Becoming a Securities Paralegal: Salary & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a securities paralegal career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a securities paralegal is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Securities Paralegal

Securities paralegals assist attorneys in making sure corporations comply with federal and state securities laws. Consider the pros and cons to figure out if this is the right career for you.

Pros of a Securities Paralegal Career
Multiple education paths to choose from (associate's degree, bachelor's degree, certificate program)*
High-paying specialty for paralegals (average salary of about $65,000 in 2014)**
Good job security (paralegal work is less likely to be outsourced that other legal jobs)*
Variety of responsibilities (drafting documents, communicating with clients, checking over auditing procedures)****

Cons of a Securities Paralegal Career
Long hours are not unusual*
Paralegals often work under pressure from deadlines*
Some of the work delegated by attorneys can be tedious***
Strong competition for jobs*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **National Association of Legal Assistants, ***Georgetown University Career Education Center, ****Colorado Bar Association.

Essential Career Info

Job Description

Securities paralegals generally work at law firms or corporate legal departments. These paralegals work with clients and attorneys to draft purchase agreements, underwriting agreements and other legal documents. Common projects include filing annual financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), registering new securities and verifying audit procedures. Depending on the size of the office, securities paralegals may find themselves working on other areas of corporate law as well. You may be responsible for fact-checking and analyzing documents. Most positions are full-time, and there is a chance that you'd be required to work more than 40 hours per week.

Salary Info

The average salary for all paralegals and legal assistants in 2014 was $51,840, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Working in securities law, however, can mean a much higher salary. When the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) surveyed nearly 1,100 paralegals nationwide in 2015, those who spent at least 40% of their time on securities or anti-trust work reported average earnings of $65,000, which was the highest of 33 areas of specialization.

Keep in mind that you may work long hours for that salary - and may not receive any extra benefits for the additional time. In the same NALA survey from 2010, 22% of all paralegals reported working overtime daily and 27% put in extra hours at least once a week. Less than half (44%) of all paralegals were consistently paid for overtime, while 31% of paralegals never received any compensation for staying late or working weekends.

Career Outlook

Paralegals are less likely to find their work outsourced, as many employers are hiring paralegals as a less costly alternative to lawyers. Although the BLS projected that paralegals would experience decent job growth (17% increase in jobs from 2012-2022), you're likely to face strong competition for these jobs. The BLS noted that there were generally more applicants than positions available. Paralegals with experience and formal training should have the best prospects.

What Are the Requirements?

Education

Several educational paths can enable you to become a securities paralegal. Some employers may require an associate's degree or in paralegal studies or a bachelor's degree in any field. If you have a bachelor's degree in a field other than legal studies, you may be able to find some positions without specific paralegal training. Large companies may require you to have a paralegal certificate in addition to your bachelor's degree. California is the only state that has formal requirements for paralegals; you must complete an approved training program and continue to take courses every two or three years.

Associate's degree programs normally entail two years of legal training and general coursework. Though less common, there are also more intensive bachelor's and master's degree programs in legal or paralegal studies. Certificates in paralegal studies can be found at the undergraduate or post-baccalaureate level, and may vary in length. The American Association for Paralegal Education and the American Bar Association offer guidance on choosing from more than 1,000 training programs in the U.S.

What Employers Are Looking for

You'll usually interact with clients fairly often, so you should be comfortable with communicating with people in person, over the phone and through writing. Securities paralegals need a mix of technical and analytical skills. They must know the applicable securities laws and resulting corporate obligations. You should be proficient using general office software and know how to use electronic filing systems. Keeping organized and staying on schedule is also important for paralegals.

When law firms and companies advertise for securities paralegals, they typically seek out applicants with the skills mentioned above. Employers may also emphasize a desire for workers who need minimal supervision but can function well in a team. Here are some real job postings from April 2012:

  • An upscale clothing retailer in New York sought a corporate and securities paralegal with 3-6 years of directly related experience at a law firm or company. Qualifications were a bachelor's degree (with paralegal certificate preferred), knowledge of corporate transactions, an understanding of equity capital markets and mastery of standard office software.
  • A mid-sized national bank advertised a corporate and securities paralegal position in Colorado. Candidates should have a bachelor's degree with a certificate in paralegal studies, five years of experience in corporate law and knowledge of computer-based legal research. Experience with the SEC's electronic filing system was preferred.
  • A large, global law firm was hiring a corporate and securities paralegal based in New Jersey. Minimum qualifications were a paralegal certificate or a bachelor's degree, with a major in accounting, finance or business preferred. Candidate should have 5-7 years of experience as a corporate and securities paralegal. Ideal candidates would be skilled in Corporate Focus software and MS Office software.
  • A downtown law firm in Texas was looking for a corporate and securities paralegal with a bachelor's degree and paralegal certificate. Candidate should have three years of experience, preferably in compliance or finance/brokerage. Background in trial preparation and familiarity with FINRA rules and SEC filings were required.

How to Stand out in the Field

When 500 legal hiring managers were surveyed by the firm Robert Half Legal in 2011, they chose versatility as the most important quality in job candidates. A specialty in securities law may serve you best if complemented by exposure to other areas of the law and a strong portfolio of legal office skills.

When you're starting out, you could broaden your skill set by working as a temporary paralegal. Smaller companies may also allow you to gain a broad skill set, since a wider range of duties are usually assigned to individual paralegals at small companies. Paralegals.org stated that engaging with coworkers and inspiring enthusiasm were highly regarded and could help you stand out from the other applicants.

Get Certified

Several paralegal organizations offer widely respected certifications that testify to paralegals' knowledge and experience. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers the Certified Paralegal designation, which can be obtained after passing an examination and meeting the education requirements set by NALA. The National Association of Legal Secretaries has a Professional Paralegal certification, which requires you to meet the experience requirements and pass an exam. The best certification for you may depend on your career goals, so it can be a good idea to check out all of your options before pursuing a professional paralegal designation.

Alternative Career Paths

If the educational requirements for paralegals seem high but you still find legal services appealing, then becoming a legal secretary may be of interest to you. Legal secretaries provide clerical assistance to lawyers and paralegals. They also prepare legal forms and may assist with research activities. Expected employment growth is slower than the national average, at four percent for the decade of 2010-2020, according to the BLS. The annual salary was about $44,000 in 2011, according to the BLS. However, you're generally only required to have a high school diploma for most of these positions. Legal secretaries may, with further training, move up to work as a paralegal.

If you find the buying and selling of securities more appealing than the legal side of handling securities, then you could become a securities sales agent. Securities, commodities and financial services sales agents usually need a bachelor's degree. You also need to be licensed for most jobs, but you have high earning potential. The BLS found that securities, commodities and financial services sales agents earned an average salary of approximately $99,000 in 2011, while the top 25% earned more than $132,000. The BLS predicted 15% employment growth for these professionals between 2010 and 2020, but, similar to paralegals, they were likely to face stiff competition for jobs.

Popular Schools

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    2. Keiser University

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    3. Saint Joseph's University

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Legal Studies
  • BS in Legal Support and Services
  • AAS in Legal Support and Services
  • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal

Which subject are you interested in?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Legal Studies
  • B.A. - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Paralegal
  • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Criminal Justice Intelligence & Crime Analysis

What is your highest level of education completed?

Post University

  • B.S. in Legal Studies
  • A.S. in Criminal Justice
  • Certificate: Paralegal (Legal Studies)

Education Level:

Baker College Online

  • Criminal Justice - Bachelor

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma: Legal Secretary

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies

What is your highest level of education?