A paralegal is basically an assistant for lawyers and is responsible for handling delegated legal work which takes place in legal settings. Paralegals are mostly given the title of “legal assistants” which is quite self-explanatory. Typically, paralegals can be found doing the same work that a lawyer may do on a regular basis. Simply put, a paralegal is a member of legal settings who, based on his/her experience and qualifications, is responsible of assisting an attorney and deal with their clients. Despite being called legal assistants, paralegals aren’t legal secretaries. That is a different profession.
There can be several ads and positions found for this profession. This is because of the fact that lawyers are often on the hunt for paralegals to assist them. On the other hand, larger legal settings and law firms usually have several positions for paralegals as they require each of them offer assisting duties for lawyers.
What Is a Paralegal?
There is always confusion regarding what does a paralegal do. One needs some detailed paralegal career information in order to understand. The alternate title of a legal assistant is probably more revealing as it explains a lot more. If anyone is wondering how long it takes to become a paralegal, the profession generally requires the individuals who want to be paralegals to study for two years. During the two years, the to-be paralegals earn ample experience through the practice of performing similar tasks that typically a lawyer does. Although they aren’t lawyers, they are legally allowed to carry out almost the same tasks.
Skills a Paralegal Must Have
For those wondering how to become a paralegal, there are several colleges and institutions offering programs for the profession. Furthermore, people can also find paralegal certification online these days. A paralegal should have proper writing skills along with decent communication abilities. These areas generally improve with practice. This is why paralegals tend to get better with experience as they spend most of their time working on legal documents, managing legal files, and creating exhibits. Paralegals with sufficient experience go higher up the food chain and are allowed to draft motions and pleadings which are filed during legal proceedings. Most importantly, senior paralegals are also allowed to be present in the courtroom for the attorney’s assistance, though they cannot represent clients.
Which Tasks Are Carried Out By Paralegals?
The tasks carried out by legal assistants often vary. The assistant essentially has to help out a lawyer (or in some cases, several lawyers at once) by looking after the more mundane tasks or work that would be considered a waste of time for lawyers. A paralegal salary is mostly in handsome figures. As such, it is probably a good way of earning money from a profession in legal settings, without the need for excessive schooling.
Paralegals are prohibited or legally disallowed to carry out any tasks that revolve around the practice of the law. Here are a few other things that a paralegal isn’t allowed to do or ineligible of doing:
- Providing legal advice to the attorney’s clients
- Being a counsel during courtroom sessions
- Setting fees for cases
With these tasks aside, there are still a wide variety of jobs that a paralegal is legally allowed to carry out or primarily responsible of doing. Most of these tasks are generally required to be carried out by the legal assistants who are working in law firms. Most of this work includes the tasks which typically a lawyer would do, but doesn’t have time to carry out.
Essential Duties for Paralegals
The more important tasks for a legal assistant include investigations. This is a crucial bit of paralegal career information as these are the main requirements which revolve around locating witnesses, searching for similar cases as the one currently being worked on which were previously settled, and carrying out all the research needed. These are the typical duties for which an attorney isn’t really needed. As such, all of this work is delegated to the paralegals.
Additionally, all the documents and paperwork that are related to investigations is also under the responsibility of a paralegal. This consists of preparing reports, creating court motions, as well as settling contracts or agreements which are later on approved by attorneys.
Things a Paralegal Should Know
Despite not being an attorney, the legal assistant is studied in court proceedings; they are mostly present during courtroom sessions in order to assist the attorney and provide them accurate reports and paperwork. This is quite essential for attorneys. With the assistance of a paralegal, attorneys are simply handed reports and papers without having to worry about ordering the documents or handling the paperwork. This allows the attorneys to remain focused on the presentation at hand. A paralegal, therefore, needs extensive knowledge of courtroom procedures from motions to draft pleadings, which are all taught in two years of education.
Most tasks which require the attention of a legal assistant are typically paperwork. This may come off as boring, but the work does include intriguing cases which requires the paralegal to have a proper understanding of legal proceedings. That is mainly the reason why most people choose the paralegal profession; this area of work is both interesting and challenging.
Paralegals (or legal assistants) are quite an integral part of legal settings. Without their assistance, attorneys may suffer from excessive work. As a result, they would be unable to take statements or prep witnesses for courtroom sessions and fail to deliver results they are typically expected to produce. A paralegal should be skilled, well trained and have the capability of working hard with accuracy. The paralegal profession is mostly recommended for those who seek the thrill of hard work and wish to see their efforts result in successful cases.