The following resource is designed to provide you with an overview of legal service providers, including attorneys and court reporters. Read about educational requirements and salaries for officers of the court and support staff here, and make an informed decision about your career.
If you like to do documentary research, enjoy constructing arguments and have a knack for helping people solve their problems, then a career in legal services may be a good fit for you. As an aspiring officer of the court, you may pursue a career as a lawyer or judge, or in one of the several support positions required by the field. As a practicing attorney, you'll be expected to conduct yourself according to the ethical standards set forth by the American Bar Association (ABA). Established in 1868, the association accredits law and paralegal programs across the country and offers voluntary memberships to law students, lawyers and other professionals (www.americanbar.org).
Areas of specialization associated with legal services include business law and legal research. For example, as an attorney or a paralegal, you might take care of contracts or deal with intellectual property and copyright cases. Other areas of specialization include corporate and international law, environmental law, finance, immigration and litigation.
Based upon information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of court reporters and licensed attorneys was expected to increase by an average rate nationwide between 2012 and 2022. By comparison, the number of openings for legal assistants and paralegals was projected to grow by a faster-than-average rate during the same time. According to the BLS in May 2013, attorneys had an average annual income of $131,990, while legal assistants and paralegals earned an average of $51,170 a year. In May 2013, the average annual salary of a court reporter was $54,760 (www.bls.gov).
If you'd like to become a legal assistant or paralegal, you could pursue a paralegal certificate or an associate's degree in the same area. You could also consider earning a Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies. Although you don't always need a degree to work in a legal office, some employers favor potential employees who have received formal training.
If you wish to become a court reporter and record what happens during court procedures, then you may want to consider one of the training courses accredited by the National Court Reporters Association. In addition to acquiring practical skills, the courses can help you qualify for a professional certification available from the association (www.ncra.org).
If your ultimate goal is to become an officer of the court, then you might want to think about applying to law school. In order to become a licensed lawyer, you'll need to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and pass your state bar exam.