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Florida Paralegal Career Guide

This guide is your starting point for exploring a career in the paralegal field. Here you’ll find Florida paralegal salary and career information, professional resources, and more. The easy to navigate directory below will help you quickly find the answers to your questions about how to become a paralegal in Florida.

Table of Contents:
Paralegal Careers
Job Outlook in Florida
Salary Outlook
Salary by Metro Area
Paralegal Certification
Certification in Florida
Career Quick Start Tips – How to Become a Paralegal in Florida
Additional Paralegal Resources
Florida Paralegal Career Books
Paralegal Job Search Websites
Florida State Court Info
Law Libraries in Florida
Paralegal Associations in Florida

Paralegal Careers

To become a paralegal in Florida, one must typically complete an accredited paralegal degree program from one of the many paralegal schools in Florida. While most employers do not require further certification, obtaining voluntary certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, or the American Alliance of Paralegals can provide job seekers with a competitive edge. The National Association of Legal Assistants offers the CLA/CP examination and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations offers the comparable Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE). Both of these certification exams are designed to assess legal competency and adhere to nationally recognized industry standards of excellence. Registration with the Florida Bar is not mandatory; however, membership in the Florida Registered Paralegal Program has tangible benefits for practicing paralegals and provides job seekers with further accreditation.

Projected Job Growth

23.4%

Paralegals in Florida from 2014-20222

Job Outlook in Florida

Nationally, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 17% growth rate for paralegals and legal assistants from 2012 to 2022.1 In Florida the job growth rate for paralegals should exceed the national average, as the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has forecast a 23.4% increase in paralegal and legal assistant positions during the same period.2 This faster than average growth rate should lead to expanded opportunities for recent graduates and experienced Florida paralegals alike. Job prospects for Florida paralegals are likely to be strongest in metropolitan areas hosting dense concentrations of businesses and corporations. In May 2014, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the Miami metropolitan area had the 10th highest employment level for paralegals and legal assistants in the nation with 4,230 jobs.3 Other areas in Florida where paralegals are likely to find strong job prospects include Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Orlando.

Florida Paralegal Salary Outlook

In May 2014 the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 23,000 practicing paralegals in Florida earning an average annual salary of $48,690.3 Paralegal salary in Florida can vary based on factors such as experience, education, and metro area. For example, paralegal jobs in Miami may offer higher salaries than paralegal jobs in Fort Myers. However, other factors should be considered such as the average cost of living and opportunities for career advancement in a given area.

Other factors to consider for Florida paralegals include the density of paralegal jobs in a given area. Paralegal and legal assistant opportunities are expected to continue to draw many applicants and remain quite competitive, with the majority of positions anchored in law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies. Formal training and certification from nationally recognized associations, such as the National Association of Legal Assistants, greatly increase the marketability of paralegal applicants in all types of organizations. Candidates may also seek Florida paralegal certification.

The bottom line for seeking paralegal jobs in Florida is identifying job opportunities that meet career interests in a desirable location. With paralegal job opportunities across the state available in all areas of practice, aspiring professionals have many avenues to build their skills and increase earnings potential.

Florida Paralegal Salary Info By Metro Area

Paralegal salary in Florida by major metro area at a glance:

Metro AreaNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Jacksonville1,600$45,850
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach10,200$50,290
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford3,280$50,550
Tallahassee510$45,280
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater4,490$44,500

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.

Paralegal Certification in Florida

Florida, like most other states, does not have certification requirements for paralegals. At the national level, the American Bar Association includes legal assistants, legal secretaries, and document preparers in its definition of paralegals, leaving the definition for paralegal work broad. This means that there are several paths to Florida paralegal certification. One way is through on-the-job training, which may be offered by law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies. However, since not all paralegal jobs in Florida offer on-site training the first step to becoming a paralegal in Florida is typically earning a certificate or degree in paralegal studies or legal assisting. There are many paralegal schools in Florida that provide education and training for future paralegals. Learn more with Paralegal411’s Steps to Become a Paralegal.

Florida Certification

Florida does not have mandatory licensing guidelines for paralegal certification at the state level. However, the Florida Bar offers voluntary paralegal registration for professionals who meet eligibility requirements through a combination of education and work experience or certification and work experience. To meet the education requirement, prospective Florida registered paralegals may complete an American Bar Association approved paralegal program at the associate’s or bachelor’s level. As of March 2015, the American Bar Association formally approves 9 paralegal programs in Florida. There are other combinations of education and experience that can also satisfy the requirements for paralegal registration. Take a look at the Registered Paralegal Program guidelines from the Florida Bar for further detail.

Career Quick Start Tips — How to Become a Paralegal in Florida

As noted above, Florida employers and the Florida Bar recognize that there are many different avenues to become a paralegal. Most paralegal jobs in Florida are for candidates who possess a combination of education, experience (including internships), and work-based training. Paralegals in Florida may also enter the field as document preparers or legal secretaries and work their way up to a paralegal position. Obtaining national certification can help paralegals become more competitive in the job market. You can find out more about becoming an entry-level paralegal through Paralegal411’s national guide Steps to Become a Paralegal.

Paralegal Resources

Paralegals play a critical support role for the firms in which they work and can also make a positive impact in the lives of their firms’ clients. Achieving success as a paralegal is reliant on having current and relevant information when it’s needed. These resources for paralegals in Florida can assist you in getting a head start and advancing your career.

Florida Paralegal Career Books

  • The Florida Paralegal: Essential Rules, Documents, and Resources – Paralegals embarking on careers in Florida will find this reference guide invaluable. Included are Florida rules, document templates, a legal dictionary, and much more. For the most current information, this book includes references to regularly updated Internet sources.
  • Florida Family Law Blueprint – Authored by Raul Perez-Ceballos, a family law attorney based in Coral Gables, the Florida Family Law Blueprint is a heavily illustrated reference and entry-level manual to Florida family law. Various aspects of family law are examined, including alimony, child support, and administrative cases.
  • 2014 Florida Notary Law Primer – Paralegals often play many roles, including that of notary. This indispensable text provides a detailed look at Florida notary laws and procedures with recommendations for best practices. Also included are suggested wording for oaths, affirmations, and legal certificates.
  • Guide to Criminal Law for Florida – The Guide to Criminal Law for Florida is written for students but is also a handy continuing reference for paralegals specializing in criminal law. This text covers Florida case laws and precedents, penal codes and interpretations, and exercises to check understanding.
  • Florida Real Estate, Principles, Practices, and Law – This authoritative guide to Florida real estate law is an accessible text from the agency side of real estate. Providing legal descriptions, information on contracts, an overview of property rights and ownership, and more, this is a handy reference for paralegals working in real estate law and related areas. Readers will also find the cross-references to Florida and federal real estate statutes and regulations helpful.
  • The Law of Florida Homeowners Associations – As popular as homeowners associations are in Florida, most paralegals will likely encounter a case involving these entities at some point in their career. The authors provide footnote references to Florida Statutes and appellate court decisions while covering association law for single family, master community, and townhouse and cluster developments. Now in its 10th edition, this book also includes template forms for association activities.
  • Paralegal Ethics Handbook – Updated in 2014, the Paralegal Ethics Handbook provides paralegals at all levels with an easy to use reference for ethics and professionalism in the workplace. In addition to covering considerations for traditional paralegals, the text addresses the concerns of government and freelance paralegals. Specific issues for paralegals in 17 practice areas are also examined.

Paralegal Job Search Websites for Florida

Florida Court Info

  • FlCourts.gov – The home page for all courts in the state of Florida provides links to all courts within the system, as well as an overview of the state’s court structure and locations.
  • Florida District Courts of Appeal – From this site you can find links to search cases and opinions from the Florida District Courts of Appeal.
  • FloridaSuperemeCourt.org – The Florida Supreme Court maintains its own website with an easy to use docket search, the Supreme Court’s online law library, past Court opinions, and more.
  • Florida Bar – The Florida Bar provides information on legal ethics, rules, and news and events from the state courts.

Law Libraries in Florida

  • Florida Supreme Court – The Florida Supreme Court provides public access during set hours to its library in Tallahassee. The public may also access its online library at any time.
  • University of Miami School of Law – The University of Miami School of Law maintains one of the largest law libraries in the Southeast with over 620,000 volumes. The library is open to guests for legal research, although days and times may be restricted to the public during exam periods.

Paralegal Associations in Florida

  • Central Florida Paralegal Association, Inc. – The Central Florida Paralegal Association (CEPA) was founded in 1983 to serve paralegals through continuing legal education and professional development. Affiliated with NALA, the CEPA encourages community service with events throughout the year. The association also works to support current and future paralegal students in their studies.
  • Northeast Florida Paralegal Association, Inc. – Professional development opportunities abound for members of the Northeast Florida Paralegal Association, an affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. based in Jacksonville. The association provides benefits such as a job bank, scholarships, mentoring, and more. The annual dues are $60 for active members, $40 for associates, and $25 for students.
  • Northwest Florida Paralegal Association – Headquartered in Pensacola, the Northwest Florida Paralegal Association (NWFPA) focuses on the ethical and professional development of paralegals. Aligned with the mission and purpose of the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc., the NWFPA was founded in 1981 and continues to hold regular meetings, seminars, and other activities relevant to the interests of area paralegals and other legal professionals.
  • Paralegal Association of Florida, Inc. – This statewide association welcomes members from all areas of Florida. Its membership totals over 1,000 professionals, many of whom participate in the association’s annual Spring and Fall seminars. Additional events are hosted throughout the year, supported by 11 statewide chapters.
  • South Florida Paralegal Association – The SFPA is an affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. The SFPA seeks to advance the paralegal profession through member development, paralegal advocacy, and public awareness. Member benefits include membership in affiliate organizations, admission to annual meetings and events, and access to career opportunities.
  • Southwest Florida Paralegal Association, Inc. – The Southwest Florida Paralegal Association, or SWFPA, supports area paralegals through networking, education, and professional advancement. This association advocates for paralegal awareness, particularly through community participation. Regular meetings, seminars, and continuing education events keep SWFPA’s members involved and abreast of the latest developments in the paralegal profession.
  • Tampa Bay Paralegal Association, Inc. – An affiliate of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc., this active organization provides its members with opportunities for scholarships, continuing education, certification, networking, and other career advancement activities. The TBPA encourages members to donate pro bono hours and participate in other community service endeavors throughout the year. Annual dues are $95 for active members, $95 for associate members, and $35 for student members.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2014 Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm
2. Florida Department of Economic Opportunity: http://www.floridajobs.org/labor-market-information/data-center/statistical-programs/employment-projections
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates,
Florida: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_fl.htm#otherlinks
5. Florida Bar Association: https://www.floridabar.org/