 2024. The employment rate for paralegals in the state of Florida is the second-highest in the country next to California according to the Bureau. The Miami metropolitan art is reported to have the highest concentration of jobs for legal professionals. According to these findings, the state of Florida appears to be the perfect location to work as a paralegal.
Paralegal Studies Program at Florida National University
Florida National University (FNU), a regionally accredited educational institution situated in the South Florida area, is the perfect place to earn a paralegal degree. Depending on what your professional aspirations are, you could pursue either one of these degrees and land a rewarding career as a professional paralegal.
FNU offers two types of legal degrees:
- Associates of Arts in Paralegal Studies
- Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies
Associates of Arts in Paralegal Studies
For aspiring college students who are looking to pursue a career in Paralegal Studies, FNU offers a 2-year associate’s program that involves intense courses in the subject of the American legal system. This degree will prepare you to work in any of the legal departments at an entry-level position. After successful completion of this degree program, you’ll also be eligible to work in any of the above-mentioned industries making your resume applicable to almost any law firm in the state of Florida.
Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies
This degree program is specifically designed as an undergraduate course for aspiring legal professionals who might want to enroll in law school after graduation. However, it is not uncommon for a graduate from this program to go on to a professional career as a successful paralegal.Law firms will be looking for the best possible candidate to fill their paralegal position. If you happen to have a bachelor’s degree in legal studies, then this will tell the hirers that you have more educational experience with in-depth knowledge of areas such as legal research and writing, civil litigation, property law, drawing up contracts, and criminal law. Furthermore, the bachelor’s track gives you more elective choices to learn more about the legal departments listed above.
Such electives that FNU offers under this program are:
- Immigration Law
- Bankruptcy Law
- Business Organizations
- White Collar Crime
- Tort Law
- Ethics in the Criminal Justice System
FNU paralegal and legal assistant degrees can be earned 100% online or at either of our campus locations in Hialeah or Miami, Florida. Consult with an FNU advisor to help you choose a course that is most convenient for your work and life schedules.
At FNU, we help make college affordable by assisting you with applying for federal loans, grants, and scholarships. Contact one of our advisors today to get a jumpstart on the enrollment process.