Are paralegal assistants in demand in Jamaica?

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith

Sunday, September 23, 2018

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Dear Career Adviser:

I am pursuing an associate degree in paralegal studies in Jamaica. I have heard that paralegal assistants are in demand but I have a feeling this is more than likely not true. I am wondering if this degree is marketable in Jamaica and if I will be able to access job opportunities when my studies are complete. I do, however, want to stick to this programme as I had changed majors last year after realising I wasn't pursuing what I liked. Please assist me in determining whether I'm heading down the wrong career path.

Yours truly,

Jan T

Dear Jan T:

Commendations on your pursuit of studies towards qualification as a paralegal assistant.

Thank you for your questions and for expressing your concerns. Often similar concerns come from parents or guardians; therefore, undoubtedly, our response will be of interest to other readers as well. This response is framed on the premise that you selected this programme based on your career interests and aptitude. Having changed majors during the year, we trust that you had secured guidance from a career counsellor before making the switch.

Paralegal service is a relatively new career field and one that is growing in Jamaica, across the Caribbean region and in other parts of the world. Paralegal assistants work under the supervision of attorneys, carrying out many legal functions previously performed by lawyers especially as it relates to the administration of legal offices, including the initial interface with clients and the preparation of court documents. Many firms find that hiring paralegal assistants results in cost savings, hence the rise in demand for trained paralegal professionals.

In respect of your concern that there is little or no demand for paralegal assistants in Jamaica, we urge that you do not base your assessment on feelings. Do your research. Speaking with practitioners in the legal fraternity would be very useful. A good place to begin is with the lecturers in your programme, for it is very likely that most are current legal practitioners. You will undoubtedly find that the degree is indeed marketable. Bear in mind, however, that although the degree qualifies you, as a job seeker you will have to carefully market yourself in order to be successful as you navigate the job market.

Aside from direct employment as a paralegal assistant, based on the skills and competencies you will develop from your training, you would also be suited to apply these competencies in other jobs such as careers in governmental and corporate legal offices, education, banking, law enforcement, customs, courts office, journalism, probation office, child protection services, etc.

As you advance in your studies, be sure to interface with the career services department of your institution. Many of them will provide assistance with job placement and most definitely will provide guidance in job search strategies as well as appropriate avenues for further studies based on your interests and aptitude. Additionally, seek for opportunities to form network linkages with members of the legal fraternity with whom you interface.

Ultimately, the career path you choose will be driven by your passion, motivation and work ethic. Lay aside your fears and self-doubt. Be purposive in the pursuit of your career dreams.

All the best.

Sincerely,

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith is associate vice-president of student services at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeveille, Manchester. Submit your questions to her at careeradvisor@ncu.edu.jm.

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