Serve the Public Good
Are you driven to improve your community? You’re not alone.
The numbers don’t lie when it comes to the amount of people who work in areas of Law + Government. Over 22 million people, or 16.7% of the U.S. workforce, work in federal, state, and local governments, over 1.3 million lawyers practice within the United States, and close to 300,000 individuals work as paralegals or legal assistants.
With so many people working together to build society at its core, opportunities are prime for Gauchos looking to make a difference. Careers in Law + Government share some similarities and a few key differences--learn how you can join the movement of public servants and prepare yourself for a successful future.
Click to view opportunities related to Law + Government in Handshake. Customize your filters and learn how to search for UCSB career success!
Discover Options: Paralegal Services
For complete information on assessing yourself, choosing majors, and exploring careers, review our starter tips to Discover Options in all careers as well as the specialized tips on this page.
Perusing the Paralegal Profession
If you want to work in law, you must go to law school and become a lawyer, right? Wrong! Paralegal services is an entire field dedicated to working in law without needing a law degree. More specifically, paralegal professionals (also known as "legal assistants") use knowledge of the law to perform work that attorneys would otherwise have to perform in the legal process.
There are a number of reasons to explore the paralegal profession. Are you interested in the field of law but prefer a more balanced lifestyle than that of a law student or lawyer? Do you prefer the administration, research, client communication, and logistics involved in law and dislike representing clients at hearings or in court? Whatever your reason, exploration begins with gaining more information.
Did You Know?
In future years, sources project that paralegal positions will grow at a rate much faster than average within the United States workforce.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of paralegals and legal assistants is forecasted to grow by 12% between 2018-2028.
Key Career Resources
It is important to understand who paralegals are, what they do, where they work, how to get started. Because you may be just beginning to learn about this profession, set time aside for online research and exploration.
Here are a few useful websites that provide information about the paralegal profession:
- Vault Guide to Law Jobs
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Paralegals and Legal Assistants
- American Bar Association: Paralegals
- O*Net Online: Paralegals and Legal Assistants
In addition to online research, there are a number of professional associations for the paralegal field that provide information about the profession, including educational opportunities, conferences, networking, and more.
Here is an initial list of noteworthy professional associations to explore:
- National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- American Association for Paralegal Education (AAFPE)
- American Bar Association: Standing Committee on Paralegals (ABA)
Check out Direct Legal for a list of professional associations in California.
Because you are probably not applying for a job at this moment, you may not be browsing job descriptions or actively searching for work. Use this to your advantage; in the paralegal profession (and many other professions), job descriptions provide you with a great amount of detail about the qualifications that are needed for a paralegal to perform their work.
Take a moment to look for paralegal job descriptions on any job search platform and look for the types of experiences and skills that are frequently mentioned. For example, if knowing Excel or speaking Spanish seem very common, you may want to consider these skills in your future experiential opportunities. Take special note of which positions prefer or require a Paralegal Certificate, and if they do not require one, pay attention to the experience level they seek.
Although there are many similarities in the duties of a paralegal across settings, there are different industries in which paralegals work; even within the field of law, paralegals can specialize in a particular area of law. This could be something to consider moving forward.
Informational Interviews With Paralegals
Through your career discovery process, there will be a time when you feel ready to go beyond online research in an effort to collect more personalized information. By speaking to paralegals in a few different settings and specialties, you can start to get a clearer idea of how the profession fits your goals and receive answers to questions you cannot find online.
A great way to find paralegals is through UCSB's alumni network on LinkedIn, which can connect you with paralegals who attended UCSB. Also, be sure to review our complete tips about informational interviews on our Career Exploration page.
Employment sources indicate that there are a number of ways to become a paralegal. Many employers prefer someone with a bachelor’s degree in any major and a paralegal certificate, however, others will train you on the job without requiring the certificate.
To begin preparing academically for the paralegal profession, consider enrolling in coursework at UCSB that offers transferable skills, and remember that in most cases, your major will not limit you from pursuing this career path.