6 Overlooked Legal Careers to Consider When You Don't Want to Become a Lawyer
The legal field fascinated you long before the rest of the world became enamored with Law and Order. Seeing the details of each case unfold and watching the justice system do its job never gets old for you. Even though you can’t get enough of the drama of the courtroom, you can’t see yourself spending years in school to become a lawyer.
Luckily for you, there are plenty of other legal careers that can take you inside this exciting field. You don’t have to go through the ringer of law school to join the ranks of the professionals who keep our justice system doing its job.
You just need the inside scoop on these often overlooked legal careers. Read on to find out if one of them could be the dream career that takes you inside the courtroom!
6 Legal careers to consider
Median annual salary: $48,810 per year*
What they do: Paralegals are the valuable support team behind every successful lawyer. These legal professionals are privy to all the inside details of a case. They conduct legal research, summarize information, gather and organize evidence and offer any other assistance a lawyer may need in preparing for trial. If you think a pile of research looks like a fun challenge and you’ve always wanted to be in the know about interesting cases, this is one legal career you’ll want to consider.
How to become one: Earn an associate degree in paralegal studies, or obtain a bachelor’s degree in a related field and complete a certificate in paralegal studies.
Median annual salary: $41,670 per year*
What they do: Bailiffs (sometimes called marshals or court officers) are responsible for keeping everyone safe and secure in the courtroom. They provide general courtroom security, as well as deliver court papers to the judge, escort the jury in and out of the courtroom and enforce any other courtroom rules or mandates from the judge. These law enforcement officers have authority from the judge to do what they need to in order to keep order and safety inside the courtroom.
How to become one: Becoming a bailiff requires a high school diploma, as well as additional training to learn the ins and outs of court procedures. Higher courts may require additional work experience or education, such as a degree in criminal justice.
Median annual salary: $58,020 per year*
What they do: Sometimes opposing parties want to settle a dispute outside of court, but they need a little outside help. That’s where a mediator comes in. Mediators are neutral parties who meet with disputing parties in a private hearing outside of court. They help them maintain a civilized discussion and work to guide both sides toward an agreement that works for everyone. These legal pros are excellent communicators who negotiate to make sure everyone’s needs are accounted for during the settlement process.
How to become one: Requirements for becoming a mediator vary by state, though most require 20 to 40 hours of training and working under an experienced mediator until they have gained adequate experience.
4. Court reporter
Median annual salary: $49,500 per year*
What they do: Court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions of court cases and hearings. It’s their job to document the legal proceedings and provide an accurate record of what occurs within a courtroom. Court reporters must possess an eye for detail. They record the actions and gestures of those in the courtroom in addition to spoken dialogue, and they’re responsible for clarifying testimony that was hard to understand. They also organize transcriptions and edit them for typos.
How to become one: Most states require court reporters to be licensed by a professional association, such as the National Court Reporters Association. Some may also achieve a certificate or associate degree in court reporting.
5. Probation officer
Median annual salary: $49,360 per year*
What they do: Probation officers work with offenders who have been released on probation to give them the best chance at success as they readjust to everyday life. They assist with job training, administer drug tests and provide resources for substance abuse rehabilitation. Through all of this, they must maintain reports documenting their probationers’ progress. They meet regularly with their probationers and their families to ensure they’re staying on track and to offer additional support as needed.
How to become one: Most probation officers have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field. They must also be able to pass a background check and drug testing.
6. Court clerk
Median annual salary: $35,850 per year*
What they do: Court clerks are responsible for a variety of clerical duties within the courtroom. They prepare the docket of cases each day, record case dispositions and collect and process payment for court fees. They also contact witnesses, attorneys and litigants to share and obtain information for court cases.
How to become one: There is no standard educational requirement for court clerks. Many small courts only require a high school diploma, along with on-the-job training. Some courts will prefer an associate degree in criminal justice or a related field. Federal courts typically require master’s or law degrees.
Legal careers that go beyond law school
As you can see, legal careers aren’t just for lawyers! You have plenty of options for a successful career that takes you inside the legal system you love while taking advantage of your natural skills and interests.
If these legal careers piqued your interest, check out our infographic to learn more: Order in the Court! A Visual Guide to Courthouse Jobs
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*Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.