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Futurework for Paralegals
Labor study indicates the paralegal profession will realize a 68 percent increase in jobs by 2006.
By Vanessa DeRuyter

January/February 2000 Issue

Paralegals will be among the top 10 fastest-growing jobs in the 21st century, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Labor.

In “Futurework: Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century,” department officials indicated that by 2006, there will be 189,000 paralegals working throughout the nation — a 68 percent increase from the 129,000 paralegals recorded in 1997.

The compiled report is designed to help project changes in the workforce during the new millennium, and will help policy-makers create local, state and nation-wide legislation to deal with future workforce issues.

“Paralegals have chosen wisely, because theirs is one of the fastest-growing careers going into the new
millennium,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. “[Paralegals] should do well in the new economy and that’s a good recommendation for anyone considering going into this field.”
The report said that the economy should remain strong going into the year 2000. In the last six years, 19 million new jobs were created and that trend is expected to continue throughout the next decade, the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

How will this growth affect legal assistants in the future?

Vanessa Beam, CLAS, a member of the National Alliance of Legal Assistants (NALA), said that the growth could cause a shortage of full-range paralegal jobs, pushing in-coming professionals to carry other duties, like secretarial and clerical ones.

“You really need to be at the top of your game,” she said. “Paralegals need to be updated on rules and procedures. There needs to be a greater inclination [by paralegals] to become certified or get more education.”

Beam’s prediction may hold true. According to the report, the single, most important factor determining how much a profession will grow is education. Professions requiring a bachelor’s degree are expected to grow twice as fast as those that only require a high school diploma or training alone.
The report also stated that in the upcoming years, most employment will be generated in places where information technology is relied on.

For future paralegals, chances are that they will have the training needed upon entering the field. However, paralegals practicing today need to continuously update their skills to keep up with rapidly evolving telecommunications technologies. Apparently, being proficient in new technologies could be the difference between a high-paying job and a low-paying one.

“In the information-based, skill-intensive economy of the 21st century, one thing is clear — knowing is growing,” the report stated.

However, Beam said that today’s paralegal has one advantage over incoming ones — experience.

“A purely academic background is a nice foundation but not a substitute for good, solid experience,” she said.

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Updated 09/30/04
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