By Brian Craig
While the paralegal profession has traditionally been populated predominantly by women, the percentage of men working as paralegals and legal assistants has seen a dramatic rise in recent years.
In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of males working as paralegals or legal assistants has increased from 10.9 percent in 2005 to 15.7 percent in 2011. Stated another way, the legal industry has seen a 44 percent increase in the number of men working as paralegals in the last five years.
Men are seeing the advantages of working as paralegals and legal assistants. Men can use their analytical or organizational skills, work in a challenging and exciting profession, and deal with clients. The paralegal profession traces its roots to the legal secretarial role which was traditionally a female dominated industry. For many years, there was a perception that a “paralegal” was a glorified secretary but that is no longer the case. The following chart shows the dramatic increase in the number of men working as paralegals.
(Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, Employed Persons by Detailed Occupation, Sex, Race, and Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity, 2005-2011)
In a recent interview on the LegalTalk Network, Carl H. Morrison, II, PP, AACP, a Certified Paralegal at Rhodes Hieronymus and Zachary W. Brewer, CP, a Litigation Paralegal at Hall Estill, two male paralegals, discussed working as a paralegal in a career traditionally dominated by women. In the interview, Morrison shared his positive view of working in a profession that has a large percentage of women. Morrison said, “More men are starting to see that it is a rewarding profession.”
On what advice he would give to men who are considering a career as a paralegal in a female dominated profession, Morrison said: “I would say go for it. I think that there are a lot of great opportunities out there. It is a rewarding profession. I absolutely love what I do.”
The legal professional includes judges, lawyers, paralegals, and other legal support staff. While the number of men working as paralegals is rising, the percentage of women working as lawyers in 2011 remains more constant with 30.2 percent female lawyers in 2005 compared to 31.9 percent female lawyers in 2011, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For some men considering a career as a paralegal, there might be a stigma in working in a profession that has been traditionally female driven. That sigma, however, is eroding as more men work in the profession and as the profession evolves.
Men that enjoy working with new technology can also find the benefits of working in the paralegal profession where new technology is used such as litigation support software. Other professions that have been traditionally female driven, such as nursing, are also seeing changes. There has been a steady increase over the past decade in the percentage of men earning nursing degrees. The percentage of male nurses climbed from 9.5 percent in 2003 to 12.2 percent in 2011, according to a study reported in Fortune magazine. (See Elizabeth G. Olson, “Was the ‘Mancession’ Just a Mirage?” Fortune, July 15, 2011.)
As with other careers, the paralegal profession continues to evolve and more men are seeing the advantages of working as paralegals.