Career Pathway of the Month

April 2017  – Legal Occupations

Quick Facts: Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Summary

arbitrators mediators and conciliators image

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators help disputing parties resolve their conflict by facilitating dialogue and negotiations.
Quick Facts: Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators
2015 Median Pay $58,020 per year
$27.89 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation Less than 5 years
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 8,400
Job Outlook, 2014-24 9% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 800

What Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators Do

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators facilitate negotiation and dialogue between disputing parties to help resolve conflicts outside of the court system.

Work Environment

Many arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators work for state or local governments or in the legal services industry.

How to Become an Arbitrator, Mediator, or Conciliator

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators typically learn their skills through a combination of education, training, and work experience.

Pay

The median annual wage for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators was $58,020 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is projected to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Mediations and arbitrations are typically faster and less costly than litigation. However, budget constraints at the local and state level may limit employment growth.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators Do

arbitrators mediators and conciliators image

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators help parties come to mutually acceptable agreements.

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators facilitate negotiation and dialogue between disputing parties to help resolve conflicts outside of the court system.

Duties

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators typically do the following:

  • Facilitate communication between disputants to guide parties toward mutual agreement
  • Clarify issues, concerns, needs, and interests of all parties involved
  • Conduct initial meetings with disputants to outline the arbitration process
  • Settle procedural matters such as fees, or determine details such as witness numbers and time requirements
  • Set up appointments for parties to meet for mediation or arbitration
  • Interview claimants, agents, or witnesses to obtain information about disputed issues
  • Prepare settlement agreements for disputants to sign
  • Apply relevant laws, regulations, policies, or precedents to reach conclusions
  • Evaluate information from documents such as claim applications, birth or death certificates, and physician or employer records

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators help opposing parties settle disputes outside of court. They hold private, confidential hearings, which are less formal than a court trial.

Arbitrators are usually attorneys, business professionals, or retired judges with expertise in a particular field. As impartial third parties, they hear and decide disputes between opposing parties. Arbitrators may work alone or in a panel with other arbitrators. In some cases, arbitrators may decide procedural issues, such as what evidence may be submitted and when hearings will be held.

Arbitration may be required by law for some claims and disputes. When it is not thus required, the parties in dispute sometimes voluntarily agree to arbitration rather than proceed with litigation or a trial. In some cases, parties may appeal the arbitrator’s decision.

Mediators are neutral parties who help people resolve their disputes. However, unlike arbitrators, they do not make decisions. Rather, mediators help facilitate discussion and guide the parties toward a mutually acceptable agreement. If the opposing sides cannot reach a settlement with the mediator’s help, they are free to pursue other options.

Conciliators are similar to mediators. Their role is to help guide opposing sides to a settlement. However, they typically meet with the parties separately. The opposing sides must decide in advance if they will be bound by the conciliator’s recommendations. The conciliator typically has no authority to seek evidence or call witnesses, nor do they usually write decisions or make awards.

Work Environment

arbitrators mediators and conciliators image

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators usually work in private offices or meeting rooms.

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators held about 8,400 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators were as follows:

Legal services 19%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 15
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 15
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 5
Finance and insurance 4

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators usually work in private offices or meeting rooms. They may travel to a neutral site chosen for negotiations.

Work Schedules

Most arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators work full time. However, some may work part time and also may have other occupations or careers.

How to Become an Arbitrator, Mediator, or Conciliator

arbitrators mediators and conciliators image

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are usually lawyers or business professionals with expertise in a particular field.

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators learn their skills through a combination of education, training, and work experience.

Education

Education is one part of becoming an arbitrator, mediator, or conciliator. Some colleges and universities offer certificate programs, 2-year master’s degrees, or doctoral degree programs in dispute or conflict resolution. However, few candidates receive a degree specific to the field of arbitration, mediation, or conflict resolution. Instead, applicants may use these programs to supplement their existing educational degree and work experience in other fields.

Rather, many positions require an educational degree appropriate to the applicant’s field of expertise, and a bachelor’s degree is often sufficient. Many other positions, however, require applicants to have a law degree, a master’s in business administration, or some other advanced degree.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are usually lawyers, retired judges, or business professionals with expertise in a particular field, such as construction or insurance. They need to have knowledge of that industry and be able to relate well to people from different cultures and backgrounds.

Training

Although there are no state requirements for mediators working in private settings, mediators typically must meet specific training or experience standards to practice in state-funded or court-appointed mediation cases. Qualifications and standards vary by state or by court. However, most states require mediators to complete 20 to 40 hours of training courses. Some states require additional hours of training in a specialty area.

Some states also require mediators to work under the supervision of an experienced mediator for a certain number of cases before becoming qualified.

Training for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is available through independent mediation programs, national and local mediation membership organizations, and postsecondary schools. Training is also available by volunteering at a community mediation center.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

There is no national license for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators. However, as with training requirements, some states require arbitrators and mediators to become certified to work on certain types of cases. State requirements vary widely.

Some states require licenses appropriate to the applicant’s field of expertise. For example, some courts may require applicants to be licensed attorneys or certified public accountants.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must apply rules of law. They must remain neutral and not let their own personal assumptions interfere with the proceedings.

Decisionmaking skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must be able to weigh facts, apply the law or rules, and make a decision relatively quickly.

Interpersonal skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators deal with disputing parties and must be able to facilitate discussion in a calm and respectful way.

Listening skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must pay close attention to what is being said in order for them to evaluate information.

Reading skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must be able to evaluate and distinguish important facts from large amounts of complex information.

Writing skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators write recommendations or decisions relating to appeals or disputes. They must be able to write their decisions clearly so that all sides understand the decision.

Pay

Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Median annual wages, May 2015

Legal occupations

$78,170

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators

$58,020

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators was $58,020 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,440, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $118,090.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Finance and insurance $63,750
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 61,390
State government, excluding education and hospitals 59,620
Legal services 55,230
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 46,260

Some arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators work part time and may have other occupations or careers.

Job Outlook

Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators

9%

Total, all occupations

7%

Legal occupations

5%

 

Employment of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is projected to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 800 new jobs over the 10-year period.

Arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution methods often are seen as faster and less expensive than trials and litigation. In addition, many contracts, including employment, customer, and real estate contracts, include clauses requiring complaints and disputes to be decided through mediation or arbitration.

However, many arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators work for state or local governments, and budgetary constraints may limit employment growth. Also, in some cases or industries, litigation is unavoidable or its benefits are preferred over the benefits gained in other types of conflict resolution.

Job Prospects

Because arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators deal extensively with legal issues and disputes, those with a law degree should have better job prospects. In addition, lawyers with expertise or experience in one or more particular legal areas, such as environmental, health, or corporate law, should have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators 23-1022 8,400 9,200 9 800 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators.

OCCUPATION JOB DUTIES ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2015 MEDIAN PAY
Judges, mediators, and hearing officers

Judges and Hearing Officers

Judges and hearing officers apply the law by overseeing the legal process in courts. They also conduct pretrial hearings, resolve administrative disputes, facilitate negotiations between opposing parties, and issue legal decisions. Doctoral or professional degree $109,010
Lawyers

Lawyers

Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes. Doctoral or professional degree $115,820
Paralegals and legal assistants

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Paralegals and legal assistants do a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents. Associate’s degree $48,810
Private detectives and investigators

Private Detectives and Investigators

Private detectives and investigators search for information about legal, financial, and personal matters. They offer many services, such as verifying people’s backgrounds and statements, finding missing persons, and investigating computer crimes. High school diploma or equivalent $45,610
Quick Facts:Court Reporters

Court Reporters

Summary

court reporters image

Court reporters attend legal proceedings to create word-for-word transcriptions.
Quick Facts: Court Reporters
2015 Median Pay $49,500 per year
$23.80 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Postsecondary nondegree award
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 20,800
Job Outlook, 2014-24 2% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 300

What Court Reporters Do

Court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions at trials, depositions, and other legal proceedings. Some court reporters provide captioning for television and real-time translation for deaf or hard-of-hearing people at public events, in business meetings, or in classrooms.

Work Environment

Most court reporters work for state or local government in courts or legislatures. However, some work from either their home or a central office providing broadcast captioning for television stations or for hard-of-hearing individuals.

How to Become a Court Reporter

Many community colleges and technical institutes offer postsecondary certificate programs for court reporters. Many states require court reporters who work in legal settings to be licensed by a state or certified by a professional association.

Pay

The median annual wage for court reporters was $49,500 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of court reporters is projected to grow 2 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Those with experience and training in techniques for helping deaf or hard-of-hearing people, such as real-time captioning and Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART), will have the best job prospects.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for court reporters.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of court reporters with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about court reporters by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Court Reporters Do

Court reporters

Court reporters provide an accurate description of court proceedings.

Court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions at trials, depositions, administrative hearings, and other legal proceedings. Some court reporters provide captioning for television and real-time translation for deaf or hard-of-hearing people at public events, in business meetings, and in classrooms.

Duties

Court reporters typically do the following:

  • Attend depositions, hearings, proceedings, and other events that require written transcripts
  • Capture spoken dialogue with specialized equipment, including stenography machines, video and audio recording devices, and covered microphones
  • Report speakers’ identification, gestures, and actions
  • Read or play back all or a portion of the proceedings upon request from the judge
  • Ask speakers to clarify inaudible or unclear statements or testimony
  • Review the notes they have taken regarding the names of speakers and any technical terminology they used
  • Edit transcripts for typographical errors
  • Provide copies of transcripts and recordings to the courts, counsels, and parties involved
  • Transcribe television or movie dialogue onto screens to help deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers
  • Provide real-time translation in classes and other public forums in which deaf or hard-of-hearing students and other individuals are participating

Court reporters create word-for-word transcripts of speeches, conversations, legal proceedings, meetings, or other events.

Court reporters play a critical role in legal proceedings, which require an exact record of what was said. They are responsible for producing a complete, accurate, and secure legal transcript of courtroom proceedings, witnesses’ testimonies, and depositions.

Court reporters in the legal setting also help judges and attorneys by capturing, organizing, and producing the official record of the proceedings. The official record allows users to efficiently search for important information contained in the transcript. Court reporters also index and catalog exhibits used during court proceedings.

Some court reporters, however, do not work in the legal setting or in courtrooms. These reporters primarily serve people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing by transcribing speech to text as the speech occurs.

The following are examples of types of court reporters who do not work in the legal setting:

Broadcast captioners are court reporters who provide captions for television programs (called closed captions). These reporters transcribe dialogue onto television monitors to help deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers or others viewing television programs in public places. Some broadcast captioners may translate dialogue in real time during broadcasts; others may caption during the postproduction of a program.

Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) providers are court reporters who work primarily with deaf or hard-of-hearing people in a variety of settings. They assist clients during board meetings, doctor’s appointments, or any other events in which real-time translation is needed. For example, CART providers may caption the dialogue of high school and college classes and provide an immediate transcript to students who are hard-of-hearing or who are learning English as a second language.

Although some court reporters may accompany their clients to events, many broadcast captioners and CART providers work remotely. An Internet or phone connection allows them to hear and type without having to be in the room.

Court reporters who work with deaf or hard-of-hearing people turn speech into text. For information on workers who help deaf or hard-of-hearing people through sign language, cued speech, or other spoken or gestural means, see the profile on interpreters and translators.

Court reporters may use different methods for recording speech, such as stenotype machine recording, steno mask recording, and electronic recording.

Court reporters use stenotype machines to record dialogue as it is spoken. Stenotype machines work like keyboards, but create words through key combinations rather than single characters, allowing court reporters to keep up with fast-moving dialogue. Court reporters who use stenotype machines are known as stenographers.

Key combinations entered on a stenotype machine are recorded in a computer program. The program uses computer-assisted transcription to translate the key combinations into the words and phrases they represent, creating real-time, readable text. The court reporter then reviews the text for accuracy and corrects spelling and grammatical errors.

Court reporters also may use steno masks to transcribe speech. Court reporters who use steno masks speak directly into a covered microphone, recording dialogue and reporting gestures and actions. Because the microphone is covered, others cannot hear what the reporter is saying. The recording is sometimes converted by computerized voice-recognition software into a transcript that the court reporter reviews for accuracy, spelling, and grammar.

For both stenotype machine recording and steno mask recording, court reporters must create, maintain, and continuously update an online dictionary that the computer software uses to transcribe the key presses or voice recordings into text. For example, court reporters may put in the names of people involved in a court case or the specific words or specialized, technical jargon that are typically used in that type of legal proceeding.

Court reporters also may use digital recorders in their job. Digital recording creates an audio or video record rather than a written transcript. Court reporters who use digital recorders operate and monitor the recording equipment. They also take notes to identify the speakers and provide context for the recording. In some cases, court reporters use the audio recording to create a written transcript.

Work Environment

Court reporters

Court reporters may work in courtrooms or office buildings.

Court reporters held about 20,800 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most court reporters were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 34%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 32
Business support services 24

Many court reporters work for state or local government in courts or legislatures. Many also work as freelance reporters and are hired by law firms or corporations for pretrial depositions and other events on an as-needed basis.

Many court reporters must travel to various courthouses or offices in different locations. However, some broadcast captioners and Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) providers work remotely from either their home or a central office.

Because of the speed and accuracy required to capture a verbatim record and the time-sensitive nature of legal proceedings, some court reporting positions may be stressful.

Work Schedules

Court reporters who work in a court setting typically work full time recording events and preparing transcripts. Freelance reporters have more flexibility in setting their work schedules.

How to Become a Court Reporter

Court reporters

Court reporters must give their full attention to the speaker and capture every word that is said.

Many community colleges and technical institutes offer postsecondary certificate programs for court reporters. Many states require court reporters who work in legal settings to be licensed by a state or certified by a professional association.

Education

Many court reporters receive formal training at community colleges or technical institutes, which have different programs that lead to either a certificate or an associate’s degree in court reporting. Either degree will qualify applicants for many entry-level positions. Certification programs prepare students to pass the licensing exams and typing-speed tests required by most states and employers.

Most court reporting programs include courses in English grammar and phonetics, legal procedures, and legal terminology. Students also practice preparing transcripts to improve the speed and accuracy of their work.

Some schools also offer training in the use of different transcription machines, such as stenotype machines or steno masks.

Graduating from a court reporting program can take between 2 and 5 years.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many states require court reporters who work in legal settings to be licensed or certified by a professional association. Licensing requirements vary by state and by method of court reporting.

The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) offers certification for court reporters, broadcast captioners, and Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) providers. Currently, 22 states accept or use the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification in place of a state certification or licensing exam.

Digital and voice reporters may obtain certification through the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT), which offers the Certified Electronic Reporter (CER) and Certified Electronic Transcriber (CET) designations.

Voice reporters may also obtain certification through the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA). As with the RPR designation, some states with certification or licensing requirements will accept the NVRA designation in place of the state license.

Certification through the NCRA, AAERT, and NVRA all require the successful completion of a written test, as well as a skills test in which applicants must type, record, or transcribe a minimum number of words per minute with a high level of accuracy.

In addition, all associations require court reporters to obtain a certain amount of continuing education credits in order to renew their certification.

For more information on certification, exam, and continuing education requirements, visit the specific association’s website. State licensing and continuing education requirements can be found by visiting the state association’s or state judicial agency’s website.

Training

After completing their formal program, court reporters must undergo a few weeks of on-the-job training. This typically includes additional skills training as well as training on the more technical terminology that may be used during complex medical or legal proceedings.

Important Qualities

Concentration. Court reporters must be able to concentrate for long periods. They must remain focused on the dialogue they are recording, even in the presence of auditory distractions.

Detail oriented. Court reporters must be able to produce error-free work, because they create transcripts that serve as legal records.

Listening skills. Court reporters must give their full attention to speakers and capture every word that is said.

Writing skills. Court reporters need a good command of grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation.

Pay

Court Reporters

Median annual wages, May 2015

Legal occupations

$78,170

Court reporters

$49,500

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for court reporters was $49,500 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,180, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $90,510.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for court reporters in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals $53,550
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 52,290
Business support services 42,860

Freelance court reporters are paid for their time, but can also sell their transcripts per page for an additional profit.

Court reporters who work in a court setting typically work full time recording events and preparing transcripts. Freelance reporters have more flexibility in setting their work schedules.

Job Outlook

Court Reporters

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Legal occupations

5%

Court reporters

2%

 

Employment of court reporters is projected to grow 2 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Demand for court reporters will be influenced by new federal regulations requiring an expanded use of captioning for television, the Internet, and other technologies.

Reporters will increasingly be needed for captioning outside of legal proceedings. All new television programming will continue to need closed captioning. In addition, new federal regulations have expanded captioning requirements and set quality and accuracy standards for both live and prerecorded programs. Networks will likely increase their use of broadcast captioners in order to comply with these new federal regulations.

Growth of the elderly population also will increase demand for court reporters who are Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) providers or who can accompany their clients to doctor’s appointments, townhall meetings, and religious services. In addition, movie theaters and sports stadiums will provide closed captioning for deaf or hard-of-hearing customers.

Employment growth, however, may be somewhat limited because of budgetary constraints in state and local governments. Although local and state revenue and spending have increased since the end of the recession, continued budget uncertainty and other spending obligations may lead to only modest growth in government hiring.

The increased use of digital audio recording technology also may hinder employment growth. Some states already have replaced stenographic court reporters with this technology; other states are currently assessing the reliability, accuracy, and costs associated with installing and maintaining digital audio and video equipment and software.

However, even with the increased use of digital recorders, electronic reporters should still be needed to monitor the courtroom equipment and to transcribe, verify, and supervise the production of transcripts after proceedings have been recorded.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for graduates of court reporting programs are expected to be very good. Court reporters with experience and training in CART and real-time captioning will have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for court reporters, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Court reporters 23-2091 20,800 21,100 2 300 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of court reporters.

OCCUPATION JOB DUTIES ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2015 MEDIAN PAY
Interpreters and translators

Interpreters and Translators

Interpreters and translators convert information from one language into another language. Interpreters work in spoken or sign language; translators work in written language. Bachelor’s degree $44,190
Medical transcriptionists

Medical Transcriptionists

Medical transcriptionists, sometimes referred to as healthcare documentation specialists, listen to voice recordings that physicians and other healthcare workers make and convert them into written reports. They may also review and edit medical documents created using speech recognition technology. Transcriptionists interpret medical terminology and abbreviations in preparing patients’ medical histories, discharge summaries, and other documents. Postsecondary nondegree award $34,890
Quick Facts: Judges and Hearing Officers

Judges and Hearing Officers

Summary

judges and hearing officers image

Judges and hearing officers research and apply laws to reach judgments or resolve disputes between parties.
Quick Facts: Judges and Hearing Officers
2015 Median Pay $109,010 per year
$52.41 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Doctoral or professional degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation 5 years or more
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 44,800
Job Outlook, 2014-24 -1% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2014-24 -400

What Judges and Hearing Officers Do

Judges and hearing officers apply the law by overseeing the legal process in courts. They also conduct pretrial hearings, resolve administrative disputes, facilitate negotiations between opposing parties, and issue legal decisions.

Work Environment

All judges and hearing officers are employed by the federal government or by local and state governments. Most work in courts. The majority work full time.

How to Become a Judge or Hearing Officer

Judges usually have law degrees and work experience as lawyers. However, some administrative law judge, hearing officer, and magistrate positions require only a bachelor’s degree.

Pay

The median annual wage for judges and hearing officers was $109,010 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of judges and hearing officers is projected to show little or no change from 2014 to 2024. The number of federal and state judgeships is expected to remain steady because nearly every new position for a judge must be authorized and approved by a legislature.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for judges and hearing officers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of judges and hearing officers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about judges and hearing officers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Judges and Hearing Officers Do

Judges, mediators, and hearing officers

Judges preside over hearings and listen to the arguments of opposing parties.

Judges and hearing officers apply the law by overseeing the legal process in courts. They also conduct pretrial hearings, resolve administrative disputes, facilitate negotiations between opposing parties, and issue legal decisions.

Duties

Judges and hearing officers typically do the following:

  • Research legal issues
  • Read and evaluate information from documents, such as motions, claim applications, and records
  • Preside over hearings and listen to and read arguments by opposing parties
  • Determine if the information presented supports the charge, claim, or dispute
  • Decide if the procedure is being conducted according to the rules and law
  • Apply laws or precedents to reach judgments and to resolve disputes between parties
  • Write opinions, decisions, and instructions regarding cases, claims, and disputes

Judges commonly preside over trials and hearings of cases regarding nearly every aspect of society, from individual traffic offenses to issues concerning the rights of large corporations. Judges listen to arguments and determine if the evidence presented deserves a trial. In criminal cases, judges may decide that people charged with crimes should be held in jail until the trial, or they may set conditions for their release. They also approve search warrants and arrest warrants.

Judges interpret the law to determine how a trial will proceed, which is particularly important when unusual circumstances arise for which standard procedures have not been established. They ensure that hearings and trials are conducted fairly and that the legal rights of all involved parties are protected.

In trials in which juries are selected to decide the case, judges instruct jurors on applicable laws and direct them to consider the facts from the evidence. For other trials, judges decide the case. A judge who determines guilt in criminal cases may impose a sentence or penalty on the guilty party. In civil cases, the judge may award relief, such as compensation for damages, to the parties who win lawsuits.

Judges use various forms of technology, such as electronic databases and software, to manage cases and to prepare for trials. In some cases, a judge may manage the court’s administrative and clerical staff.

The following are examples of types of judges and hearing officers:

Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates preside over trials and hearings. They typically work in local, state, and federal courts.

In local and state court systems, they have a variety of titles, such as municipal court judge, county court judge, and justice of the peace. Traffic violations, misdemeanors, small-claims cases, and pretrial hearings make up the bulk of these judges’ work.

In federal and state court systems, district court judges and general trial court judges have authority over any case in their system. Appellate court judges rule on a small number of cases, by reviewing decisions of the lower courts and lawyers’ written and oral arguments.

Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers usually work for local, state, and federal government agencies. They decide many issues, such as whether a person is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits or whether employment discrimination occurred.

Work Environment

Judges, mediators, and hearing officers

Judges do some of their work in courtrooms.

Judges and hearing officers held about 44,800 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most judges and hearing officers were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals 49%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 42
Federal government 9

Judges and hearing officers do most of their work in offices and courtrooms. Their jobs can be demanding, because they must sit in the same position in the court or hearing room for long periods and give undivided attention to the process.

Some judges and hearing officers may be required to travel to different counties and courthouses throughout their state.

Work Schedules

Most judges and hearing officers work full time, but some may work additional hours to prepare for hearings.

Some courthouses have evening and weekend hours. In addition, judges have to be on call during nights or weekends to issue emergency orders, such as search warrants and restraining orders.

How to Become a Judge or Hearing Officer

Judges, mediators, and hearing officers

Judges must be able to listen well to the facts provided by opposing parties.

Judges and hearing officers typically must have a law degree and work experience as a lawyer.

Education

Although there may be a few positions available for those with a bachelor’s degree, a law degree typically is required for most jobs as a local, state, or federal judge or hearing officer.

In addition to earning a law degree, federal administrative law judges must pass a competitive exam from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Earning a law degree usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school: 4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school. Law degree programs include courses such as constitutional law, contracts, property law, civil procedure, and legal writing. For more information on how to become a lawyer, see the profile on lawyers.

Most judges and magistrates must be appointed or elected into their positions, a procedure that often takes political support. Many local and state judges are appointed to serve fixed renewable terms, ranging from 4 to 14 years. A few judges, such as appellate court judges, are appointed for life. Judicial nominating commissions screen candidates for judgeships in many states and for some federal judgeships. Some local and state judges are elected to a specific term in an election process.

For specific state information, including information on the number of judgeships by state, term lengths, and requirements for qualification, visit the National Center for State Courts.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most judges and hearing officers learn their skills through years of experience as practicing lawyers. Some states allow those who are not lawyers to hold limited-jurisdiction judgeships, but opportunities are better for those with law experience.

Training

All states have some type of orientation for newly elected or appointed judges. The Federal Judicial Center, American Bar Association, National Judicial College, and National Center for State Courts provide judicial education and training for judges and other judicial branch personnel.

More than half of all states, as well as Puerto Rico, require judges to take continuing education courses while serving on the bench. General and continuing education courses usually last from a few days to 3 weeks.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most judges and hearing officers are required to have a law license. In addition, they typically must maintain their law license and good standing with their state bar association while working as a judge or hearing officer.

Advancement

Advancement for some judicial workers means moving to courts with a broader jurisdiction. Advancement for various hearing officers includes taking on more complex cases, practicing law, and becoming district court judges.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. Judges and hearing officers must apply rules of law. They cannot let their own personal assumptions interfere with the proceedings. For example, they must base their decisions on specific meanings of the law when evaluating and deciding whether a person is a threat to others and must be sent to jail.

Decisionmaking skills. Judges and hearing officers must be able to weigh the facts, to apply the law and rules, and to make a decision relatively quickly.

Listening skills. Judges and hearing officers evaluate information, so they must pay close attention to what is being said.

Reading skills. Judges and hearing officers must be able to distinguish important facts from large amounts of sometimes complex information and then evaluate the facts objectively.

Writing skills. Judges and hearing officers write recommendations and decisions on appeals and disputes. They must be able to write their decisions clearly so that all sides understand the decision.

Pay

Judges and Hearing Officers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates

$126,930

Judges and hearing officers

$109,010

Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers

$90,600

Legal occupations

$78,170

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers was $90,600 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,270, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $158,700.

The median annual wage for judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates was $126,930 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,720, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $186,720.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for judges and hearing officers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals $123,660
Federal government 122,260
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 80,330

Most judges and hearing officers work full time, and many often work additional hours to prepare for case hearings.

Some courthouses have evening and weekend hours. In addition, judges have to be on call during nights or weekends to issue emergency orders, such as search warrants and restraining orders.

Job Outlook

Judges and Hearing Officers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Legal occupations

5%

Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates

1%

Judges and hearing officers

-1%

Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers

-4%

 

Employment of judges and hearing officers is projected to show little or no change from 2014 to 2024.

The number of federal and state judgeships is projected to remain steady because nearly every new position for a judge must be authorized and approved by a legislature.

However, budgetary constraints in federal, state, and local governments are expected to limit the ability of these governments to fill vacant positions or authorize new ones. Furthermore, budgetary concerns may limit the employment growth of hearing officers and administrative law judges working for local, state, and federal government agencies, despite the continued need for these workers to settle disputes.

In addition, the desire of parties to resolve disputes through mediation or arbitration, rather than litigation and trials, may adversely affect the demand for judges and hearing officers.

Job Prospects

The prestige associated with becoming a judge will ensure continued competition for these positions. Most job openings will arise as a result of judges and hearing officers leaving the occupation because of retirement, to teach, or because their elected term is over.

Employment projections data for judges and hearing officers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Judges and hearing officers 44,800 44,400 -1 -400

Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers

23-1021 15,000 14,500 -4 -500 [XLSX]

Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates

23-1023 29,700 29,900 1 200 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of judges and hearing officers.

OCCUPATION JOB DUTIES ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2015 MEDIAN PAY
arbitrators mediators and conciliators image

Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators facilitate negotiation and dialogue between disputing parties to help resolve conflicts outside of the court system. Bachelor’s degree $58,020
Lawyers

Lawyers

Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes. Doctoral or professional degree $115,820
Paralegals and legal assistants

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Paralegals and legal assistants do a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents. Associate’s degree $48,810
Private detectives and investigators

Private Detectives and Investigators

Private detectives and investigators search for information about legal, financial, and personal matters. They offer many services, such as verifying people’s backgrounds and statements, finding missing persons, and investigating computer crimes. High school diploma or equivalent $45,610
Quick Facts: Lawyers

Lawyers

Summary

lawyers image

Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, or government agencies on legal issues or disputes.
Quick Facts: Lawyers
2015 Median Pay $115,820 per year
$55.69 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Doctoral or professional degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 778,700
Job Outlook, 2014-24 6% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 43,800

What Lawyers Do

Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes.

Work Environment

The majority of lawyers work in private and corporate legal offices. Some work for federal, local, and state governments. The majority work full time, and many work more than 40 hours a week.

How to Become a Lawyer

All lawyers must have a law degree and must also typically pass a state’s written bar examination.

Pay

The median annual wage for lawyers was $115,820 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of lawyers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Competition for jobs should continue to be strong because more students graduate from law school each year than there are jobs available.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for lawyers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of lawyers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about lawyers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Lawyers Do

Lawyers

Lawyers represent clients in the courtroom.

Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes.

Duties

Lawyers typically do the following:

  • Advise and represent clients in courts, before government agencies, and in private legal matters
  • Communicate with their clients, colleagues, judges and others involved in the case
  • Conduct research and analysis of legal problems
  • Interpret laws, rulings, and regulations for individuals and businesses
  • Present facts in writing and verbally to their clients or others and argue on behalf of their clients
  • Prepare and file legal documents, such as lawsuits, appeals, wills, contracts, and deeds

Lawyers, also called attorneys, act as both advocates and advisors.

As advocates, they represent one of the parties in criminal or civil trials by presenting evidence and arguing in support of their client.

As advisors, lawyers counsel their clients about their legal rights and obligations and suggest courses of action in business and personal matters. All attorneys research the intent of laws and judicial decisions and apply the laws to the specific circumstances that their clients face.

Lawyers often oversee the work of support staff, such as paralegals and legal assistants.

Lawyers may have different titles and different duties, depending on where they work.

While working in a law firm, lawyers, sometimes called associates, perform legal work for individuals or businesses. Some attorneys who work at law firms, such as criminal law attorneys or defense attorneys, represent and defend the accused.

Attorneys also work for federal, state, and local governments. Prosecutors typically work for the government to file a lawsuit, or charge, against an individual or corporation accused of violating the law. Some may also work as public defense attorneys and represent individuals who could not afford to hire their own private attorney.

Others may work as government counsels for administrative bodies of government and executive or legislative branches. They write and interpret laws and regulations and set up procedures to enforce them. Government counsels also write legal reviews on agencies’ decisions. They argue civil and criminal cases on behalf of the government.

Corporate counsels, also called in-house counsels, are lawyers who work for corporations. They advise a corporation’s executives about legal issues related to the corporation’s business activities. These issues may involve patents, government regulations, contracts with other companies, property interests, taxes, or collective-bargaining agreements with unions.

Legal aid lawyers work for private, nonprofit organizations that work to help disadvantaged people. They generally handle civil cases, such as those about leases, job discrimination, and wage disputes, rather than criminal cases.

In addition to working in different industries, lawyers often specialize in a particular area. The following are just some examples of the different types of lawyers that specialize in specific legal areas:

Environmental lawyers deal with issues and regulations that are related to the environment. They may represent advocacy groups, waste disposal companies, and government agencies to make sure they comply with the relevant laws.

Tax lawyers handle a variety of tax-related issues for individuals and corporations. Tax lawyers may help clients navigate complex tax regulations, so that they pay the appropriate tax on items such as income, profits, or property. For example, they may advise a corporation on how much tax it needs to pay from profits made in different states to comply with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules.

Intellectual property lawyers deal with the laws related to inventions, patents, trademarks, and creative works, such as music, books, and movies. An intellectual property lawyer may advise a client about whether it is okay to use published material in the client’s forthcoming book.

Family lawyers handle a variety of legal issues that pertain to the family. They may advise clients regarding divorce, child custody, and adoption proceedings.

Securities lawyers work on legal issues arising from the buying and selling of stocks, ensuring that all disclosure requirements are met. They may advise corporations that are interested in listing in the stock exchange through an initial public offering (IPO) or in buying shares in another corporation.

Litigation lawyers handle all lawsuits and disputes between parties. These could be disputes over contracts, personal injuries, or real estate and property. Litigation lawyers may specialize in a certain area, such as personal injury law, or may be a general lawyer for all types of disputes and lawsuits.

Some attorneys become teachers in law schools. For more information on law school professors, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

Work Environment

Lawyers

Lawyers typically work in law offices.

Lawyers held about 778,700 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most lawyers were as follows:

Legal services 48%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 7
State government, excluding education and hospitals 5
Federal government 5
Finance and insurance 3

About 1 in 5 lawyers were self-employed in 2014.

Lawyers work mostly in offices. However, some travel to attend meetings with clients at various locations, such as homes, hospitals, or prisons. Others travel to appear before courts. Lawyers may face heavy pressure during work, for example during trials or when trying to meet deadlines.

Work Schedules

The majority of lawyers work full time, and many work more than the usual 40 hours per week. Lawyers who are in private practice or those who work in large firms often work additional hours, conducting research and preparing and reviewing documents.

How to Become a Lawyer

Lawyers

Lawyers should have good research skills.

All lawyers must have a law degree and must also typically pass a state’s written bar examination.

Education

Becoming a lawyer usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school—4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school. Most states and jurisdictions require lawyers to complete a juris doctor (J.D.) degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). ABA accreditation signifies that the law school—particularly its curricula and faculty—meets certain standards.

A bachelor’s degree is required for entry into most law schools, and courses in English, public speaking, government, history, economics, and mathematics are useful.

Almost all law schools, particularly those approved by the ABA, require applicants to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). This test measures applicants’ aptitude for the study of law.

A J.D. degree program includes courses such as constitutional law, contracts, property law, civil procedure, and legal writing. Law students may choose specialized courses in areas such as tax, labor, and corporate law.

Licenses

Prospective lawyers take licensing exams called “bar exams.” When a lawyer receives their license to practice law, they are “admitted to the bar.”

To practice law in any state, a person must be admitted to the state’s bar under rules established by the jurisdiction’s highest court. The requirements vary by individual states and jurisdictions. For more details on individual state and jurisdiction requirements, visit the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Most states require that applicants graduate from an ABA-accredited law school, pass one or more written bar exams, and be found by an admitting board to have the character to represent and advise others. Prior felony convictions, academic misconduct, or a history of substance abuse are just some factors that may disqualify an applicant from being admitted to the bar.

Lawyers who want to practice in more than one state often must take the bar exam in each state.

After graduation, lawyers must keep informed about legal developments that affect their practices. Almost all states require lawyers to participate in continuing legal education either every year or every 3 years.

Many law schools and state and local bar associations provide continuing legal education courses that help lawyers stay current with recent developments. Courses vary by state and generally cover a subject within the practice of law, such as legal ethics, taxes and tax fraud, and healthcare. Some states allow lawyers to take their continuing education credits through online courses.

Advancement

Newly hired attorneys usually start as associates and work with more experienced lawyers. After several years, some lawyers may be admitted to partnership of their firm, which means they become partial owners of the firm.

After gaining a few years of work experience, some lawyers go into practice for themselves or move to the legal department of a large corporation. Very few in-house attorneys are hired directly out of law school.

A small number of experienced lawyers are nominated or elected to judgeships. Other lawyers may become full-time law school faculty and administrators. For more information about judges and law school faculty, see the profile on judges and hearing officers and the profile on postsecondary teachers.

Other Experience

Law students often gain practical experience by participating in school-sponsored legal clinics, in a school’s moot court competitions, in practice trials under the supervision of experienced lawyers and judges, and through research and writing on legal issues for a school’s law journals.

Part-time jobs or summer internships in law firms, government agencies, and corporate legal departments also provide valuable experience. Some smaller firms, government agencies, and public interest organizations may hire students as summer associate interns after they have completed their first year at law school. Many larger firms’ summer internship programs are only eligible to law students who have completed their second year. These experiences can help law students decide what kind of legal work they want to focus on in their careers, and these internships may lead directly to a job after graduation.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Lawyers help their clients resolve problems and issues. As a result, they must be able to analyze large amounts of information, determine relevant facts, and propose viable solutions.

Interpersonal skills. Lawyers must win the respect and confidence of their clients by building a trusting relationship, so that clients feel comfortable enough to share personal information related to their case.

Problem-solving skills. Lawyers must separate their emotions and prejudice from their clients’ problems and objectively evaluate the matter. Therefore, good problem-solving skills are important for lawyers, to prepare the best defense and recommendation.

Research skills. Preparing legal advice or representation for a client commonly requires substantial research. All lawyers need to be able to find what applicable laws and regulations apply to a specific matter.

Speaking skills. Clients hire lawyers to speak on their behalf. Lawyers must be able to clearly present and explain their case to arbitrators, mediators, opposing parties, judges, or juries.

Writing skills. Lawyers need to be precise and specific when preparing documents, such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney.

Pay

Lawyers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Lawyers

$115,820

Legal occupations

$78,170

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for lawyers was $115,820 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $55,870, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $187,200.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for lawyers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Finance and insurance $144,050
Federal government 138,860
Legal services 117,260
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 90,710
State government, excluding education and hospitals 82,550

Salaries of experienced lawyers vary widely according to the type, size, and location of their employer. Lawyers who own their own practices usually earn less than those who are partners in law firms.

The majority of lawyers work full time and many work more than the typical 40-hour workweek. Lawyers who are in private practice or those who work in large firms often work additional hours conducting research and preparing and reviewing documents.

Job Outlook

Lawyers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Lawyers

6%

Legal occupations

5%

 

Employment of lawyers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand for legal work is expected to continue as individuals, businesses, and all levels of government require legal services in many areas.

Despite this need for legal services, more price competition over the next decade may lead law firms to rethink their project staffing to reduce costs to clients. Clients are expected to cut back on legal expenses by demanding less expensive rates and scrutinizing invoices. Work that was previously assigned to lawyers, such as document review, may now be given to paralegals and legal assistants. Some routine legal work may also be outsourced to other lower-cost legal providers located overseas.

While law firms will continue to be the largest employers of lawyers, many large corporations are increasing their in-house legal departments to cut costs. For many companies, the high cost of hiring outside counsel lawyers and their support staff makes it more economical to shift work to their in-house legal department. This will lead to an increase in the demand of lawyers in a variety of settings, such as financial and insurance firms, consulting firms, and healthcare providers.

The federal government is likely to continue to need lawyers to prosecute or defend civil cases on behalf of the United States, prosecute criminal cases brought by the federal government, and collect money owed to the federal government. However, budgetary constraints at all levels of government, especially federal, will likely moderate employment growth.

Job Prospects

Competition for jobs should continue to be strong because more students are graduating from law school each year than there are jobs available. Some recent law school graduates who have been unable to find permanent positions are turning to the growing number of temporary staffing firms that place attorneys in short-term jobs. This service allows companies to hire lawyers as needed and permits beginning lawyers to develop practical skills.

Because of the strong competition, a law school graduate’s willingness to relocate and his or her work experience are becoming more important. However, to be licensed in another state, a lawyer may have to take an additional state bar examination.

Employment projections data for lawyers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Lawyers 23-1011 778,700 822,500 6 43,800 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of lawyers.

OCCUPATION JOB DUTIES ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2015 MEDIAN PAY
arbitrators mediators and conciliators image

Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators facilitate negotiation and dialogue between disputing parties to help resolve conflicts outside of the court system. Bachelor’s degree $58,020
Judges, mediators, and hearing officers

Judges and Hearing Officers

Judges and hearing officers apply the law by overseeing the legal process in courts. They also conduct pretrial hearings, resolve administrative disputes, facilitate negotiations between opposing parties, and issue legal decisions. Doctoral or professional degree $109,010
Paralegals and legal assistants

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Paralegals and legal assistants do a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents. Associate’s degree $48,810
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books. See How to Become One $72,470
Quick Facts: Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Summary

paralegals and legal assistants image

Paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers prepare for hearings, trials, and corporate meetings.
Quick Facts: Paralegals and Legal Assistants
2015 Median Pay $48,810 per year
$23.47 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 279,500
Job Outlook, 2014-24 8% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 21,200

What Paralegals and Legal Assistants Do

Paralegals and legal assistants do a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents.

Work Environment

Paralegals and legal assistants are found in all types of organizations, but most work for law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies. They usually work full time, and some may have to work more than 40 hours a week to meet deadlines.

How to Become a Paralegal or Legal Assistant

Most paralegals and legal assistants have an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies. In some cases, employers may hire college graduates with a bachelor’s degree but no legal experience or specialized education and train them on the job.

Pay

The median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants was $48,810 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 8 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. This occupation attracts many applicants, and competition for jobs will be strong. Experienced, formally trained paralegals with strong computer and database management skills should have the best job prospects.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for paralegals and legal assistants.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of paralegals and legal assistants with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about paralegals and legal assistants by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Paralegals and Legal Assistants Do

Paralegals and legal assistants

Paralegals and legal assistants may conduct legal research.

Paralegals and legal assistants do a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents.

Duties

Paralegals and legal assistants typically do the following:

  • Investigate and gather the facts of a case
  • Conduct research on relevant laws, regulations, and legal articles
  • Organize and maintain documents in paper or electronic filing systems
  • Gather and arrange evidence and other legal documents for attorney review and case preparation
  • Write or summarize reports to help lawyers prepare for trials
  • Draft correspondence and legal documents, such as contracts and mortgages
  • Get affidavits and other formal statements that may be used as evidence in court
  • Help lawyers during trials by handling exhibits, taking notes, or reviewing trial transcripts
  • File exhibits, briefs, appeals and other legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
  • Call clients, witnesses, lawyers, and outside vendors to schedule interviews, meetings, and depositions

Paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers prepare for hearings, trials, and corporate meetings.

Paralegals use technology and computer software for managing and organizing the increasing amount of documents and data collected during a case. Many paralegals use computer software to catalog documents, and to review documents for specific keywords or subjects. Because of these responsibilities, paralegals must be familiar with electronic database management and be current on the latest software used for electronic discovery. Electronic discovery refers to all electronic materials obtained by the parties during the litigation or investigation. These materials may be emails, data, documents, accounting databases, and websites.

Paralegals’ specific duties often vary depending on the area of law in which they work.

Corporate paralegals, for example, often help lawyers prepare employee contracts, shareholder agreements, stock-option plans, and companies’ annual financial reports. Corporate paralegals may monitor and review government regulations to ensure that the corporation is aware of new legal requirements.

Litigation paralegals maintain documents received from clients, conduct research for lawyers, retrieve and organize evidence for use at depositions and trials, and draft settlement agreements. Some litigation paralegals may also help coordinate the logistics of attending a trial, including reserving office space, transporting exhibits and documents to the courtroom, and setting up computers and other equipment.

Paralegals may also specialize in other legal areas, such as personal injury, criminal law, employee benefits, intellectual property, bankruptcy, immigration, family law, and real estate.

Specific job duties may also vary by the size of the law firm.

In small firms, paralegals’ duties tend to vary more. In addition to reviewing and organizing documents, paralegals may prepare written reports that help lawyers determine how to handle their cases. If lawyers decide to file lawsuits on behalf of clients, paralegals may help draft documents to be filed with the court.

In large organizations, paralegals may work on a particular phase of a case, rather than handling a case from beginning to end. For example, paralegals may only review legal material for internal use, maintain reference files, conduct research for lawyers, or collect and organize evidence for hearings. After gaining experience, a paralegal may become responsible for more complicated tasks.

Paralegals and legal assistants often work in teams with attorneys, fellow paralegals, and other legal support staff.

Unlike the work of other administrative and legal support staff employed in a law firm, the paralegal’s work is billed to the client.

Paralegals may have frequent interactions with clients and third-party vendors. In addition, experienced paralegals may assume supervisory responsibilities, such as overseeing team projects or delegating work to other paralegals.

Work Environment

Paralegals and legal assistants

Paralegals and legal assistants work in law offices and libraries.

Paralegals and legal assistants held about 279,500 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most paralegals and legal assistants were as follows:

Legal services 72%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 6
Federal government 5
State government, excluding education and hospitals 4
Finance and insurance 3

Paralegals do most of their work in offices. Occasionally, they may travel to gather information, collect and review documents, accompany attorneys to depositions or trials, and do other tasks.

Some of the work can be fast-paced, and paralegals must be able to work on multiple projects under tight deadlines.

Work Schedules

Most paralegals and legal assistants work full time. Some may have to work more than 40 hours per week in order to meet deadlines.

How to Become a Paralegal or Legal Assistant

Paralegals and legal assistants

Many paralegals and legal assistants have an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies.

Most paralegals and legal assistants have an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, or a bachelor’s degree in another field and a certificate in paralegal studies.

Education

There are several paths a person can take to become a paralegal. Candidates can enroll in a community college paralegal program to earn an associate’s degree. However, many employers prefer, or even require, applicants to have a bachelor’s degree.

Because only a small number of schools offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in paralegal studies, applicants typically have a bachelor’s degree in another subject and earn a certificate in paralegal studies.

Associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in paralegal studies usually offer paralegal training courses in legal research, legal writing, and the legal applications of computers, along with courses in other academic subjects, such as corporate law and international law. Most certificate programs provide intensive paralegal training for people who already hold college degrees.

Employers sometimes hire college graduates with no legal experience or legal education and train them on the job. In these cases, the new employee may have experience in a technical field that is useful to law firms, such tax preparation, nursing, or criminal justice.

Other Experience

In many cases, employers prefer candidates who have at least 1 year of experience in a law firm or other office setting. In addition, a technical understanding of a specific legal specialty can be helpful. For example, a personal-injury law firm may desire a paralegal with a background in nursing or health administration.

Work experience in a law firm or other office setting is particularly important for people who do not have formal paralegal training.

Many paralegal training programs offer an internship, in which students gain practical experience by working for several months in a private law firm, the office of a public defender or attorney general, a corporate legal department, a legal aid organization, or a government agency. Internship experience helps students improve their technical skills and can enhance their employment prospects.

Certifications

Although not required, some employers may prefer to hire applicants who have completed a paralegal certification program. Many national and local paralegal organizations offer voluntary paralegal certifications to students able to pass an exam. Other organizations offer voluntary paralegal certifications for paralegals who meet certain experience and education criteria. For more information about paralegal certifications, see the More Info section.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Paralegals must be able to document and present their research and related information to their supervising attorney.

Computer skills. Paralegals need to be familiar with using computers for legal research and litigation support. They also use computer programs for organizing and maintaining important documents.

Interpersonal skills. Paralegals spend most of their time working with clients and other professionals and must be able to develop good relationships. They must make clients feel comfortable sharing personal information related to their cases.

Organizational skills. Paralegals may be responsible for many cases at one time. They must adapt quickly to changing deadlines.

Research skills. Paralegals need good research and investigative skills to conduct legal research.

Pay

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Median annual wages, May 2015

Legal occupations

$78,170

Paralegals and legal assistants

$48,810

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants was $48,810 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,670, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,010.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for paralegals and legal assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government $63,720
Finance and insurance 58,940
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 48,300
Legal services 46,790
State government, excluding education and hospitals 45,810

Most paralegals and legal assistants work full time. Some may have to work more than 40 hours per week in order to meet deadlines.

Job Outlook

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Paralegals and legal assistants

8%

Total, all occupations

7%

Legal occupations

5%

 

Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 8 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

As law firms try to increase the efficiency of legal services and reduce their costs, they are expected to hire more paralegals and legal assistants. In these cases, paralegals and legal assistants can take on a “hybrid” role within the firm, performing not only traditional paralegal duties but also some of the tasks previously assigned to legal secretaries or other legal support workers.

Law firms also are attempting to reduce billing costs as clients push for less expensive legal services. Due to their lower billing rates to clients, paralegals can be a less costly alternative to lawyers despite performing a wide variety of tasks once done by entry-level lawyers. This should cause an increase in demand for paralegals and legal assistants.

Although law firms will continue to be the largest employers of paralegals, many large corporations are increasing their in-house legal departments to cut costs. For many companies, the high cost of outside counsel makes it more economical to have an in-house legal department. This will lead to an increase in the demand for legal workers in a variety of settings, such as finance and insurance firms, consulting firms, and healthcare providers.

However, demand for paralegals within certain practice areas is dependent upon the overall health of the economy. During periods of slow economic growth, law firms’ workloads may decrease as clients become less likely to engage in litigation, mergers, or other types of activity requiring legal expertise. When work is slow, lawyers will have less work to delegate to paralegals. This may make a firm less likely to keep some paralegals on staff or to hire new ones until the workload increases.

Job Prospects

This occupation attracts many applicants, and competition for jobs will be strong. Experienced, formally trained paralegals with strong computer and database management skills should have the best job prospects. In addition, many firms will prefer paralegals with experience and specialization in high-demand practice areas.

Employment projections data for paralegals and legal assistants, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Paralegals and legal assistants 23-2011 279,500 300,800 8 21,200 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

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