Environmental Paralegal: Job Description and Education Requirements

Environmental paralegals work with lawyers who specialize in environmental law cases. Typically, paralegals hold a minimum of an associate's degree in paralegal studies, although bachelor's degrees or certificates are also common. During undergraduate schooling, environmental paralegals may have studied a major or discipline related to the field, such as environmental studies.

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Job Description of an Environmental Paralegal

Environmental paralegals assist attorneys in acquiring, preparing, defending and closing cases. Their primary job duties include researching the facts of a case (including relevant laws and judicial decisions), organizing and preparing paperwork--such as motions and pleadings--obtaining affidavits and providing attorneys with all necessary documents. Additionally, environmental paralegals might help set up and prepare for meetings or interviews with clients or other individuals involved in a case. Paralegals should have excellent writing, editing and communication skills because of the extensive document drafting and transferal of vital information. Environmental paralegals may work in private law firms or governmental agencies.

Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that overall employment for paralegals will grow 18% between 2010 and 2020. Keen competition was expected, and the BLS suggested that formally trained paralegals would have the best success finding employment. As of May 2012, the BLS indicated that the median annual wage for paralegals was $46,990, with ranges from $29,420-$75,410. The top employers for paralegals at that time were legal services, paying an average wage of $48,170 per year (www.bls.gov).

Education Requirements for an Environmental Paralegal

Becoming an environmental paralegal requires a minimum of an associate's degree in paralegal studies. However, it is becoming more common for paralegals to have a bachelor's degree in a discipline related to the environment along with a certificate in paralegal studies. Four-year programs in legal studies do exist, while other bachelor's degree programs may offer a legal assistant concentration. It's recommended that a paralegal studies degree be obtained through a program that is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Environmental law courses might be included in the required curriculum or can be taken as an elective. Some degree programs include an internship option within the core foundation. This option can provide students the opportunity to intern within an environmental law firm to gain valuable experience as a paralegal.

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