The Future of Paralegals: AI, Growth, and Excellence

September 26, 2023

We're thrilled to be joined by today's special guest, Toni Marsh, director of the MPS in Paralegal Studies program at George Washington University's College of Professional Studies. In this episode, Toni shares his remarkable journey into the paralegal profession, spanning over three decades. From starting as an adjunct faculty member while working as a public defender to eventually designing and launching paralegal education programs worldwide, Toni's story is truly inspiring.

The Paralegal Profession: A Rewarding Career Path

In a world where technological advancements are transforming industries, some professions remain resilient to automation and even benefit from it. One such profession is paralegals. Contrary to misconceptions, AI does not threaten lawyers or paralegals; it is just another tool that enhances their capabilities. In this post, we'll explore the distinct roles of lawyers and paralegals, the qualities that make a good paralegal, and the compelling reasons to consider a career as a paralegal.

Different Roles, Shared Goals: Lawyers and paralegals may share office space and courtrooms, but their roles within the legal field are vastly different. Lawyers are the strategists, big-picture thinkers, and client relationship managers. They are the rainmakers who bring in business. On the other hand, paralegals are the doers, responsible for drafting, interviewing, filing, organizing, digesting, and summarizing. While they work on the same cases, they occupy separate spheres within the legal world.

The Qualities of a Good Paralegal: What qualities make someone a good fit for a paralegal role? Detail-oriented, smart, great communicator, good writer, organized, meticulous, and conscientious are some essential traits. Paralegals must enjoy piecing together intricate legal puzzles, as they often deal with complex rules and regulations.

Why Choose Paralegal Studies Over Law School? There are compelling reasons to opt for a paralegal career rather than becoming a lawyer. First, it's a shorter educational journey, typically requiring one year of schooling compared to three for a law degree. Paralegal credentials are also considerably less expensive to obtain. Surprisingly, in many cases, paralegals earn equivalent or better salaries than lawyers. Additionally, the paralegal credential is portable, allowing you to work in different states without the need for bar exams or additional certifications.

Work-Life Balance: Paralegals enjoy a better work-life balance compared to lawyers. While there may be occasional late nights or overtime during crucial events, lawyers bear more significant responsibilities and often work longer hours. Paralegals can typically wrap up their tasks and head home at 5 p.m., ensuring a healthier work-life equilibrium.

A Growing Profession: The paralegal profession is not only thriving but also evolving. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is among the top bands of professions expecting a 19 percent growth rate over the coming years. As technology continues to play a more significant role in the legal industry, paralegals are taking on increasingly substantive work, making education and credentialing crucial to entering the field.

In conclusion, becoming a paralegal is an attractive and sustainable career choice. It offers the excitement and challenge of the legal field with a better work-life balance than lawyers typically enjoy. As the profession continues to grow and evolve, those with the right credentials and qualities can look forward to a rewarding and fulfilling career in the legal world. So, if you love puzzles, organization, and detail-oriented work, consider exploring the path of a paralegal.