Paralegal Career Specializations
Some find that specialization in one or more areas of law increases their chances employment as a paralegal because they become more in demand by attorneys and law firms who share their specialty. Specialization also allows a paralegal to work in the areas of law which she enjoys, and those that best utilize her talents. Specialization can also help ensure success for a paralegal in times of stiff competition for jobs.
Possible paralegal specializations are as many as there are areas of law. Some popular specialty areas include personal injury, bankruptcy, Internet law, corporate and business law, litigation, and real estate.
Some paralegal educational programs allow students to specialize; taking courses that the student enjoys and has an interest in specializing in later is another way to specialize.
Some choose certain topics for their optional paralegal certification exams based upon areas they would like to specialize in. When choosing employment, a paralegal should always make the area of law a prospective employer practices in one of her top considerations, since an attorney’s specialty logically becomes his paralegal’s specialty as well. As previously mentioned the National Association for Legal Assistants offers the Advanced Certified Paralegal credential to certified paralegals who wish to specialize in certain areas of law, such as Alternative Dispute Resolution, Personal Injury, and Trial Management.
Paralegals who are employed in large law firms and corporations are more likely to specialize than those who work in small firms or for more than one attorney. Geography also accounts for paralegal diversity and specialization. Each region of the country naturally develops certain specialties. For example, a high demand for expertise in immigration law may currently exist in California or New York, but less so in Oklahoma or Wyoming, where the law surrounding oil and gas development may require a higher concentration of attorneys and paralegals specializing in those areas. Arizona and South Dakota may have a higher concentration of paralegals specializing in Native American issues than other areas of the country.
Local business cycles also affect specialization. One year’s boom in corporate mergers and acquisitions might bring next year’s growth in bankruptcy practices. Similarly, a hot market in real estate lending may eventually lead to new demands for paralegals experienced in foreclosure procedures, as has been evidenced in the past few years in the United States.
Public policy and legislation also directly impact the areas of law that become more in demand, requiring more legal professionals to focus upon them. As a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States has placed a great focus on national security and privacy issues, resulting in a greater demand for attorneys and paralegals that have expertise in those areas. Similarly, the nationwide call for tort reform legislation may eventually affect the way in which that area of the law is practiced. Even the recently passed healthcare legislation in the United States will inevitably lead to increased or decreased specialization in areas such as insurance and medical law, and malpractice.