Is it Worth it to Become a Litigation Paralegal?

Table of Contents

Choose Your Path

The short answer is yes.

However, it’s essential to understand that the kind of litigation paralegal role you choose will influence your job satisfaction. This is because some paralegals might prefer a corporate setting as an in-house paralegal, while others might thrive in a law firm setting working in civil litigation or other commercial litigation.

There are so many different factors when considering whether or not it’s worth it to become a litigation paralegal, including the size of the law firm you work for and the attorney you work with at that firm. The most important factor is choosing the path that’s right for you.

If you choose the path that is right for you, the answer is yes, it is worth it. If you choose the wrong path, your personal experience could be anywhere from mediocre and bored to stressed and miserable.

Let’s start with the basics and help you determine if a litigation path is the right path for you.

What is a litigation paralegal?

A litigation paralegal is a legal professional who provides vital support to attorneys who work in the area of litigation. 

Paralegals play an indispensable role in the legal process, handling things such as document review and analysis, legal research, drafting pleadings, and managing case files. Their job is critical in all phases of a litigation case, from the complaint through to the trial, and everything in between.

Forget about what you see on TV and in the movies because most litigation paralegal roles don’t look like Meghan Markle’s role in the Suits TV show or Julia Roberts’ role in the Erin Brockovich movie. If that’s the vision you have for your paralegal role, you will be disappointed.

How much money does a paralegal make?

The earnings of a litigation paralegal can vary widely, with factors such as location, years of experience, size and prestige of the firm, and the type of litigation influencing the salary. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants was $56,230 in 2021.

The problem with relying on that number is that it includes legal assistants.  While those roles used to be synonymous, the ABA recently clarified that they are not the same position. 

In fact, what you see in most firms going forward is they have eliminated the legal secretary title and replaced it with a legal assistant title.  In response, the ABA now says they are two different roles.

Having first-hand knowledge of paralegal salaries, I have to completely disagree with that number. For example, when I left my litigation paralegal position in 2004 to take the paralegal manager position, I was already making almost twice that amount. That was almost 20 years ago!

Don’t just take my own personal experience. You could say “well, you were the exception” or “you worked in an AmLaw 100 firm in a major metropolitan city.” And you’d be correct. 

There is a very large gap in salaries when you look at BigLaw in big cities compared to small law firms in smaller regional markets.  

But here’s what I also know:  I talk to paralegals across the country. I talk to litigation paralegals in major metropolitan cities who have $90,000+ salaries and paralegals in small firms in small towns who have $40,000 salaries.

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Free Strategy Guidebook for
New Litigation Paralegals

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Our free guidebook reveals three powerful strategies that will set you up for success in your journey. If you’re ready to seize this opportunity and thrive as a litigation paralegal, sign up below, and get started now!

Keep in mind that the median annual wage that is cited by the Bureau of Labor Statistics includes ALL paralegals AND legal assistants at ALL levels of experience, education, size of firm, and practice area that they work in. That means that it includes the brand-new paralegal who is working at a solo practitioner firm that has a very limited budget, along with the paralegals who are making over six figures working at large firms in big cities.

What does that mean? It means that any survey you see is irrelevant because so many factors go into that number.

My advice when looking at your potential salary is to ask yourself what number are YOU comfortable with? As a litigation paralegal, you won’t really have an option to take a side-gig to make up for the low salary to make ends meet (see below on why), so make sure you get a starting salary that you are comfortable with and don’t need to supplement just to pay your bills.

It’s important to remember, though, that whatever your starting salary is, this figure can rise significantly with experience and specialization.

What do other paralegals say?

Is it worth it to become a paralegal?


Why or why not?

I grew up in a home where my parents always financially struggled and home life was difficult. I became a paralegal during my paralegal studies and I have lived the life I have always dreamed even 21 years later!

How to become a litigation paralegal

Ask any ten litigation paralegals how they became a paralegal, and you will most likely get ten different answers. Here are the most common paths that people take to start their paralegal career.


There are several paths to becoming a litigation paralegal through the traditional college route. Each has its merits and should be evaluated based on your career aspirations, financial situation, and time commitments.

Option 1:  The bachelor’s degree in Paralegal Studies

This is a comprehensive path providing an overall knowledge of the legal system and your general education credits like all other undergraduate degrees. With a full four-year degree in Paralegal Studies, you’re likely to enter the job market with a strong foundation and potentially a competitive edge (especially if you plan to work at a larger firm).

Option 2:  The bachelor’s degree in another major, then a paralegal certificate program after the college degree

Already have a degree in another major? Not to worry. You can complement your existing education with a paralegal certificate program, equipping you with the essential skills for a paralegal role without requiring an additional four-year commitment.

Option 3:  The associate degree in Paralegal Studies

 An associate degree in Paralegal Studies typically takes two years to complete and provides a general understanding of legal principles, legal writing, and research. This can be an excellent starting point for those who want to enter the field quickly.

Keep in mind, with this option and the ones below it, that you won’t have as many employment opportunities as the new paralegal graduates coming out of a bachelor’s degree program. Most large law firms (AmLaw 100 and AmLaw 200 firms) typically require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.

Option 4:  The associate degree plus a paralegal certificate

This is essentially the same as the associate degree in paralegal studies. It is the general credits of an associate degree plus a specific number of credits in paralegal-specific education.

Get tips on overcoming obstacles to land your first paralegal job.


A paralegal certificate can be a quick and flexible entry point into the profession. Ideal for those eager to kickstart their careers, these programs typically only take three months to one year. However, bear in mind that some employers prefer candidates with formal college education. 

This path would be ideal for someone like a legal assistant who has many years of experience working in a law firm and wants to be promoted to a paralegal position.


Experience can be a fantastic teacher. Starting in an administrative position in a law firm and learning the ropes through direct involvement in case handling can eventually lead to a rewarding career as a litigation paralegal. It can be a slower route, but the practical knowledge gained is invaluable.

The key here is that you are working in an organization that will actually take the time to provide on-the-job training.

Get the inside scoop!

What skills are most important for litigation paralegals?

1.  Attention to detail

Meticulousness can make or break a case. A successful litigation paralegal must pay careful attention to every detail, as even minor mistakes can have major legal implications.

Attention to detail is often thought of as proofreading, but there is so much more to it than that for paralegals. 

Your brief might not have any errors in it, but are all of the exhibits attached? Were they e-filed under the correct number? 

Did the data drive get produced to the other side without accidentally including privileged information? 

Attention to detail is very important for litigation paralegals.

Learn more about how this one skill can make or break your paralegal career.

2.  Legal research skills

Legal research skills are essential for finding and analyzing laws, regulations, and court decisions pertinent to the case you’re working on. Being a proficient legal researcher makes you an invaluable asset to your team.

In school, you will learn about typical legal research projects using the BlueBook, Westlaw, and Lexis.  But the bigger picture is to consider all of the available online research tools that are available to find various information related to your cases.

Learn about the difference between a legal assistant and a paralegal

3.  Organizational skills

Managing numerous cases, each with a plethora of documents requires good organizational skills. Keeping things orderly and accessible is especially important as you will most likely be working with attorneys who are not very organized.  The attorneys are usually thinking about the big picture and how to win the case rather than the best way to organize the discovery responses for easy retrieval.

Here are 7 Tips for Mastering the Paper Flow.

4.  Technical skills

Technical skills are a must in today’s digital age. Familiarity with legal software, case management systems, and common office software like Microsoft Office and Adobe is the bare minimum needed for technical skills.

These are a few categories of the various technology tools you might be using as a litigation paralegal:

A grouping of the technological tools to have experience in using if you're looking to have a career in litigation paralegal.

With the AI tools rapidly growing for the legal industry, we could also add those here, but they will be changing so rapidly that another one will be on the scene before I hit the publish button.  Instead, I’ll do a separate “paralegal AI tools” article and link to it here in the future.

5.  eDiscovery skills

What is eDiscovery?

E-discovery, or electronic discovery, refers to the process of identifying, collecting, and producing electronically stored information (ESI) in legal proceedings. As a litigation paralegal, proficiency in eDiscovery is crucial.  It used to be optional to have eDiscovery skills as a litigation paralegal – now it is crucial. Just like it used to be optional to know how to send an email, things have changed in the paralegal profession.

In a recent podcast interview with Michael Quartararo, President of the Association of Certified E-discovery Specialists, he said it best: you’re not really doing litigation if you’re not doing e-discovery.

6.  Writing skills

Exceptional writing skills are vital. From drafting correspondence to creating legal documents, the ability to communicate clearly and concisely is a must.

As a litigation paralegal, you will spend a majority of your typical workday writing one thing or another, such as:





Discovery requests

Discovery responses


Witness statements

Deposition summaries

Medical records summaries

Case summaries

Legal research memos

The list goes on and on and on. As a litigation paralegal, you could easily spend more than 50% of your day using your legal writing skills.

Here are some tips to improve your legal writing skills.

What does a litigation paralegal do?

A litigation paralegal assists attorneys throughout the lifecycle of a lawsuit. This includes the initial case assessment, investigation, pleadings, discovery phase, pre-trial, trial, settlement, and even the appeal process.

Here is a list of some other typical job duties that you could expect as a litigation paralegal:

Interview clients and witnesses

Analyze data and prepare summary charts

Keep track of case deadlines

Work with electronically stored information

Draft pleadings and discovery

Filing pleadings with the court

Legal research

Communicate with court personnel, opposing counsel, and others

Locate key documents

Manage outside vendors

Investigative research

Document organization

Summarize transcripts

Prepare trial exhibit lists and trial notebooks

Prepare deposition exhibit lists and deposition notebooks

Track exhibits and other evidence during trial

Learn about your most important role as a trial paralegal.

What traits help you succeed as a litigation paralegal?

What you might want to know first

Working in litigation can be a rewarding choice for a paralegal, especially if you like to work in a fast-paced environment.  That being said, litigation is not for everyone.  Here are a few things you might want to know before you decide to choose litigation for your career.


The practice area you choose could make all the difference

While a litigation paralegal’s core skills can be applied across various legal areas, the specific practice area you choose will influence your day-to-day tasks and overall job satisfaction. Criminal law, family law, corporate law – each comes with unique demands and rewards.

A perfect example might be to compare the interpersonal skills required of a litigation paralegal working in family law or personal injury compared with someone who works in commercial or construction litigation. The former needs to have a high level of empathy and compassion because they will have much more client contact and at a difficult time in the clients’ lives.

Just a few of the litigation practice areas include:



Civil Rights

Commercial (Contract/Business Disputes)




Family Law

Health Care

Insurance Defense

Intellectual Property

Labor & Employment

Medical Malpractice

Personal Injury

Torts (and then you could get as niche as “Asbestos Litigation” and more)

Something to keep in mind is that this list includes practice areas that also have firms that do not handle the litigation side of those areas and instead handle the corporate or transactional side of those areas. For example, some firms only work in the corporate side of intellectual property (patents and trademarks), where they file the applications and handle the intellectual property of corporations, but they do not handle the litigation side of those practice areas.

Litigation Paralegal Boot Camp

Are you tired of being the Panic Mode Paralegal who spends your days playing whack-a-mole with last-minute rush projects because you’re waiting for someone to show you what it takes to be great litigation paralegal?

This is the only program of its kind that provides litigation paralegals with all of the tools to master litigation cases from the complaint through the trial, and everything in between.

You will be the Confident Case Strategist faster than you ever imagined possible.


A smiling paralegal professional depicting what your team will be like after the litigation paralegal training for your team.

What you do at one firm will not be what you do at another firm

Every law firm operates differently, and your role as a litigation paralegal may vary significantly from one firm to another. You will want to ask detailed questions during the interview to determine what that firm’s role is for their litigation paralegals.

For example, at some larger law firms, their litigation paralegals might only work on certain phases of a case. One paralegal might handle the initial pleadings and discovery phase, and then when it gets set for trial, the file gets handed off to the trial paralegal.

You will not be working a 9-to-5 job

Litigation often involves tight deadlines and urgent tasks that are dictated by court orders. There’s no such thing as “I’ll just get that done tomorrow morning even though it’s technically due today.” Most litigation paralegals should be prepared for long hours, weekend work, and the occasional holiday. While it can be challenging, the thrill of contributing to successful case resolutions can make it all worthwhile.

Do other paralegals in non-litigation areas like real estate and corporate law work late hours? Yes, they do on occasion. But with most litigation practices, you pretty much have to be prepared to work long hours as part of the job.

Some factors that will determine how often you might have to work long hours include:

  1. Whether you work in a law firm, a corporate legal department (in-house), or a government agency;
  2. The attorney you work for;
  3. How productive you are during the workday;
  4. The specific practice area you work in litigation;
  5. The time of the year; and
  6. Whether your use of technology allows you to work more proficiently.

Is it worth it to become a litigation paralegal? For me it was! Was it easy? No. If you want an easy job, then there are plenty of other career choices that pay more and are easier than being a paralegal. But it can also be one of the most rewarding careers you might have.

Learn about the power of paralegal mentors.

What do other paralegals say?

Is it worth it to become a paralegal?


Why or why not?

Being a paralegal challenges me. I am a person that loves a challenge that allows me to learn something new. I enjoy working with the clients and researching caselaw that will benefit my clients. I also enjoy learning about the legal and justice system. The only downside to the paralegal work that I perform is the compensation. I work in the public sector, which does not compensate its employees like the private sector does.


Is it worth it to become a paralegal?:



Why or why not?:

When I was about to graduate from college with a degree in English most people assumed I would be an English teacher but I wasn’t so sure. I talked with a career counselor who took note of my interest in writing and research and pointed me to this thing called a paralegal. At the time I’d never heard of it. I’ve been a paralegal now for thirty years and always grateful to that career counselor. 


Master the 7 Habits of the Indispensable Paralegal with our comprehensive guide.

Meet the Author

A portrait of Ann Pearson for the Paralegal blog.

Ann Pearson is the Founder of the Paralegal Boot Camp, and host of the Paralegals on Fire! Podcast Show, and passionate about promoting the paralegal profession.

Ann spent 20 years working as a paralegal manager and a litigation paralegal before opening the Paralegal Boot Camp in 2010. 

Ann’s training programs focus on adding immediate value to a paralegal’s career and bridging the gap between what a paralegal learns in school and what they actually do on the job.

Visit the About Us Page to learn more about why Ann started the Paralegal Boot Camp.

Connect with Ann on LinkedIn

A Paralegal Resource For You

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You are invited to our FREE Litigation Paralegal Workshop

If you’re a new litigation paralegal, our Litigation Paralegal Blueprint: 3 Cornerstones to Fast-Track Your Success workshop will help you discover what’s possible in your paralegal career.

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Personal Injury

As a personal injury paralegal, you have an important role in the pre-litigation phase of your claim files. 

But where do you start when you’re managing 80+ active files?  

The Personal Injury Paralegal Boot camp will give you all the tools to manage that heavy case load.


Are you still waiting for on-the-job training that takes you through the lifecycle of a litigation case and shows you what it is you can be doing?

This course and coaching program is what you’ve been looking for! 

This is the only program of its kind that provides you with all of the tools to master your litigation cases, from the complaint through the trial, and everything in between.

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Are you ready to fast-track your litigation paralegal career?!

Our free guidebook reveals three powerful strategies that will set you up for success in your journey. If you’re ready to seize this opportunity and thrive as a litigation paralegal, sign up below, and get started now!