Alternative Paralegal Career Options

March 18, 2013 by Ann Pearson

paralegal career options          A paralegal certificate combined with your personality traits and other skills can lead you to a rewarding and challenging career path if you are open to looking at alternative paralegal career options.  If you asked me 20 years ago in my first year as a Litigation Paralegal, or even later in my career as a paralegal manager, I would not have envisioned ending up being an entrepreneur in the business of training paralegals.  I assumed I would have remained in a paralegal role in a law firm for my entire career.   Until I asked myself one day what it was that I liked most about being a paralegal manager.  It wasn’t the recruiting, the performance reviews, dealing with HR issues or trying to teach attorneys how to better utilize paralegals.  It was the training of the new paralegals that I enjoyed the most.

          I am always interested to learn what leads one to become a paralegal, and intrigued when I meet former paralegals who have turned their paralegal skills into a career that is outside the box of what someone would expect to do with a paralegal certificate.  It is expected that a paralegal certificate leads to a paralegal position in a law firm, but what if there was an alternative paralegal career option that gave you an even more rewarding career path given your personality and other skills?    

         Your paralegal career path might not have the “paralegal” title but could use the transferrable skills from your paralegal education and experience to include rewarding careers such as:

  • Legal Staffing Recruiter
  • Professional Development and Training Manager
  • Pro Bono Program Coordinator
  • Project Manager for legal support vendor
  • Legislative Affairs Director for county government agency
  • Business Development/Sales for legal support vendor
  • Professional Blogger/Marketer to the legal field
  • Library Research Assistant
  • Litigation Support Analyst
  • Executive Assistant at a venture capital company
  • Foreclosure Specialist
  • Business Owner of litigation support training programs
  • Contracts Administrator
  • Clerk or Administrator in the court system
  • Investigator or Process Server


         All of these job titles are from former paralegals who I have personally met.  The list of alternative paralegal career options could be unlimited.  Do you enjoy networking and sales conversations? Then maybe a sales position for a legal vendor would be a better fit than managing document review projects as a litigation paralegal in a law firm.  Do you enjoy the operations and financial side of managing projects and have an undergraduate degree in business management?  Then maybe you would be better suited for a VP of Operations or an Office Administrator at a small company that would allow you to combine your education with your paralegal skills.  Do you love to do the legal research and writing portion of your assignments in your paralegal certificate program?  Then a job in library would probably get you more research assignments than being a paralegal at a large law firm that already has dozens of associates already doing the research assignments. 

         I would urge recent paralegal graduates who are having a difficult time finding their first paralegal position to think outside the box and find out if there are alternative paralegal career paths that would utilize the skills you learned in your paralegal certificate program.

        Do you have an interesting and unique position that uses paralegal skills, but not with the paralegal title?  I’d love to hear from you.  Post your comments to share your career ideas for others who might be looking outside the box.  

  • Monica Reese

    I have a Legal Assistant Studies/Paralegal Certificate and find it very difficult to enter into the legal arena. Thank you for the article. I can now transfer my education to create a new path.

  • kathologist

    What I am doing with my law library and paralegal skills is look to the needs in my community to help the self-represented with guiding them to the resources they can pursue and basic computer research skills so they can do it themselves. I am very concentrated on social justice and my concerns about equal access to justice. It is not just the indigent who need guidance, but the middle class as well.

    I recently took training to be an authorized Supervisor of court ordered visitation between children and their non-guardians. There is a tremendous need for affordable access to this. Usually the only choice is either a therapist/psychologist or an attorney and the party has to pay their hourly rates.

    Understanding the legal process of how the the process works and the analytical skills required to understand the rules and regs. gives you a deeper understanding.

    For me, my life experience also gets used as a facilitator and helping people find the “language to express their needs and explain boundaries.

    • Florence Turningtwoseven Sewel

      That is a great way to spread your talent and help the community. You are not only saving your clients money you are enabling them with the education to help themselves. I
      am very fond of that idea.

  • Scarlett savvy

    are any of these alternatives willing to be employed with no experience/new grad? that seems to be the problem with anyone I graduated with and know from my internship-that I stayed at 5months longer in the hopes of networking and finding a job after. no luck

    • Prattle On, Boyo

      The Catch-22 never quite goes away, Scarlett. When you’re a new grad, you aren’t offered employment because you don’t have the experience. But without a job, you can’t get the experience. The only way I have personally seen to overcome this is to sign up with some temp agencies that may or may not be willing to work with new grads. Usually the clients want from the temps exactly what they want from the full-time, permanent employees -experience and lots of it. They believe they are saving money by using a temp agency to find talent, because the reality is, a precious few firms want to take the time to train new employees. And given the economy what it is -what is it now -something like fifty bodies for every available position despite reports from the MSM to the contrary- There are approximately 90 million ppl *not* in the workforce because there just isn’t any substantive job creation going on. The US is going in reverse and implementing “austerity” measures which is crazy, IMO. Problems don’t go away simply because the federal government does not want to bail out the ppl instead of the bankers. The cumulative result is that the current economic climate on Main Street (as opposed to Wall Street, which has been enjoying records profits since the “recession” in 2008) certainly makes the odds of finding employment extremely dicey, to say the least.

    • Dr D

      I don’t trust internships whatsoever. In my paralegal program, they offer an unpaid internship worth 3 college credits. The internship lasts about 3 months. Aside from the fact that it’s unpaid, 3 months really is not a lot of experience anyway, so what difference would it really make in the long run? Most paralegal jobs I’m seeing require at least 3 years of experience at the minimum. That’s ludicrous!
      I started the program in Fall 2013, and I’m graduating this summer 2014. I tried finding an unpaid summer internship, but they were either taken by law students, full for some other reason, or I never heard back from them. It’s UNPAID, for God’s sake! You would think that they’d take somebody on for free labor, but no. I’m just going to start applying to jobs a month before I graduate, and I’ll keep entries in a log book of who I apply to. If I’m still jobless at the end of 3 months, I will personally visit every single law firm that ignored me and give them a little taste of what it’s like to overlook me.

  • Lindsey Arntson

    I am working as a Marketing Coordinator for a law firm. I also am the event coordinator for our continuing education classes we provide to insurance professionals, financial planners, real estate agents, and CPAs. I love my job. It keeps me from getting bored, and I get to continuously be surrounded by the law.

  • Mallory Howe

    I graduated in December and am seriously struggling to find work. This is a great article and hopefully help my search by broadening it.

  • Prattle On, Boyo

    Awesome post, Ann. And so very timely all things considered.

  • Debbie Ward

    Paralegal for government law department + oil and gas. I’m not sure what city/country you are in. But, in Alberta our motor vehicle and corporate registry services are privatizes. So, a lot of people work in registries in a quasi-legal type position, esp. corporation area. In Canada,

  • Debbie Ward

    One more thought: Canadian Board Diversity Council has a series of courses so that you can learn to sit on a Board of Directors. Boards for non-proft organizations usually require Board work to be pro-bono. So, this might be a great opportunity for a paralegal…take the courses, get on a board, get board experience (including Parliamentary Procedures), and network. Lots of non-profits in the legal sector. ie. John Howard Society, Elisabeth Fry, etc. Not-for profit sector is always looking for volunteers to sit on their board.

  • Dr D

    I’m going through a post-baccalaureate ABA-approved paralegal certificate program now in San Francisco, CA. Although the director of my program has been saying that there are plenty of jobs out there, how can one expect to get a full-time paralegal position right out of school? The vast majority of jobs I’m seeing require, on average, three years of work experience at the minimum! Isn’t that insane? I’ll apply to those jobs regardless. Those ridiculous experience requirements certainly won’t stop me from applying! And given the cost of living in the Bay Area, I’m sticking with 53k as my minimum salary requirements, which is actually very reasonable. The CA gov’t jobs website states that the avg salary of paralegals state-wide is 56k, while for the Bay Area it’s 68k. Therefore, asking for 53k is not too much to ask for, especially when my personality, career interest, motivation, and work ethic are well above average for this field. I’ll still be open to other careers as well. Bottom line is that 53k is that magic number I need to survive independently out there. If I can’t get a paralegal job, then desperation will set in and I’ll take any career or job that offers at least that much. Otherwise, I have no other choice but to move back to my home state and live a purposeless existence, all thanks to the errors of human society in not recognizing my vast potential and contributions that I can make to the community.
    Thank you.

    • supporter

      So how did this story end?

  • Corrie Mcdonald

    As a career advisor in this field, I advise my students to get their foot in the door by getting involved with non-profit groups that advocate for people. This will open the door to many opportunities. Also, start out at a law firm as a receptionist and work your way up the ladder. Getting this broad exposure will show your bosses and HR that you are willing to be a cooperative team member.