Paralegal Career Options Offer Wide Variety

After a decade of working in a traditional law firm paralegal role, I’d like to take my career in a new direction, or work in a legal job that incorporates more of my personal interests. Any advice on how I can transition?

Here’s the scoop: Today’s experienced legal assistants have many professional opportunities to choose from. The knowledge and expertise you’ve developed during your paralegal career at a law firm provide a solid foundation for a variety of employment opportunities. Here are five legal job paths that would make good use of your in-demand skills and experience:

Flexing your research muscle. Are you the type of paralegal who enjoys researching legal precedents or rulings? If you are a leave-no-stone-unturned workhorse who relishes staying abreast of the latest legal fact-finding trends, you might excel as a research specialist for a library, media company, diplomatic agency or think tank.

Skills needed: For this role, you need to have a keen ability to orchestrate your own research and analyses on topics, and coordinate data from multiple databases. As you often have to conduct interviews or present your findings, you’ll also need to have strong public speaking skills.

Finding your niche in real estate. Paralegals who have a background in real estate law may be able to transition into a role as a foreclosure specialist. In this legal job, you would likely work at a real estate company, bank or lending institution. Your responsibilities would include reviewing documents — liens, appraisals, inspection reports and such — to determine if homeowners facing foreclosure have any options to save their property.

Skills needed: Outstanding interpersonal skills are a must in this specialty, as you’ll be working with people during a sensitive time in their lives. In addition, you’ll have to communicate effectively with outside court representatives, lenders and insurance companies.

Finding employment in government. Our local, state and federal governments deal with laws, ordinances, regulations and standards on a daily basis. This means there are many paralegal career opportunities in government jobs.

Skills needed: To land a position as a government paralegal, you’ll need a firm grasp of the law a particular departments or agency specializes in. For example, to work in a city planning department, you would need to be familiar with local building codes, community zoning laws and state-wide environmental regulations.

The nonprofit path. Nonprofit organizations rely on legal professionals to navigate government regulations and advise them about compliance requirements that affect their operations. If you’re passionate about a cause, a paralegal career with a nonprofit organization may give you tremendous satisfaction.

Skills needed: The requirements for this type of legal job will vary depending on the agency’s mission. For example, if you wanted to apply to a nonprofit with a global focus, experience in international law might be preferred, along with proficiency in a minimum of two languages. There are also many domestic nonprofits hiring paralegals with concerns ranging from arts and education to immigration services and the environment.

The healthcare professional. As the Affordable Care Act gains traction, legal jobs in the medical field have skyrocketed. There are many paralegal career options in a hospital or insurance setting.

Skills needed: You might provide support in a legal department and help write contracts, manage workflows, research regulations, analyze and interpret data or draft policies and procedures.

Your training and experience give you a unique skill set that can easily transfer to many types of employers. For paralegal career professionals looking for a law firm alternative, there are a wide variety of legal job options available.