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
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
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
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.