Paralegals are also referred to as legal para-professionals, legal aides, legal assistants, legal researchers, law clerks and legal executives.
Their main function is to support lawyers in their work.
Paralegal training does not take as long as a lawyer’s training but paralegal are trained in aspects of the law.
In most cases, a paralegal training will be focused in a particular niche such as environmental law, real estate law, commercial law, bankruptcy, insurance, family law, litigation or any other specialization.
Even though paralegals are trained in law and in legal research methods just like lawyers, they are not allowed to set legal fees, appear in a court of law as a person’s legal representative, provide legal advice or sign any court documents as a legal representative.
A typical paralegal job description will be made up of tasks geared towards supporting a lawyer in his day to day work.
These tasks can be carried out by a lawyer but may be too much work for any one lawyer to handle.
Typical Paralegal Job Description
The paralegal job description may vary depending on the specific law firm or on area of specialization but will generally include tasks such as:
1. Carrying out legal research –
This is quite possibly the most important duty a paralegal will carry out.
The research will be aimed at finding out preceding cases relevant to a case, relevant statutes, court decisions, legal articles and other writings.
They may also carry out background checks on witnesses.
2. Drafting legal documents –
Depending on the size of the law firm, a paralegal’s duties may include drafting documents such as mortgages, separation agreements, sale agreements, trust agreements, real estate closings and other types of contracts.
3. Case preparation –
They play a crucial role in helping lawyers prepare for their court cases.
They will help in the preparation of legal arguments, opening statements, closing statements and court pleadings or motions.
4. Investigation –
A paralegal may carry out investigations in relation to a case in order to authenticate or validate information.
This investigation may include locating relevant witnesses for their case.
5. Interviewing witnesses –
The paralegal may interview witnesses or the client in order to gather relevant information.
He will then prepare a report on the interview for the lawyer which he may use for preparation of his case.
6. Administrative duties –
Paralegals are referred to as law clerks because they do a lot of filing and other clerk duties such as answering phone calls, taking messages and answer correspondence.
Although this is a typical paralegal job description, duties may differ depending of the firm.
Legal Assistant Job Description
Many people think that a paralegal and legal assistant are the same; however, they actually are a little different. The legal assistant job description consists of more administrative duties.
In some cases, a legal assistant will even be an assistant to the paralegal. Legal assistants will keep track of trial records, and they will be in charge of filing documents. Their background might include more secretarial duties. Many legal assistants are creative and have the ability to solve problems.
Problem Solving and Communication Are Key
Because they interact with lawyers and clients frequently, legal assistants need to be able to effectively communicate, so they need to possess people skills. Because legal assistants are required to file documents correctly, they must have the ability to pay attention to detail, and they must be precise in what they do.
Even though a legal assistant cannot determine the fees, they will prepare the bills for clients. They also take phone messages for the attorney. Both paralegals and legal assistants need to have good character and good ethics. You need to be able to maintain confidentiality when it comes to the clients.
Before you enter the law profession, you need to know how to become a paralegal. Many law firms prefer that you have a degree in paralegal studies. You can get a two-year associate’s degree, or you can gain more knowledge at a four-year university. You can get your degree in person, or online degrees are available.
Paralegal Training Online
If you wish to obtain an online degree, you need to choose a reputable school. It is best to go through an accredited college or university. The American Bar Association will also have some recommended schools. Online paralegal degrees are more flexible and can work around your schedule. While training to be a paralegal, you might even try to begin working at a law office.
Some of the most popular paralegal schools include Berkley College, Daymar College and Washington Online Learning Institute. However, there are numerous other excellent schools in the country in which you can obtain an online or in-person degree.
Paralegal Salary Potential
Paralegals have the opportunity to earn between $30,000 and $70,000 a year. Paralegals and legal assistants are fast growing professions, so you will have a very good chance of being hired by a law firm.
With paralegal studies so available, it is easier than ever to get an education and have a long and successful career as a paralegal.