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Legal fields

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October 14, 2007

If your interests lie in the law and you plan wisely, you can find your niche in one of many legal fields that include lawyers, judges, paralegals, legal assistants, and other support personnel. All require specific training and expertise; being realistic about your expectations is critical.

The current job picture is positive, but the field is sensitive to economic ups and downs; a few areas of specialization like litigation are always active. Greater Boston is particularly strong in the legal fields of intellectual properties, healthcare, financial services, and biomedical law.

"Boston is pretty tight," however, said Mary Karen Rogers, director of career development at Suffolk University Law School. She cautioned against large firms, which have few openings and hire selectively. Most attorneys find fulfilling work in small-to-medium-size firms.

Find information at the National Association for Law Placement, nalp.org.

JUDGES

Average salary: $96,900. Varies according to region and level.

Demand: Limited. These prestigious jobs are limited in number, and competition is tough.

Qualifications: Bachelor's degree plus work experience usually required; most judges at state and federal levels must be lawyers.

LAWYERS

Average salary: $127,430. Salaries in private practice can top $200,000; those in public service average about $54,000.

Demand: Fairly good. Litigation remains strong, as do intellectual property, financial services, healthcare, and compliance.

Qualifications: Degree from accredited law school required; must pass state bar exam; strong abilities in speaking, writing, research, and relevant technology. Internships, volunteer work, and summer jobs are good sources for necessary experience.

PARALEGALS

Average salary: $51,800

Demand: Steady. Large and midsize firms seek experienced candidates knowledgeable in preparing for trials, interviewing witnesses, conducting in-depth research, and performing other advanced duties once done only by attorneys.

Qualifications: Associate or bachelor's degree generally required; litigation and case management experience, up-to-date technology skills, certification, and proficiency in a second language are all big pluses, particularly in big cities.

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