If you want to work in a law office, but you don't want to become an attorney for whatever reason, you could always become a paralegal. Paralegals get to share in the satisfaction of helping clients receive justice; their work is stimulating and challenging. It often falls to the paralegals to research various legal matters to produce the best prosecution or defense possible. This is hard work, intense work, but it's also a career many people find very exciting.
There are between 250,000 and 300,000 paralegals in the United States. (They're sometimes referred to as "legal assistants.") Paralegals are mostly employed at private firms, although about a third work for the government--either for the Justice Department or in local district attorney's offices. While competition for every position is usually considerable, job growth for this profession is rising fast and is expected to climb for quite some time. It's interesting to note that recessions have a mixed effect on the job market for legal assistance. Some private firms lay off paralegals and are reluctant to hire new paralegals when the economy is weak, because they want to save as much money as they can to be on the safe side.
However, in times of economic calamity, people often take more legal action. They sue the banks that have foreclosed on them and the predatory lending agencies which they feel took advantage of them. The number of divorces tends to increase during bad economic times as well. All this increased legal activity means more work for paralegals.
Paralegals take care of a whole host of important tasks. Sometimes they'll interview clients and witnesses to a certain event.
For example, imagine a person's suing a convenience store because he slipped and fell on the floor, and he's claiming the store bears responsibility for this fall and the resulting injuries. It might be up to the paralegal to try to reconstruct this fall in as detailed a manner as possible.
The paralegal would have to speak with everyone who was present in the store at the time of the fall, try to ascertain how slippery the floor might have been, study surveillance tapes to search for clues, and perhaps even examine physical evidence, such as the kind of cleaning solution the owners of the store used on the floor.
The paralegal might also have to pore through legal records of similar lawsuits--a responsibility that usually involves hours upon hours of careful study, for the paralegal never knows which case might include a tiny detail that would help produce a win for his or her client. (Much of this work can be done online now, which means paralegals often complete at least some of their work at home, a nice bonus for those thinking about entering this profession.)
Finally, paralegals might work to complete many of the legal documents needed for a case: motions, affidavits and so on. Attorneys rarely have time to do all these tasks, so the work of paralegals is critical to winning a case in court.