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Should You Become a Paralegal or a Lawyer?

15 Key Considerations


Woman reading in law library
VStock LLC / Tanya Constantine / Getty Images
Trying to choose between a career as a paralegal and a career as a lawyer? Both are respectable career options and each position has its own pros and cons. Below are fifteen key considerations in choosing the best career path for you.

Paralegal: Can enter market with as little as 3 months training; Lawyer: Minimum of seven years post-high school education.

Paralegal: No paralegal school entrance exam required; Lawyer: High LSAT score necessary for law school admission.

Paralegal: No law school debt; Lawyer: Law school debt that may approach six figures.

Paralegal: No exam required to enter the paralegal field; Lawyer: Successful passage of bar exam required to practice law.

Paralegal: Limited career path and advancement opportunities; Lawyer: Broad career path and advancement opportunities.

Paralegal: Cannot practice law/supervised by attorneys; Lawyer: Can practice law and operate autonomously.

Paralegal: Top earning potential of $60- 90K in most markets; Lawyer: Unlimited earning potential.

Paralegal: One of the fastest-growing careers in U.S.; Lawyer: Job outlook above average.

Paralegal: Limited responsibility/less stress; Lawyer: High level of responsibility/high level of stress.

Paralegal: Frequently entitled to overtime pay; Lawyer: No additional pay for evening and weekend hours.

Paralegal: No state-mandated legal education requirements; Lawyer: State-mandated continuing legal education requirements.

Paralegal: Shorter learning curve/perform many routine, mundane tasks; Lawyer: Large learning curve/perform many intellectually challenging and diverse tasks.

Paralegal: Strong organizational skills and attention to detail required; Lawyer: Strong communication, analytical and logical reasoning skills required.

Paralegal: May or may not have secretarial support; Lawyer: Secretarial and administrative support generally available.

Paralegal: Cubicle or shared office most common work environment; Lawyer: Private office most common work environment.

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